The Life Insurance Lawyers of Boonswang Law

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Our team of life insurance lawyers will fight your life insurance company from giving you the runaround.  The Boonswang Law Firm is dedicated exclusively to helping you get the death benefits that you are owed.

For over 20 years, our team of life insurance attorneys have helped beneficiaries receive the death benefits they are owed.

A life insurance policy is purchased in order to protect families from financial hardship, ensure dependents do not suffer because of an untimely death or make it possible for co-owners of a business to continue operations after the loss of a partner. Unfortunately, sometimes insurance policies do not fulfill any of these goals because insurance companies fail to make payments as required under the policy. Such practices are wrong, illegal and you do not have to stand for it.

The life insurance lawyers of the Boonswang Law Firm will work hand-in-hand with you through the process of challenging the decision of your life insurance company. If you have a life insurance claim that has been delayed or denied, if you have not been paid all of the death benefit proceeds you are owed, or if the circumstances surrounding the designation of the beneficiary were less than above board, we may be able to help you.
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Life Insurance Companies Are Notorious for Denying Life Insurance Claims Whenever Possible

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • The holder of the policy pays monthly premiums to the insurance company to maintain the terms of his/her life insurance contract
  • When the person passes on, the beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy is supposed to receive a death benefits from the life insurance company

Common Insurance Company Tactics to Deny Life Insurance Claims

Understanding the dishonest tactics of insurance companies is important so you will know if you need legal help due to an unfairly denied life claim.  Insurance companies sometimes employ unfair tactics to delay or deny claims.

Here are just a few tactics that life insurance companies use to try to avoid paying out death benefits:

  • Misrepresentation: Even though a policyholder pays monthly premiums for life insurance, his/her family or beneficiaries can be denied payment of life insurance if the insurer claims misrepresentation. This can often be on very shaky grounds that an experienced life insurance attorney will recognize and can fight.
  • Self-Inflicted Injuries: Insurance companies may deny life insurance payments by claiming that the injury was self-inflicted.
  • Retroactive Cancellation: Insurance companies may cancel a policy retroactively to ensure that the claim does not have to be paid or look for ways to contest coverage so a beneficiary will be deprived of the death benefit. Again, our firm has handled countless cases involving retroactive cancellation and we can help you.

These illegitimate practices are common and all too often insurance companies are not held accountable. Those who may have been depending upon the insurance company to pay the death benefit so they can pay their bills and start a new life could be left with nothing.  Contact us today and don’t give up on getting what you deserve.

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What You Can Expect from Our Team of Life Insurance Lawyers

Upon acceptance of your case, our team of experienced life insurance attorneys will:

  • Review policy terms and provisions to determine coverage and exclusions
  • Review denial letters and correspondence from an insurer to identify reasons for a delay or denial
  • Negotiate with your insurer to get you a payout on a life insurance policy when there is a dispute
  • Pursue a claim in court against an insurer that is acting unreasonably or dishonestly in delaying or denying the payment of a valid life insurance policy
  • Investigate claims and allegations made by an insurer in denying a policy to refute or cast doubt on those claims

Insurance companies are staffed by experts, consultants and lawyers who look out for the insurer’s profit margin. The more premiums an insurer can collect, and the less benefits the insurer can pay out, the better the company does. The insurer’s interests are at odds with yours and you need your own advocate looking out for you as you make your claim after a death.

Our Life Insurance Clients’ Most Frequently Asked Questions

Can a spouse contest a life insurance beneficiary?

Yes.  Divorce and remarriage often leave current and former spouses without the death benefit they expected.  If your husband or wife’s ex-spouse is trying to claim his or her death benefit, a life insurance lawyer can help you fight to recover your rightful share of your husband or wife’s insurance policy.

Can a beneficiary claim a lapsed policy?

Insurance companies will try to get out of paying claims whenever they can, and they won’t make it easy to claim a policy that has lapsed.  However, it may still be possible. Some policies have clauses that waive premiums if a person becomes disabled. Other times, premiums missed in the last few months of life because of severe illness can be excused by a grace period, especially of the policyholder was a long-time client of the insurer.  While nothing can be guaranteed when dealing with insurance companies, a life insurance lawyer can fight to recover benefits even if premium payments were missed and a policy lapsed.

Can a last-minute insurance beneficiary change be contested?

Possibly.  The policyholder is well within their rights to change beneficiaries at will so long as they are alive, of sound mind, and not under duress.  The only exceptions are those designated irrevocable beneficiaries. This status is often granted to children and spouses, and neither divorce nor estrangement changes this status.  An irrevocable beneficiary must consent to any changes to the policy that affect their benefits, and depending on the policy terms, any changes to the policy at all.

If you were named as an irrevocable beneficiary but the insurance company says you were removed from the policy, this change can almost certainly be contested.

In many cases, last minute changes are made without the policyholder’s knowledge. Fraud in the form of last-minute beneficiary changes often happens to senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, who are tricked into signing papers they couldn’t possibly understand to name a distant relative or a caretaker as a primary beneficiary.  Such fraudulent changes can be contested.

Who can change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy?

Generally, only the policyholder can change or designate beneficiaries.  Some power of attorney documents allow agents of the policyholder to make such decisions, but doing so would bring sharp scrutiny to the agent if their decision is challenged by a former beneficiary or representative of the estate.

How to find out if a deceased person had life insurance?

Unfortunately, there is no single database of life insurance policies and many older policies are no longer retained by insurance companies or buried in decades-old paper files.  If you expect your spouse or relative carried a life insurance policy but nobody knows the details, the best place to start are their financial records and mail. There will generally be annual or monthly payments notices, bank statement and other documents related to the policy which may indicate where the policy was taken out, and other identifying information.  You can also check with the Unclaimed Property office in your state. After a period of time, if no beneficiary can be found and the deceased had no will or estate plan, their death benefit will be sent to the agency in your state that handles unclaimed property, and if you can prove your relationship you may be able to claim the benefit with the help of a life insurance lawyer.

How to find out if a life insurance policy was paid out?

To find out if a life insurance policy was paid out, you will need contact information for the insurance company and the personal identifying information about the deceased.  However, insurance companies generally do not provide that information to non-beneficiaries. If you believe you are owed all or a portion of the death benefits, you should contact a life insurance lawyer to assist you in obtaining additional information.

Additionally, the agent who assisted in obtaining the policy can confirm if the policy has been collected yet.  If the answer is yes, but you are a beneficiary and have received no payment, you should contact a life insurance lawyer immediately.  While it’s possible that the policyholder simply changed their beneficiary without telling you, fraud and coercion are also common reasons for unexpected changes to a policy’s beneficiaries.

What happens to life insurance policies with no beneficiary?

Most life insurance policies list a beneficiary, but there are several ways a policy could have no beneficiary at the time of the policyholder’s passing.  In some cases, the policyholder simply outlives their sole beneficiary. This often happens with widows who never updated their own policy after their spouse died.  Adult children of the deceased are often surprised to find their parent’s policy lists no beneficiary or lists a dead person as the sole beneficiary. What happens next depends on the policy and state law.  Sometimes either the state law governing the policy or the policy itself will establish an order of succession, starting with the spouse or children of the policyholder. Other policies will send the benefit to the policyholder’s estate.  In either case, a life insurance lawyer can help you make a claim if your loved one’s policy lists no beneficiary.

How does money get split between beneficiaries?

Life insurance money can either be split per capita or per stirpes.  If a policyholder has named his beneficiaries to split the proceeds per capita, they each receive a percentage share.  A common form of this arrangement would see a wife paid 50% and her adult children each paid 25% of their father’s death benefit.  Awarding beneficiaries per stirpes means benefits are paid out equally to each family branch and its descendants from the percentage allotted the named beneficiary, while per capita means the children of the named beneficiary receive nothing if he or she dies before the policy is claimed, and the other beneficiaries split his or her share.

More often, however, the beneficiary designation form on file with the insurance company will indicate exactly how the money will be disbursed and to whom.

Can a life insurance beneficiary be changed after death?

No.  Only the policyholder (and in limited cases their power of attorney) can designate or change the designation of beneficiaries, and they must be alive to do so.  If someone comes forward with paperwork showing a beneficiary designation was changed after the date listed on the policyholder has already passed, you should retain a life insurance lawyer to represent you, as this individual is likely trying to defraud you.

Can I share life insurance benefits with my siblings?

Sometimes, a parent or grandparent will choose to leave their full insurance benefit to just one of their children.  It could be a matter of trust, but more often they took out life insurance after the birth of their first child and never updated the policy.  If, say, a brother was the sole beneficiary but wanted to split his father’s death benefit with his two younger sisters, he could not designate them as beneficiaries; only the policyholder can do that.  However, nothing would stop him from giving a share of his death benefit as a gift to his siblings. A downside to doing this is the possibility that the gift to your siblings will create tax liabilities.  With the recent doubling of estate exemptions to $11.4 million for 2019, a federal tax bill is unlikely, but many states may assess a tax on the money as a gift or inheritance. You should consult a financial planning professional for advice if you plan to share your life insurance benefit.

