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Haller v. White

Decided: May 7, 1962.

HALLER ET AL.
v.
WHITE



Two appeals in one record from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; Duckett, J.

The cause was argued on February 14, 1962, before Henderson, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. The cause was reargued on April 30, 1962, before Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Henderson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Brune, C. J., concurs in the result. Prescott and Horney, JJ., dissent.

Henderson

This appeal is from a decree awarding the appellee the sum of $7,500, representing one-half of the balance in a certain savings account. A cross appeal challenges the failure to divide the accumulated interest.

Helen Stallings, a semi-invalid now over eighty years of age, has resided in Annapolis since 1928 with her daughter, Helena S. Haller. In 1954, her sister, Sadie Poole, moved to Annapolis, where she rented an apartment. She was a childless widow who at the time of her death in 1960 was seventy-nine years of age. Between June 29, 1954, and January 6, 1955, she deposited various sums in a savings account in the County Trust Company in her own name, her balance on the latter date being $26,782.81. On October 10, 1956, she executed another signature card in the name of "Sadie P. Poole, in trust for self and Helen P. Stallings, joint owners, subject to the order of either; the balance at death of either to belong to the survivor". At that time her balance was about $23,000.00.

On March 5, 1957, she withdrew $15,000.00 from that account, leaving about $7,800.00. She received the money in cash, and Mrs. Haller testified that she accompanied her aunt to the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Annapolis, where it was deposited in a savings account. The signature card bore the names of Helena S. Haller and Marguerite P. White, another niece of Mrs. Poole, the daughter of a deceased brother. Mrs. White testified that she was present when this account was opened and that Mrs. Poole was not present. On this card the language as to a trust was striken out, and the parties were described as Helena S. Haller and Marguerite P. White "joint owners * * * both to sign for withdrawal". Mrs. White testified that they "both received instructions as to how the money was to be deposited." On March 8, 1957, Mrs. Haller and Mrs. White, by joint signatures, transferred the account into the name of "Marguerite P. White in trust for

herself and Helena S. Haller, as joint owners, subject to the order of either, the balance at death of either to belong to the survivor". Mrs. Haller took possession of the bank book. Mrs. Haller and Mrs. White both testified that this was done so that either might draw funds in an emergency.

On October 30, 1957, Sadie P. Poole and Helen Stallings executed a bond to save harmless the County Trust Company from any claim resulting from the loss or destruction of the bank book, evidencing their joint trust account, which at that time stood at $6,148.88. There was testimony that this was because Mrs. Poole had lost the bank book.

Helena S. Haller made various withdrawals from the interest accruing in the First Federal account, and collected Mrs. Poole's Social Security and insurance checks. She made numerous payments to, or on behalf of Mrs. Poole, to pay her bills and take care of her financial needs. Both Mrs. Haller and Mrs. White performed various personal services for Mrs. Poole, as her health had failed. After her death on April 26, 1960, Mrs. Haller paid her debts and funeral expenses and, without consulting Mrs. White, withdrew the entire balance of some $15,000.00, and deposited it in a new joint trust account in her name and that of her mother, Helen Stallings. The balance in the County Trust Company account was likewise withdrawn and added to the new joint account.

Learning of the withdrawal, the appellee filed a bill alleging fraudulent conversion. The appellant answered denying any fraud, and contending that it was always the intention of Mrs. Poole that her money should go to her sister; that the First Federal account was opened to prevent Mrs. Poole from making improvident withdrawals, and to obtain a better interest rate; that Mrs. Haller and Mrs. White were to act as trustees only.

Neither of the parties to this suit was permitted to testify as to conversations with the decedent, Mrs. Poole, and no question is raised as to the correctness of these rulings, although no administration was taken out on Mrs. Poole's estate. She died intestate, and there were a number of other nieces and nephews who survived Mrs. Poole as next of kin. Mrs. White

testified without objection that Mrs. Haller told her at the time the First Federal account was opened that the money "was to be divided between us, if my aunt did not need it". Mrs. Haller denied that she made the statement or ever discussed the matter with Mrs. White. Mr. Atwell, an officer of the County Trust Company and a director of the First Federal, testified that Mrs. Haller consulted him in 1957. She told him that Mrs. Poole had been drawing funds from principal and spending it for purposes she could not explain, and that "they were afraid she would dissipate them and wind up * * * indigent". He advised her that it would be prudent for the nieces to open a new account so that a substantial part of the money should be beyond the control of Mrs. Poole. He also testified that the First Federal paid 3 1/2% interest at that ...


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