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Estate of Levine

California Court of Appeal
125 Cal. App. 3d 701 (1981)


Facts

Murray Levine (plaintiff) is Phillip Levine’s son and a co-executor of Phillip’s estate. Phillip married Estelle Levine (defendant) on January 1, 1974, and the couple remained married until Phillip passed away in 1977. Phillip and Estelle had both been previously married and had adult children from their previous marriages when they entered into the marriage in 1974. In 1975, Phillip and Estelle bought a home together and held title to it as joint tenants pursuant to a deed. After Phillip’s death, Murray filed suit in probate court to establish that the home Phillip and Estelle had purchased was Phillip and Estelle’s community property. At a hearing before the trial court, Samuel Leemon, Phillip’s attorney, testified that Phillip intended the home he bought with Estelle to be community property but also to be held in joint tenancy. Phillip wanted to be able to pass his one-half interest in the home to his children and ensure that if Estelle died before him, Estelle would not be able to pass her interest in the home on to her children. Leemon informed Phillip that, unless there was an agreement that the home was community property, the home would be considered joint-tenancy property, and Estelle would receive Phillip’s interest in the home if Phillip died before Estelle. Phillip told Leemon that he and Estelle made an agreement that the home was community property. Estelle testified she never had made any such agreement with Phillip. Estelle believed the home would pass to Estelle on Phillip’s death. Murray testified that he and Phillip had discussed that Murray and his sister would inherit Phillip’s interest in the home. The trial court ruled that Phillip’s intent for the home to be community property was not communicated to Estelle and that, therefore, the home was held in joint tenancy. The trial court denied Murray’s request to have the home declared community property. Murray appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hastings, J.)

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