What happens if I name a minor as my beneficiary?

Where a minor is named as the beneficiary of a policy, the court will likely appoint someone to act as custodian of the child’s inheritance until they turn 18.  However, even if you anticipate this issue and name a custodian, there is little to prevent this individual from using the money as they see fit, either lavishing the child and squandering their inheritance or refusing to dip into the funds for anything but absolute necessities.  Few parents would wish for either scenario to come to pass. The best way to make a minor your beneficiary is to create a trust and name the child as the beneficiary of the trust. While this permits you much greater control of how your death benefit is spent for your child’s benefit, it creates a complicated tax situation and an estate planning attorney should be consulted as well.

Contact Our Team of  Life Insurance Attorneys Today

Has your loved one’s life insurance death benefits claim been denied? Contact us for a free consultation at Boonswang Law. Our life insurance lawyers have helped clients like you recover the funds they legally deserve from insurance companies. If you don’t receive the full amount from the policy that’s due, there is no fee for us. We are here to help you.

There Is No Cost Until We Recover Your Claim. Contact Us Today!






How Life Insurance Payouts Typically Work

This is how the process of getting a life insurance payout is supposed to work, though life insurance companies may attempt to find reasons to delay or deny your claim. This is especially common when the policy was purchased within the past 2 years

During this first two years of a life insurance policy, errors, misrepresentations, or omissions can void the life insurance policy altogether, and suicide is generally not covered. Within this period, insurers will frequently delay claims in order to conduct a thorough investigation of the insured’s medical records.

Even outside of this two-year window, life insurance companies may deny your claim due to nonpayment of premiums (see our previous blog post) or for violations of arbitrary, overly specific provisions on the policy. If your claim has been unjustly delayed or denied, it’s prudent to contact an experienced life insurance lawyer for a free consultation.If you’re not sure whether your loved one had life insurance to begin with, there are several options available (see our previous blog post). For instance, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) runs a “Policy Locator Service” in which the NAIC will contact insurance companies on your behalf. You can also pay private companies such as Policy Inspector to speak directly with insurers and search for a missing policy.

The Process

Step 1: Gather information

The first step in claiming your loved one’s death benefit is to look through their records for information on the policy. It’s helpful to have a complete copy of the policy when filing your claim, but this is not entirely necessary. Bank statements, updates from the insurance company via mail, and tax documents can all help you gather information about the policy. Employers may also have documentation on any group life insurance policies that were purchased as part of an employee benefit plan. If nothing else, you should at least know which insurance company to contact.

 

Step 2: Contact the life insurance company

The next step is to contact the insurance company directly and let them know that the insured has passed away. In order to locate the policy, they will need the insured’s date of birth and social security number, and/or the policy number. They will then send you claim forms and tell you which documents they need to have before processing your claim. If the policy is through an employer, contact the employer’s human resources or benefits department with the information instead of contacting the insurer.

Step 3: Fill out claim forms

The sooner you fill out the claim forms, the sooner the insurance company can process the claim. If you need the death benefit as soon as possible, you’ll want to fill out claim forms shortly after receiving them. Each insurance company has its own process for claimants, but you will always be required to send a copy of the insured’s death certificate. Insurance companies typically accept claim forms by mail or through an agent, but some also allow claims to be filed online.

Step 4: Wait for a response

Each state has its own rules for when life insurance companies need to pay their claimants. For instance, SC Code § 38-63-80 dictates that if an insurer hasn’t processed a claim within 30 days of submission of claim forms, the insurer will also have to pay interest on the death benefit. Although it doesn’t provide a strict deadline, this statute incentivizes insurance companies to pay within the initial 30-day period. Generally speaking, your claim should be processed and your benefit paid within 1-2 months after submitting claim forms. Some companies say it takes as little as 10-14 days for the average, uncontestable claim.

If your claim is approved, the insurance company will typically provide multiple options for payment. You may elect to receive the benefits all at once in a lump sum payment, or to distribute them out over time through annuities. Using an annuity system can allow the policy to collect interest, but this interest is generally taxable. A notable exception occurs on policies with spendthrift provisions, in which the insurer holds onto the benefit and distributes it via prespecified installments (see our previous blog post).

 

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