Your dad, who smoked marijuana, died when he was seventy-seven years old of a myocardial infarction, the death of a significant part of the heart muscle. Your dad didn't have much money, although he'd faithfully paid for life insurance for forty years, a basic policy, enough to pay for his funeral expenses and the few medical bills not covered by Medicare. His death occurred in the hospital and was in no way remarkable or questionable.
Your mom is sad, vulnerable, and exhausted, confused by the mountains of paper work. She doesn't understand the legalese and feels hapless in the face of such a daunting task.
The family needs the money to pay for his funeral, and the medical bills not covered by his insurance. Your mom is financially sound, to a point, but the last thing she needs is a $10,000 bill for funeral expenses.
What could go wrong?
Actually, quite a lot can go wrong. A terrible practice in the $31 billion life insurance industry involves denying life insurance benefits due to marijuana for the survivors; or delaying payment long enough that the widow or widowers die before the check arrives. And then the money never comes. A life insurance lawyer is needed to battle these insurance companies.
It's a practice built upon the industry's profit sensibility: they want to pay less and keep more. If benefits aren't paid, especially on significant amounts of money, then the insurance companies benefit.
You'd think the practice would only be viable in cut-rate life-insurance companies without a national reputation, but that would be wrong. National companies, with stacks of attorneys waiting in the lobbies, are front and center. These are companies you would most likely recognize. You wouldn't be remiss if you assume that this could happen to your family.
Here's how they do it: they blame you or the hospital. They don't get back to you or they get back to you after it is too late. They might suggest that the death occurred within a contestable period, or that they haven't received hospital documentation or records. They could suggest that you have failed to provide income tax returns, that the death is somehow suspicious or perhaps a divorce negates the benefit. They might send confusing or misleading forms to you to fill out and then blame you when the forms are not filled out correctly or in a timely manner. If you feel like you are getting the run-around, you might be right.
You need an advocate, an experienced life insurance attorney. We are often the least effective when we are advocating for ourselves. It is hard to write something positive or even factual, about yourself. It's hard when money is at risk. It's harder still when a lot of money is in question.
Here's what your life insurance lawyer can do for you: they assure that the forms are filled out correctly and in a timely manner. That basic level of assistance resolves many issues and avoids so many others and is so much help to your mom, who might be frozen in place. Your life insurance attorney reads the communications from the company and helps you understand what they are saying and what they require. Your life insurance attorney will pressure the companies to complete the claims process quickly, and will submit a lengthy legal brief with life insurance case law supporting your position. A life insurance lawyer will get your delayed or denied claim paid.