An aging music legend, Frankie Valli, suffers from heart problems. He decides to buy a $3.75 million life insurance policy so his wife and three children will be taken care of in case of his death. To avoid probate, he names his wife Randy as "owner" of the policy. The premiums on the policy are paid from community property funds. Instead of Frankie dying, Frankie and Randy divorce. At the time of their trial, the life insurance policy has a cash value of $365,000. The major legal question in the case is whether the policy is community property because it was purchased with community funds or whether the policy is wife Randy's separate property because the policy is in her name. If the policy is community property, each spouse owns one-half. If the policy is wife Randy's separate property, it belongs to her exclusively.
The trial court in the case determined that the policy was community property. The Court of Appeal reversed and found the policy was wife Randy's separate property. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the case, which has generated interest in both academia and in the Bar. The case represents a classic clash between community property concepts and common law title doctrine.