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Novak v. Fay

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fifth Division

April 28, 2015

MARK S. NOVAK, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL FAY, as Trustee, etc., Objector and Respondent.

Page 330

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 331

APPEAL, from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. LP013320 Roy L. Paul, Judge.

COUNSEL

Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, Robin Meadow and David E. Hackett, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Susan Stricklin Wilson and Barbara K. Meserve, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

TURNER, P. J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Mark S. Novak, seeks to enforce an attorney fee lien on assets held by the Dana Teitler Trust dated August 20, 1999 (Dana Teitler Trust). The present petition to enforce the attorney fee lien arises out of plaintiff’s representation of Douglas Kelly between 2007 and 2012. In 2007, plaintiff and Mr. Kelly executed a contingency attorney fee agreement. The contingency fee agreement granted plaintiff lien rights over any settlement Mr. Kelly received. Under the terms of the fee agreement, plaintiff was to represent Mr. Kelly. In 2011, plaintiff filed a probate petition which alleged Mr. Kelly was a pretermitted spouse of Ms. Teitler. In 2011, plaintiff negotiated a considerable settlement of the probate dispute. The probate court approved the settlement which awarded Mr. Kelly a substantial interest in the Dana Teitler Trust in an order filed January 27, 2012.

Mr. Kelly died. On June 20, 2013, plaintiff filed the present petition. Plaintiff’s petition seeks to enforce the attorney lien in the 2007 fee agreement with Mr. Kelly. The probate court denied plaintiff’s petition to enforce

Page 332

the lien against property held by the Dana Teitler Trust. Plaintiff appeals from the probate court’s December 16, 2013 order denying his petition to enforce his attorney fee lien. We reverse.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Mr. Kelly’s Petition for Distribution of Property From the Trust

Ms. Teitler is a named beneficiary of the Teitler Family Trust. In 1999, Ms. Teitler transferred her beneficiary rights in the Teitler Family Trust to herself as trustee of the Dana Teitler Trust. Ms. Teitler named herself as a life beneficiary of the Dana Teitler Trust. Ms. Teitler’s daughter, Abigail Fay, is named in the Dana Teitler Trust as the remainder beneficiary. Mr. Kelly was married to Ms. Teitler from July 10, 2002, until her death on ...


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