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In Re Marriage of Frankie and Randy Valli. v. Randy Valli

May 18, 2011

IN RE MARRIAGE OF FRANKIE AND RANDY VALLI. FRANKIE VALLI, PETITIONER AND RESPONDENT,
v.
RANDY VALLI, RESPONDENT AND APPELLANT.



Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BD414038 APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Mark Juhas, Judge. Reversed and remanded.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

INTRODUCTION

Respondent and appellant Randy Valli (Randy) appeals from the trial court's order in the parties' martial dissolution proceeding awarding petitioner and respondent Frankie Valli (Frankie)*fn1 a $3.75 million insurance policy on Frankie's life issued by Manulife during their marriage,*fn2 with Randy as the owner and beneficiary. We hold that under the circumstances of this case, the policy listing Randy as the policy owner when taken out by Frankie and Randy is Randy's separate property under the "form of title"*fn3 presumption.

BACKGROUND

In 1984, Frankie and Randy were married. Frankie and Randy separated some 20 years later on September 23, 2004, and Frankie filed a petition for dissolution of marriage the next day. At the time Frankie filed the petition for dissolution of marriage, he and Randy had three minor children together.*fn4

In March 2003, Frankie acquired a $3.75 million insurance policy on his life (the policy).*fn5 Randy testified that she and Frankie had discussed acquiring such life insurance when Frankie was in the hospital with "heart problems." The purpose of the policy was "[t]o prepare for [Randy's] future in case something did happen to Frankie." Frankie testified that he obtained the policy because he had been experiencing medical problems and wanted to make sure that he took care of his family. Frankie desired that his children be able to go to college and that "there would be money for everybody." When he obtained the policy, Frankie did not have plans to separate from Randy.

Dennis Gilbert, a life insurance agent, testified that his company sold the policy to the Vallis. According to Gilbert, Randy is the owner and beneficiary of the policy. Randy testified that Frankie and Barry Siegel, Frankie's business manager, told her that "they were going to make [her] the owner," and that she understood that she would be the beneficiary. Frankie testified that he "put everything in Randy's name, figuring she would take care and give to the kids what they might have coming." As of September 12, 2008--during the trial--the "cash value" of the policy was $365,032.

Siegel provided business management and personal services for Frankie, including paying Frankie's bills. During the Vallis' marriage, Siegel also had a business relationship with Randy, which relationship ended on the Vallis' separation. Siegel's office "facilitated" payment of the policy's premiums for the Vallis. During the Vallis' marriage, the premiums were paid out of a joint account. The parties agree that the funds used to pay the premiums--at least prior to their separation, were community property.*fn6

The trial court found that the policy is community property. The bases for the trial court's finding were that the policy was acquired during marriage and the policy's premiums were paid during marriage. Randy's argument that she should be awarded the policy because she, and not Frankie, is the policyholder was rejected by the trial court, apparently on the grounds that Randy had not requested a finding on transmutation and there was no evidence of a transmutation. The trial court awarded the policy to Frankie on the condition that he pay Randy $182,500 for her one-half community property interest in the policy because the policy was on Frankie's life and there was no showing that such an award would prejudice Randy.

DISCUSSION

The Trial Court Erred When It Determined That The Policy Is Community Property

Randy contends that the trial court erred in finding that the policy is community property and not her separate property. Randy contends that the policy is her separate property under the form of title presumption because she was ...


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