The Life Insurance Beneficiary Lawyers of Boonswang Law
A person purchases a life insurance policy for the following reasons:
- to protect his or her family from financial hardship;
- to ensure dependents do not suffer because of his or her untimely death, or;
- to make it possible for co-owners of a business to continue operations after the loss of a partner.
Unfortunately, sometimes insurance policies fail to fulfill the goals of the insured because insurance companies fail to pay death benefits as intended by the insured and as required under the policy.
Usually, life insurance beneficiaries do not need a lawyer to help them get a death benefit payout, especially when the policy has been in effect for years and years, premiums are current, and the insurance company is a large well-known nation-wide firm.
However, when the policy has been active only briefly, or the death benefit is substantial, or the insured’s cause of death was possibly self-inflicted or is otherwise suspicious, it is all too common for life insurance companies to take the opportunity to delay payment on claims or to deny beneficiaries’ claims altogether.
Our team of attorneys for life insurance claim denials will fight the life insurance company for you. For over 20 years the Boonswang Law Firm has helped beneficiaries get the death benefits they were owed and that the insured intended they receive. Let us help you too.
Life Insurance Companies Are Notorious for Denying Life Insurance Claims Whenever Possible, Because They Only Make Money When Claims Don’t Get Paid!
Here’s how life insurance is supposed to work:
- The holder of the policy, called the insured, pays monthly premiums to the insurance company under the terms of his/her life insurance contract
- When the insured passes on, the beneficiary or beneficiaries listed on the life insurance policy are supposed to be paid the death benefits by the life insurance company
- Many insurance companies do everything possible to avoid paying death benefit claims because they make money that way
- As a result insurance companies wrongfully delay or deny many beneficiaries’ death benefit claims.
- Unfortunately, this means that many families who have lost loved ones not only have to contend with their devastating losses, but also with financial hardship
Some Common Tactics Life Insurance Companies Use to Deny 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 insurance claim. Insurance companies are known to employ the following unfair tactics to delay or deny death benefit claims, among others:
- Misrepresentation: Even when a policyholder has paid his or her monthly premiums in full and on time, his or her beneficiaries’ claims can be denied if the insurer claims misrepresentation on the life insurance application and medical questionnaire. This assertion is often based 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, especially if the death occurred during the contestability period. An experienced life insurance beneficiary attorney will investigate the facts surrounding the death and fight that assessment.
- 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 unjust practices are common and all too often insurance companies are not held accountable. This leaves beneficiaries who may have been depending upon the insurance company grieving and left with nothing. Contact us today – don’t be victimized by the insurance company!
What You Can Expect from Our Team of Life Insurance Beneficiary Lawyers
Upon acceptance of your case, our team of experienced life insurance beneficiary attorneys will:
- Review policy terms and provisions to determine coverage and exclusions
- Review denial letters and correspondence from the 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 claim
- Investigate 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 are looking out for the insurer’s profit margin, not for the welfare of beneficiaries. The more premiums an insurer can collect and the fewer claims 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.
If the insurance is giving you the run-around, denying your claim or asserting they are still “investigating,” give us a call. We get our clients paid!
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.