State Probes Into Wrongful Life Insurance Practices May Lead To Your Lost Policy

The nation’s largest life insurance companies are feeling the heat as some states investigate wrongful insurance practices, particularly with respect to locating beneficiaries after an insured has died. In fact, it is estimated that tens of thousands of life insurance beneficiaries have been deprived of approximately $1 billion (or more) in unclaimed proceeds. Many of the life insurance companies currently under fire continue to claim that it is the sole responsibility of the beneficiary to notify the company of an insured’s death.

Life insurance beneficiaries often do not know a policy exists, however, and may not be in the best position to find out. Sometimes beneficiaries know about a loved one’s policy but do not know which life insurance company to contact and are unable to locate the policy documents.  Even worse, life insurance companies may mislead a beneficiary who does not have a copy of the policy and deter them from filing of a claim.  When thousands of policies go unclaimed every year, insurance companies just sit on the money.

But a life insurance company does not know when an insured has died, right? Wrong. State probes revealed that these companies have routinely checked the Social Security Administration’s ‘Death Master File’ for decades to discontinue annuity payments.  Until recently, life insurance companies never used the same source to notify beneficiaries of unclaimed policies.

In the past several months, multi-state settlement agreements have been reached with leading life insurance companies, including Prudential, John Hancock, and Metropolitan Life. The States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, New York, California, and Florida are among the leaders of these probes. As a condition of the agreements, participating life insurance companies will be required to improve their practices and make better attempts to locate the beneficiaries of unclaimed policies. The problem with locating past unpaid beneficiaries, though, remains.

The issue that state regulators are not addressing is the inability to locate older records of unpaid policies. Life insurance companies are only required to keep records of “terminated” policies for a certain period of years. Consider that when an insured dies and a life insurance company no longer receives premium payments, the policy will be treated as “terminated.”  Years later, because these policies are not properly held as unclaimed property, the records are destroyed, leaving the beneficiary responsible for proving the life insurance company’s liability. Of course, if the beneficiary had such proof, the claim would not have been delayed.

If you believe that an insurance company owes you money, speak to a life insurance attorney about your options right away.  The Life & Property Insurance Law Offices of Heather D. Lee can assist you in filing your life insurance claim, demanding that the company pay you immediately and with all applicable interest accrued as a result of the delay.  We work aggressively to collect wrongfully delayed and denied life insurance claims and do not charge any fees whatsoever unless we are successful.

$50,000 Life Insurance Policy… for FREE?

In 2002, Massachusetts Life Insurance Company implemented a $50,000 free life insurance program (yes, free!) for the educational benefit of children in low-income families.  The program is nation-wide and will be offered to a total of 20,000 families, equaling $1 billion in life insurance proceeds.  To qualify for a 10-year term life insurance policy through the MassMutual LifeBridge program, a parent or legal guardian of one or more dependent children must be in good health, as determined by Massachusetts Life, and have a household income of no more than $40,000.  In the event of the insured parent’s or legal guardian’s death, MassMutual will pay the $50,000 proceeds to an educational trust, which can then be used to cover pre-school, private school, trade school, community college, and/or university expenses such as tuition, housing, books, and other educational expenses.  All proceeds are paid directly to the educational institution as covered expenses accrue, ensuring that the $50,000 is only used for its intended purpose.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  Or at least I know what I was thinking when I discovered this almost-too-good-to-be-true free life insurance program: ‘If MassMutual instituted the LifeBridge program in 2002, why am I only now hearing about it in 2011!?’  It is possible that Massachusetts Life has failed to promote the LifeBridge free life insurance program in ways calculated to reach eligible applicants in low-income communities. Only about 12,000 LifeBridge policies have been issued in the nearly 10 years since MassMutual launched the program, just over one-half of the $1 billion commitment.  Maybe corporate responsibility only mandates that MassMutual implement the LifeBridge program and receive credit for its altruism without making the families and children meant to benefit from the program actually aware of its existence.  All skepticism aside, though, the LifeBridge free life insurance program has secured and undoubtedly will continue to secure educational opportunities for many children in low-income families.

Is there a catch?  Not necessarily.  But there are some conditions and exclusions.  In addition to the requirements that the parent or legal guardian be in good health and have a household income of between $10,000-$40,000, the applicant for free life insurance must be between the ages of 19-42.  This means a grandparent with legal guardianship may apply, but only a very young grandparent.  The age requirement also excludes an 18-year-old parent, even though an 18-year-old child does not qualify as an eligible beneficiary.  Also, the parent or legal guardian must be a permanent, legal resident of the United States and employed full or part-time at the time of application.

An insured’s cause of death will not affect the payment of proceeds, except that suicide-related deaths occurring within two years of the policy’s effective date are not covered.  Parents or legal guardians who have been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and/or HIV are specifically excluded from coverage, as well as any applicant who has abused alcohol or drugs within 10 years of the application date or is on probation at the time of application.  Finally, the $50,000 free life insurance policy is available only to one parent or legal guardian per household, so an eligible parent or legal guardian with three, four, five, or more children will have to spread the proceeds fairly thin or decide which child is most in need of a quality education.

If Massachusetts Life determines that a parent or legal guardian is eligible to apply for the LifeBridge program, the company assigns a MassMutual representative to verify the applicant’s identification, employment status, income, residency, children’s ages, and also to administer a blood and urine test and a brief medical exam.  Once accepted into the LifeBridge program, the insured’s children will be entitled to the educational benefit upon death of the parent or legal guardian during the 10-year policy term, and until the later of 35 years-of-age or 10 years after the insured’s date of death.  Do you think you are eligible to apply?  Then apply today!  Additional information and an eligibility form can be found here:

MassMutual LifeBridge Program Documents

And tell your friends!  Because in the words of Massachusetts Life Insurance Company: “All children, including yours, are the future of our country.  And the more educated our future leaders are, the better prepared they will be to help meet the challenges of tomorrow.” The Life & Property Insurance Law Bloggers agree.