Lori Younkin appeals from the trial court's order confirming ownership of a Bank of America savings account to respondent Ronald A. Araiza, as successor trustee of the Lucia Howery Living Trust, and naming Gabriella Reeves the beneficiary of that account. Appellant, the stepdaughter of Lucia Howery, contends she is the owner of the savings account and that the transfer to Reeves is presumptively invalid pursuant to Probate Code section 21350
In 2001, Lucia Howery opened a checking account and a savings account at the Bank of America. Although she named appellant as the beneficiary of the savings account, Howery was the only person authorized to withdraw funds from it.
In August 2005, Howery established the Lucia Howery Living Trust. The declaration of trust states that Howery, as trustor, "declares the establishment of a revocable living trust by delivering to the Trust without consideration all property described in the attached Schedule of Trust Property ...." The schedule lists "Savings accounts," as among the categories of personal property delivered to the trust. Howery's declaration of trust further provides that, during her life, the trust will "hold, administer, and distribute all property" allocated to it for Howery's own benefit. At her death, the successor trustee "shall make the following distributions: [¶] I give my 2004 Infinity automobile to LORI YOUNKIN. [¶] ... [¶] I give the following savings and checking accounts to GABRIELLA REEVES, Bank of America [checking account], contents of my safe deposit box at Bank of America, and Bank of America [savings account]."
At some point, Howery authorized Gabriella Reeves to sign checks written on the Bank of America checking account. She received a single monthly statement for both accounts; the statements were addressed to both Howery and Reeves. Bank of America was unable to locate a signature card for the checking account. It had only one signature card for the savings account; it lists Howery as the account holder and Younkin as the beneficiary.
Howery died on April 29, 2009. At that point, respondent Araiza became the successor trustee. Respondent is the attorney who drafted Howery's living trust. He is also the son of Gabriella Reeves.
After Howery's death, respondent petitioned the trial court for an order allowing him to convey the Bank of America accounts to Reeves. Appellant filed a written objection on the sole ground that she is the owner of the savings account. The trial court found that Howery's living trust changed the
Appellant contends she is the sole owner of the savings account because Howery named her as the beneficiary and never changed that designation in a manner authorized by section 5303. She further contends that section 21350, subdivision (a)(2) invalidates any transfer to Reeves because respondent is the attorney who drafted the living trust and Reeves is his mother. Respondent contends the living trust documents were sufficient to change the beneficiary and that appellant forfeited the section 21350 issue by failing to raise it in a timely manner and by failing to secure a ruling on it in the trial court.
Standard of Review
Change in Beneficiary by Trust
Section 5303, subdivision (a) provides that the rights of survivorship described in section 5302 "are determined by the form of the account at the death of a party." (§ 5303, subd. (a).) Subdivision (b) lists the methods by which the terms of a multiple-party account may be modified. It provides: "Once established, the terms of a multiple-party account can be changed only by any of the following methods: [¶] (1) Closing the account and reopening it under different terms. [¶] (2) Presenting to the financial institution a modification agreement that is signed by all parties with a present right of withdrawal.... [¶] (3) If the provisions of the terms of the account or deposit agreement provide a method of modification of the terms of the account, complying with those provisions. [¶] (4) As provided in subdivision (c) of Section 5405."
Appellant contends the transfer of the savings account to Reeves is invalid pursuant to section 21350, subdivision (a)(2) because respondent drafted the living trust and Reeves is his mother. Respondent contends appellant forfeited appellate review of this issue.
Appellant's written objection to respondent's petition did not cite section 21350 or mention the relationship between respondent and Reeves. Instead, it raised a single issue: whether the living trust was effective under section 5303 to change the beneficiary of Howery's savings account. After respondent filed his reply to the objection, appellant's counsel filed a supplemental declaration attaching discovery responses in which respondent admits that he drafted the living trust and that Reeves is his mother. The declaration does not cite section 21350 or explain the relevance of respondent's admissions. Appellant never
At the hearing on appellant's objection, her argument focused on the section 5303 issue, rather than on section 21350. Near the end of the hearing, however, her counsel noted, "I think one final point, your Honor, is that we also raised by inference in our request for admissions and responses ... that this was a trust that was drafted by the son of the primary beneficiary of the trust." Respondent argued that the issue before the court was "whether or not we've affected a transfer of the trust." He contended Reeves's disqualification could be decided on "a 17200 petition somewhere down the line ...." Appellant made no further argument. The trial court's order did not mention section 21350. Appellant did not file a motion to reconsider or otherwise attempt to secure a ruling on the section 21350 issue.
Appellant thus provided the trial court with no analysis of the applicable statutes and no argument on the question of whether Reeves is a disqualified transferee. She raised the section 21350 issue only "by inference," after respondent had already filed his reply to her written objection. This untimely, oblique reference to the statute gave respondent no opportunity to rebut the statutory presumption of disqualification. Compounding the difficulty, appellant did not demand a ruling on the issue from the trial court. A party who fails to alert the trial court to an issue that has been left unresolved forfeits the right to raise that issue on appeal. (In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1130, 1133-1134 [275 Cal.Rptr. 797, 800 P.2d 1227]; Bullock v. Phillip Morris USA, Inc. (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 655, 678-679 [71 Cal.Rptr.3d 775].)
The judgment (order conveying title to personal property) is affirmed. Costs to respondent.
Gilbert, P. J., and Coffee, J., concurred.