California Court of Appeals, First District, Fifth Division
Estate of VICTOR REED, Deceased. DANIEL REED, Petitioner and Respondent,
WILLIAM REED, Objector and Appellant SHELLEY OCAÑA, as Executor, etc., Respondent.
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]
Court of Sonoma County, No. SPR-82625, Hon. Hon. Nancy
Knitter & Knitter, David G. Knitter; William Reed, in
pro. per., for Objector and Appellant.
Friedemann Goldberg, Stephanie Barber Hess, John N. MacLeod;
Ballard Law Office and Benjamin H. Ballard, for Petitioner
Spaulding McCullough & Tansil, Gregory G. Spaulding,
Carmen D. Sinigiani, for Respondent Shelley Ocaña.
probate case, William Reed appeals a 2016 statement of
decision removing him as the personal representative of the
probate estate. William had previously been removed pursuant
to an order of the trial court issued in April 2015, which
explicitly referred to a forthcoming written decision that
would set forth the basis for the removal order. In the
published portion of this opinion, we reject respondents'
argument that the April 2015 order was immediately appealable
because we conclude the trial court had expressly reserved
jurisdiction to issue a further statement of its reasons and
the order was therefore not final. In the unpublished
portion, we affirm the trial court's rulings.
and Daniel Reed are the children of Victor Reed
(Decedent), and are identified in Decedent's will as the
beneficiaries of his estate (the Estate). In 2010, the
probate court appointed William as the personal
representative of the Estate.
2014, Daniel filed a petition alleging that, although William
was appointed as personal representative of the Estate in
July 2010, he had not yet filed any reports on the status of
the administration of the Estate. The petition also alleged
multiple notices of default had been recorded against certain
real property owned by the Estate, William had not rented out
the real property or otherwise made it productive, and Daniel
did not know the status of the remaining assets of the
Estate. The petition sought to compel William to file an
inventory and appraisal, order him to reimburse the Estate
for losses incurred due to his conduct, and remove him as
on the petition was held in March 2015. At the conclusion of
the trial, the court orally announced its decision to remove
William as personal representative and to appoint Shelley
Ocaña in his place. The final statement of decision
(the Statement of Decision) issued in April 2016. William
appealed from the Statement of Decision.
challenge the appealability of the Statement of Decision.
William relies on Probate Code section 1300, subdivision (g),
which provides that an order “[s]urcharging, removing,
or discharging a fiduciary” is appealable, and section
1303, subdivision (a), which provides that an order
“[g]ranting or revoking letters to a personal
representative, ” with exceptions not relevant here, is
appealable. (See also Code Civ. Proc., § 904.1, subd.
(a)(10) [appeal may be taken from “an order made
appealable by the provisions of the Probate Code”].)
Statement of Decision
argue that statements of decision are nonappealable. This is
effectively an argument that the appeal is premature. We
reject this contention.
general rule is that a statement or memorandum of decision is
not appealable. [Citations.] The rule's practical
justification is that courts typically embody their final
rulings not in statements of decision but in orders or
judgments. Reviewing courts have discretion to treat
statements of decision as appealable when they must, as when
a statement of decision is signed and filed and does, in
fact, constitute the court's final decision on the
merits.” (Alan v. American Honda Motor Co.,
Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 894, 901.)
Statement of Decision includes a section entitled
“Orders, ” which includes the following:
“Finds that it is in the best interest of the Estate to
remove [William] from his position as executor of the
Estate.” This is most reasonably construed as an order
removing a fiduciary, an appealable order under the Probate
Code. (Prob. Code, § 1300, subd. (g).) Because the
Probate Code provides for an appeal from an order removing a
fiduciary, the appeal should not be dismissed on the ground
that the order appears in a statement of decision rather than
a separate order or judgment.
April 2015 Order
next argue the final order removing William as personal
representative issued in April 2015 and, because William did
not file a timely notice of appeal from the April 2015 order,
this court lacks jurisdiction to review that order now.
conclusion of the March 2015 trial, the trial court issued an
oral ruling finding William should be removed as personal
representative. Because the Estate was in the process of
negotiating the sale of real property and the court did not
want William's removal to be an impediment to the sale,
the court suspended William's powers as personal
representative except for those powers connected to signing
documents regarding the sale of the property in question. The
court appointed Ocaña ...