Life Insurance Lawyer Maryland

Whether you reside in: Elkton; Bowie; Gaithersburg; Rockville; Frederick or Baltimore; our life insurance attorneys who live and work here in Maryland are here to help resolve your delayed or denied life insurance claim.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Our Maryland life insurance attorneys are now handling numerous COVID-19 Coronavirus denied life insurance claims.

The importance of up-to-date life insurance beneficiaries

Most life insurance policies are relatively simple. The insured obtains a policy and pays insurance premiums to keep that policy active. In the event the policyholder dies and his manner of death is not subject to any policy exclusion (such as suicide), then his designated beneficiary will receive a death payout in the amount called for in the policy. At least, that is how it is supposed to work.

In reality, however, things are not always that simple. Many people obtain a life insurance policy, name a beneficiary under the policy, then never really think about the policy again other than to make premium payments from time to time. In the meantime, all sorts of life events can occur that would make the policyholder wish he had paid more attention to what would happen to policy proceeds when he passed away.

As attorneys who specialize in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims, we see these issues arise all the time. Often, we are called upon to fight for the rights of a contingent or unnamed beneficiary who believes the insured’s policy did not express his true intentions at the time of death. While we can often successfully contest claim denials issued against these individuals, the best course is for policyholders to regularly revisit their policies to ensure their current intentions are clearly expressed.

This article explores three important life events that underscore the importance of changing beneficiary designations to match current intent. Two of those scenarios also highlight how critical it is for policyholders to name a contingent beneficiary. We hope these vignettes serve as a reminder that life insurance policies are only as good as your effort to keep them up-to-date.


Naturally, when most married people obtain a life insurance policy, they name their spouse as a beneficiary. Yet, in truth, 40 to 50% of American marriages end in divorce. While many divorce decrees mandate what should happen to life insurance policies held by the spouses, some people forget to include them in their asset lists. When they later die, the person they least want to benefit from their death ends up being the person still named as a beneficiary.

We see cases all the time where a divorced person simply forgets to change his beneficiary under the policy. This happens even where there are no divorce-related restrictions on changing the beneficiary and where the policyholder later remarries another person. Not surprisingly, these cases often end up in a nasty lawsuit between the named beneficiary (the first spouse) and the person who is likely the intended beneficiary (the current spouse).

We’ve seen these cases go both ways, but generally speaking, courts will uphold the express terms of the policy. In other words, the ex-spouse is likely to be the person who receives the benefit upon the policyholder’s death.

Note, however, that in cases where the policyholder failed to ever name a beneficiary at all, the ex-spouse is unlikely to receive policy proceeds. Rather, the death payout will be distributed as part of the policyholder’s estate.

Ultimately, the best course of action is to revisit your life insurance policy’s beneficiary designations as soon as your divorce is finalized. If the divorce decree mandates that certain persons be designated – the ex-spouse or the couple’s children, for example – then those instructions should be followed to the letter. If not, name someone who won’t have you turning in your grave when it comes time for your life insurance company to make a policy payout.

Beneficiary pre-deceases the policyholder

This is another common scenario where people forget to undertake the important task of changing their life insurance beneficiary designations. Imagine a childless couple where the husband has a life insurance policy naming his wife as the sole beneficiary. What happens if she passes away before him and he fails to change his beneficiary designation? In most states, his life insurance proceeds would be distributed as an estate asset. In many cases, however, that means those dollars end up in the hands of someone the policyholder never would have chosen.

This situation underscores the importance of naming a contingent beneficiary. Under most policies, the contingent beneficiary only recovers the life insurance proceeds if the primary beneficiary pre-deceases the policyholder. While it can be uncomfortable for couples to go through the process of naming contingent beneficiaries, it is a critical step toward protecting the policyholder’s full and true intentions.

Beneficiary kills the policyholder

In one final scenario that is (thankfully) less common than the other two, courts are sometimes called upon to decide what happens to life insurance proceeds when the beneficiary is deemed to be the person who killed the policyholder. What happens then?

