California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
BONNIE KATZENSTEIN, as Trustee, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent,
CHABAD OF POWAY, Defendant and Appellant.
APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. 37-2013-00034698-PR-TR-CTL Julia C. Kelety, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, Norman B. Blumenthal and Kyle R. Nordrehaug for Defendant and Appellant.
Hughes & Pizzuto, Shannon N. Montisano and Anne M. Rudolph for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Respondent Bonnie Katzenstein (Trustee), in her capacity as trustee of the Feinberg Family Trust Agreement dated October 30, 1984, as amended (Trust), filed a petition in probate court (Petition) following the death of Robert Feinberg (Decedent). Decedent was the cosettlor and former cotrustee of the Trust and the named insured in two life insurance policies. In the Petition, Trustee sought: (1) a determination that the Trust is the beneficiary of, and therefore entitled to the proceeds from, one of the insurance policies; and (2) damages against Chabad of Poway (Chabad) for interfering with the payment of that policy's benefits to the Trust. Chabad responded to
the Petition by filing a document entitled "Claimant's Objection and Counter Claim [sic] to Petition filed by Trustee to Determine Ownership of Life Insurance Policy Proceeds" (Objection and Counterclaim).
In an unsigned minute order following summary judgment proceedings initiated by Trustee, the court sua sponte struck Chabad's Objection and Counterclaim on the basis that the Code of Civil Procedure precludes a party from seeking affirmative relief in an answer. Chabad appeals. However, because this unsigned minute order is not an appealable order under either the Code of Civil Procedure or the Probate Code, we lack jurisdiction and will dismiss Chabad's appeal.
BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEDURE
According to the Petition, in 1984 Decedent and his wife executed the documents that established the Trust, and they amended it in 1999 and 2004. Decedent, whose wife had predeceased him, died in August 2012. Upon the death of Decedent, according to the terms of the Trust, Trustee became the sole successor trustee and has remained the sole successor trustee ever since. Trustee alleged that in 1984 Decedent purchased Genworth Life Insurance Company policy No. 00084978 (Genworth policy) and that at all times the Trust was the named beneficiary of the Genworth policy. Trustee sought both a declaration that the Genworth policy benefits belong to the Trust and an award of damages against Chabad for interfering with the payment of the Genworth policy benefits to the Trust as the named insured. (Prob. Code, §§ 850, subd. (a)(3)(A), 17200, 859.)
In the Objection and Counterclaim, Chabad alleged it is a nonprofit organization that includes at least a Jewish synagogue and a senior center.
Chabad contended that Decedent gave it "an irrevocable pledge" of the death benefits in two life insurance policies - the Genworth policy and Sun Life Financial Life Insurance policy No. 0004097490 (together the Policies) - in exchange for renaming the senior center the " 'Robert Feinberg Sunshine Club' to be operated [by Chabad] after [Decedent's] death by use of the [P]olicies' death benefits." To this end, according to the Objection and Counterclaim, Chabad renamed the senior center and publicized Decedent's name in connection with receiving the pledge. In addition to alleging facts which Chabad contends required the court to deny the relief Trustee seeks in the ...