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Wissner v. Wissner

United States Supreme Court
338 U.S. 655 (1950)


Major Wissner and Mrs. Wissner (plaintiff) were married in 1930. In 1942, Major Wissner enlisted in the United States Army. When Major Wissner enlisted, Major and Mrs. Wissner were separated. In 1943, Major Wissner purchased a National Service Life Insurance policy, which was provided to members of the armed forces by the federal government. Major Wissner named his parents (defendants) as the beneficiaries on the life-insurance policy. Major Wissner paid the policy premiums with his army pay. Major Wissner died while serving in India in 1945. From the point of Major Wissner’s death forward, Major Wissner’s mother received the insurance-policy proceeds. Mrs. Wissner filed a petition in 1947 claiming she was entitled to half of the insurance-policy proceeds based on California’s community-property law. The trial court held that, pursuant to California law, Major and Mrs. Wissner were legally married and domiciled in California and that the insurance-policy premiums were paid with community funds. The trial court ruled that Mrs. Wissner was entitled to half of the insurance-policy proceeds. The defendants were ordered to pay Mrs. Wissner one-half of the policy proceeds from payments already received and from future payments that would be issued to the defendants. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals of California, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment and held that Mrs. Wissner had a vested right in the policy proceeds. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of California but were denied a hearing. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Clark, J.)

Dissent (Minton, J.)

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