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Vari v. Coppola

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

August 26, 2019

LOUIS M. VARI, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF JODI A. COPPOLA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CAROL COPPOLA, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, of Mahoning County, Ohio Case No. 2017 CI 00027

         JUDGMENT: Affirmed.

          Atty. John McNally III, John A. McNally, III, Co., L.P.A., for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Atty. Glenn Osborne, and, Atty. T. Scott Kamenitsa Jr, Friedman & Rummel Co., L.P.A., for Defendant-Appellee.

          David A. D'Apolito, Gene Donofrio, Carol Ann Robb, Judges.

          OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          D'Apolito, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Louis M. Vari, Executor of the Estate of Jodi A. Coppola, appeals from the September 27, 2018 judgment of the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, finding Appellee, Carol A. Coppola, not guilty of concealing assets under R.C. 2109.50. For the reasons stated, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶2} Appellee's daughter, Jodi Coppola ("the decedent") passed away in 2012 after battling cancer. The decedent left behind her parents, Joe Coppola and Appellee; her companion, Appellant; her children, Kate, Lily, Carlina, and Patrick; her brother, Joe Coppola III; and various aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

         {¶3} Before her death, a public spaghetti dinner was held in the decedent's honor. The fundraiser was a success, raising around $25, 000. The decedent took the proceeds from the dinner and placed the cash in a safety deposit box at a local bank. Shortly thereafter, the decedent added Appellee's name to the safety deposit box. The decedent gave the money to Appellee and instructed her that the funds were to be held for the benefit of the decedent's children. The decedent also instructed Appellee that she did not want Appellant to have access to the funds. The keys to the safety deposit box were held by the decedent and Appellee only.

         {¶4} After the decedent's passing, Appellee used some of the funds for the benefit of the decedent's four children in accordance with her wishes. Appellee used some of the funds on a variety of necessaries for the children, including: first communion expenses; clothing; school supplies; miscellaneous expenses; and a trip to Disney World.

         {¶5} According to Appellant, the cash in the safety deposit box belonged to the decedent. Appellant posits that Appellee should not have been entitled to use the funds as she has done so over the last six years.

         {¶6} On May 22, 2018, Appellant filed a complaint for concealment against Appellee. On June 14, 2018, Appellee filed an answer. A bench trial was held on July 24, 2018.

         {¶7} On September 27, 2018, the probate court found Appellee not guilty of concealing assets under R.C. 2109.50, determined that the safety deposit contents in the amount of approximately $25, 000 in cash did not belong to the decedent at the time of her death, and imposed a constructive trust over the $6, 000 remaining in the safety deposit box to be divided equally into four new accounts for the decedent's children and ...


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