Celebrity crooner Frankie Valli recently ran into a legal spat with his ex-wife. The case made it all the way up to the California Supreme Court, and the high court’s ruling is likely to affect how judges classify life insurance policies in divorce proceedings.
Valli and his wife separated in September 2004 after 20 years of marriage. Before the split, Valli used money from the couple’s joint bank account to take out a $3.75 million life insurance policy and named his wife as the owner and beneficiary. He also used cash from the bank account to pay monthly premiums on the life insurance policy. During a hearing on the divorce, Valli’s wife testified that he took out the policy after being hospitalized with a heart condition. Valli told the court that he made his wife the beneficiary with the intention that she would use the money to help provide for their three kids in the event of his death.
A trial judge eventually ruled that the policy was community property, to be divided between Valli and his wife, because it was purchased with community funds from the couple’s joint account. The judge ordered Valli to pay his wife half of the value of the policy at the time of the separation. An appeals court later reversed the decision, however, holding that the policy was separate property that belonged solely to Valli’s wife. That left the state Supreme Court to weigh in.