Jersey Boys and Community Property

“Jersey Boys” is the musical (2005) and movie (2014) about four young men from the same neighborhood who formed the 1960’s music group “The Four Seasons,” and went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group’s lead singer, Frankie Valli, is known in music for his unique voice and style. However, in Family Law Mr. Valli is known for his successful appeal to the California Supreme Court in the Matter of Frankie and Randy Valli, 58 Cal. 4th 1396.

Frankie and Randy married in 1984. While Frankie was in the hospital in 2003 with heart problems they talked about buying a life insurance policy. A 3.75 million dollar insurance policy was purchased and Frankie made Randy the owner and the beneficiary figuring she would take care of their kids. Frankie had no plans to separate from Randy when he bought the policy. The parties separated in 2004. Community property made the payments on the policy before separation and Frankie made the payments thereafter. The Trial Court ruled that the policy was community property because it was acquired during marriage with community funds and ordered Frankie to buy out Randy’s interest by paying her $182,500.00, representing one-half the policy’s cash value at the time of Trial.

Randy appealed arguing that the policy was her separate property because it was purchased in her name alone. The Court of Appeal reversed the Trial Judge and held that the insurance policy was Randy’s separate property based upon the Evidence Code Section 662 presumption of title. The Supreme Court granted review and reversed the Court of Appeal. The California Supreme Court held that unless the statutory transmutation requirements of Family Code Section 852 were met, the life insurance policy purchased with community funds during marriage is community property. The Evidence Code title presumption argued by Randy does not apply when it conflicts with the Family Law transmutation statutes.

The Valli case was decided by the Supreme Court on May 15, 2014, and is available online. Unfortunately, after going through the lengthy appellate process, Randy died on July 4, 2014. Frankie is now 81 years old and still performing. The take away from the Valli case is that the Family Law transmutation statute must be compiled with to change the character of an asset, that the character of property can be complicated, and that client’s should consult with a Family Law attorney when transmutation issues occur.

Feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation regarding life insurance policies as they pertain to a family law matter. The Law Office of Family Law Specialist Richard E. Bawden also handles legal issues regarding custody, adoption, annulment, collaborative divorce, divorce, domestic violence, litigation, legal separation, mediation, paternity, spousal support, step-parent adoptions, as well as pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Dial 909.792.0222 or email us at [email protected] You might also want to get more information at our website: The Law Office of Richard E. Bawden serves the Inland Empire including Riverside, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Redlands, Loma Linda, Mentone, Yucaipa, Beaumont, Banning and Hemet.

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