Life Insurance Lawyer Missouri
Whether you reside in: Lee’s Summit; Independence; Columbia; Springfield; St. Louis or Kansas City; our life insurance attorneys who live and work here in Missouri are here to help resolve your delayed or denied life insurance claim.
What to do about unclear life insurance beneficiary designations
If you’ve ever worked in or around the life insurance industry, you know that it is a profession rife with lawyers. Insurers have lawyers tasked with writing confusing and long winded policy language. They have other lawyers who are charged with dreaming up policy exclusions. Still other lawyers are employed for the sole purpose of concocting reasons for claim denials each time a claim for benefits is received.
There’s a good reason why life insurance companies pay so much money to employ so many lawyers. Denying valid claims is big business. The more they can deny claims by policy beneficiaries, the more money they keep in their own coffers and the happier investors and executives are at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, a lot of innocent people get hurt as a result of the insurance companies’ greed. Many times, life insurance policy proceeds are intended to give financial security to a loved one when a key wage earner passes away. Without those dollars, beneficiaries can lose their homes, possessions, and personal security.
Such was the case for one policy beneficiary in Florida who experienced a confounding and unbelievable claim denial. This article explores the facts of her case and serves as a cautionary tale in two respects. First, policyholders need to be exceedingly clear when designating beneficiaries to their life insurance policies. Second, beneficiaries need to be vigilant in retaining specialized lawyers to help contest bogus claim denials.
The cloud of love
This case involves a gentleman in his 60s named Harold. Harold had been in the mining industry for his entire life and had amassed a great deal of wealth. He had hundreds of friends in his Florida community and was well-liked by all. What Harold lacked, however, was his true love. Harold’s first wife, Margaret, had passed away when the couple was in their 30s and he had never remarried, even though he was terribly lonely.
In the fall of his 64th year, however, Harold met a younger woman who went by the name of Marie Rodriguez. Harold was instantly smitten by Marie, if not slightly amused by her name. Harold had a large extended family and had two distant nieces who were named Maria Rodriguez and Marie Rodriguez, respectively. In light of this, Harold almost immediately began calling his new girlfriend by the nickname “Merry.”
The romance between Harold and Merry was fast and furious. