Frankie Valli Wins Life Insurance Appeal
(CN) - Singing legend Frankie Valli convinced the California Supreme Court that he's entitled to half the value of a $3.75 million life insurance policy owned by his ex-wife but paid for with money from their joint bank account.
Valli, who rose to fame in the early 1960s as the lead singer of the Four Seasons, took out the policy in March 2003 while still married to his third wife, Randy Valli, with whom he has three grown children.
The life insurance policy on Frankie named Randy as the sole owner and beneficiary.
In a divorce hearing, Randy claimed that they discussed buying the policy when Frankie was in the hospital for heart problems, and that his business manager, Barry Siegel, told her she would be the policy's sole owner.
Frankie insisted he "put everything in [Randy's] name, figuring she would take care and give to the kids what they might have coming." He said they had no intention of separating at the time, though they did in 2004.
The trial court ruled that the policy was community property because it was acquired during the marriage with community funds. It awarded the policy to Frankie and ordered him to buy out his wife's half at cash value, or $182,500.
A state appeals court reversed, holding that the policy was Randy's alone, because it was in her name.
The California high court on Thursday agreed with the trial court and overturned the appellate court's reversal.
Although a married couple can transfer community property to one spouse, they can only do so if the spouse giving up his or her interest provides written consent, the court said.
"Husband never expressly declared in writing that he gave up his community interest in the policy bought with community funds," Justice Joyce Kennard wrote for the unanimous court. "Accordingly, we agree with the trial court's characterization of the insurance policy as community property."
Justice Ming Chin wrote separately to emphasize that, under California family law, property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be community property, even if it's only in one spouse's name.
He said that presumption trumps a different presumption found in the Evidence Code, which states: "The owner of a legal title to property is presumed to be the owner of the full beneficial title."
"The presumption ... that property acquired during the marriage is community, is perhaps the most fundamental principle of California?s community property law," Chin wrote.
The justices remanded the case for a ruling on whether the trial court properly awarded the policy to the veteran singer.
Throughout his 54-year recording career, Frankie Valli scored 29 Top 40 hits with the Four Seasons, including "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man."
Their work inspired the hit Broadway show "Jersey Boys" in 2005.
Valli and the other original members of the Four Seasons -- Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio -- were inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 1990.