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Frankie Valli's divorce makes for important case law


People in California may know singer and entertainer Frankie Valli best as the lead singer of the Four Seasons, a wildly famous, pop foursome whose hits spanned many decades, most recently reaching new audiences with the Broadway smash hit "Jersey Boys," which was based upon the music and personal story of the Four Seasons. But now a whole new audience of law professionals and students may become familiar with Frankie Valli's name for reasons having very little to do with his music.

Valli's divorce was recently appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court, and the court's decision could have a major impact on estate planning and divorce cases for many years to come. The particular issue was whether a $3.75 million life insurance policy that Valli purchased in 2003 was community property, or whether his wife, who at the time was named the sole beneficiary of the policy, was the sole owner. The couple began the divorce process back in 2004, and since that time the issue has bounced between the district court, the court of appeals, and now the highest court in California, which found that the policy was community property, and as such Valli was in fact entitled to half.

This is interesting precedent for anyone who is considering purchasing a life insurance policy as part of their comprehensive estate plan. This case affirms that a person who buys a policy for a spouse with marital funds is entitled to their fair share of the property, even when the spouse is named the sole beneficiary.

Purchasing a life insurance policy could well provide some degree of asset protection for a person in the event of a divorce prior to their death. People with a substantial estate may want to consider discussing insurance policies as part of their estate plan with their chosen legal counsel.

Source: SF Gate "Frankie Valli wins divorce case in California Supreme Court," Bob Egelko, May 16, 2014

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My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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