Most states have what are known as “slayer statutes.” These laws basically prevent a killer from benefitting financially from their act of ending another person’s life. This means they won’t collect life insurance proceeds (even if they are the named beneficiary) and they won’t collect on any inheritance set aside for them in the deceased’s will.

Again, this is a scenario where having a contingent beneficiary is critical. Without naming that alternate beneficiary, life insurance proceeds will likely end up in the hands of an heir that may or may not be a match for the policyholder’s intentions.

In our line of work, we see fights over improper beneficiary designations all the time. While we are happy to fight for the rights of deserving beneficiaries (and have a very successful record at doing so), the best course for all life insurance policyholders is to simply revisit their designations any time a major life event occurs. Ultimately, clear and current beneficiary designations are the safest way to ensure your final wishes are carried out.

If you have received a life insurance claim denial on the basis that you are not the proper beneficiary, we may be able to help you. Call us today for a free consultation. We’re here to help.

Maryland denied life insurance claims are nothing new. Existing for many years, life insurance policies have been used to safeguard families and friends alike in case emergencies or accidents come unexpectedly. Unfortunately, denials of life insurance claims, as well as delays, are commonplace.
Our life insurance lawyers who live and work in Maryland can help, whether you are in: Baltimore; Frederick; Rockville; Gaithersburg; Bowie; or anywhere in the state of Maryland, we will get you the benefits to which you are entitled.
Maryland Life Insurance Law
Policies through work are governed under ERISA. The primary regulating force here in Maryland is Title 31 of the Code of Maryland Regulations, and oversight is provided by the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Most Common Reasons for a Denied Life Insurance Claim in Maryland
  • Number one is a misrepresentation on the application. This typically involves failing to disclose a medical condition. However, we can get over this hurdle the majority of the time.
  • A lapse of a life insurance policy is probably second most common. What happens is that the insured gets sick and misses a payment or two. These are tough, but often we can get these claims paid.
  • Probably third is the type of death exclusion. This could be a suicide or it could be a self-inflicted injury. Murder is another exclusion. Health again can fall under this exclusion. We often win suicide exclusions as we cite case law that the death was actually accidental.
  • A very common exclusion is the alcohol exclusion. The insured may have been killed in a car crash, but the autopsy revealed alcohol in the person’s system. We have many legal briefs to combat this exclusion.
  • Heroin and opiates or illegal drug exclusion is one of the biggest now. With the opioid crisis, there are tens of thousands of deaths.
  • Prescription drug overdose exclusion may involve an overdose of medicine or taken medicines that are contraindicated.
  • An ex-spouse being cut off from life insurance benefits is a big one. We actually have a half dozen ways to get over this hurdle.
  • Having a spouse not listed as a beneficiary is another reason for denial
  • Having a child not listed as a beneficiary is one too.
  • Having only a primary beneficiary who is deceased is another.
  • On an AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) life insurance policy, a fall not being considered an accident is extremely common.
  • The insured’s age not being correct on the initial application is a reason for denial.
  • Having the wrong social security number listed is common.
  • An autoerotic asphyxiation exclusion is an easy one for us to beat.
  • An omission on the application is a big reason for denying a life insurance claim, but we have legal briefs to this effect.
  • Not providing the required documents to the insurance company after death is a reason.
  • Information which is argued to not be correct is one.
  • When there is a dispute between two or more beneficiaries, an interpleader may occur, and we always get these resolved quickly.
  • A beneficiary not named is a reason for not paying it out.
  • A life insurance policy may be transferred from one company to another by the employer which causes major problems.
A life insurer cannot deny you information, then deny your claim
Don’t accept a life insurance claim denial if the insurer hid information from you
Our firm specializes in the denial of life insurance claims. Through the years, we have seen life insurance companies use every excuse imaginable to deny claims. Often, those claim denials are completely invalid. In fact, our specialty wouldn’t need to exist if life insurance companies played by the rules.
Before we get into the main topic of today’s article, let’s take a moment to review the life insurance industry as a whole. Generally speaking, life insurers contract with individuals to provide a payout to designated beneficiaries when the policyholder dies. Throughout the life of the policy, the insured pays regular premiums in exchange for these “death benefits.”
Even though a life insurance payout can be comforting for beneficiaries in times that are otherwise financially unstable, life insurance companies should not be considered altruistic or caring. To the contrary, they are for-profit businesses who spend time, money, and human resources dreaming up ways to deny valid claims.
This article explores one particularly egregious case of a life insurance company talking out of both sides of its mouth. Before its policyholder died, it said one thing. After that policyholder’s death, it had an entirely different message for the beneficiary. Lamentably, this case is not unusual. We see it all the time. So, if you relate to the facts and circumstances of the case we’re about to present, please call us. We fight these battles head-on with insurers all the time.
Prior to the policyholder’s death: “Don’t worry, you’ll be covered.”
In this case, the life insurance policy beneficiary was the wife of neurosurgeon. As you might imagine, the surgeon had lucrative life and disability insurance policies in place through his employer. Months before he died, the neurosurgeon was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He applied for, and was granted, disability payments through that portion of his policy coverage.
During his period of disability, his wife made several inquiries to the insurer about available benefits. Eventually, she even had an in-person meeting with a insurance company representative. During that meeting, the rep repeatedly told the wife that despite her husband’s then-current disability, all of their other coverages (including life insurance coverage) would remain the same.
Some months later, the insurance company mailed the neurosurgeon and his wife a letter. It revealed, for the first time, that after 36 weeks of disability, the surgeon would need to convert his life insurance policy to a personal plan, as opposed to one covered by his employer. The letter, however, did not enclose the forms needed to effectuate the conversion, nor did it disclose any deadlines by which that conversion needed to take place.
As you might imagine, the surgeon and his wife were quite preoccupied with his health at the time. Sadly, he passed away before they were able to make the conversion requested in the letter. Shortly after his death, the wife made a claim for the death benefit called for his original policy.
After the policyholder’s death: “You’re not covered.”
The life insurance company denied the claim. In its denial letter, the insurer claimed that due to the failure of the couple to effectuate the conversion, the policy had lapsed. The wife was understandably upset.
At this point, she made a very prudent decision. Rather than accepting the life insurance company’s denial and walking away, or rather than trying to fight them herself, she retained an attorney who specialized in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims. The attorney immediately recognized the problem with the denial.
Specifically, an insurer has what is called a “fiduciary duty” to convey important policy information to an insured. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, a “fiduciary duty” is the legal obligation of one party to act in the best interest of another. To cite a more obvious example, an attorney has a fiduciary duty not to take actions that could harm his client’s position.
In this case, the court recognized the insurer’s fiduciary obligation to the wife as follows:
The fiduciary has an obligation to convey complete and accurate information material to the beneficiary’s circumstance, even if that information compromises elements about which the beneficiary has not specifically inquired.
By failing to provide appropriate conversion forms and failing to inform the surgeon and his wife of the deadline for conversion, the court found the life insurer had breached its fiduciary duty to the couple. Consequently, the insurer was forced to pay the full $750,000 death benefit to which the wife was entitled.
What to do if your life insurance company changed its message
Unfortunately, cases like the one outlined above are not unusual. We get calls from new clients all the time who are shocked about a life insurance claim denial. Like the wife in this case, they were told a completely different story about coverage before their loved one passed away.
If this happens to you, please don’t try to take on the life insurance company on your own. Life insurers have notoriously large numbers of attorneys on their payroll. Those attorneys are paid to do nothing other than outthink policyholders and beneficiaries so that otherwise valid claims can be denied.
Instead, please give us a call. Our firm is laser-focused on contesting the wrongful denial of life insurance claims. We know every strategy insurers and their lawyers employ in their attempts to avoid coverage. More importantly, we have successfully overcome those tactics time and time again.
We’ll listen to your situation, review the claims denial letter, and give you our honest opinion about your chances of successfully overcoming a claim denial. To the extent possible, please be prepared to send us any notes you took about meetings with insurance representatives, any an all letters they sent you about coverage, and, of course, the ultimate claim denial letter. Please feel free to call today. We’re here to help.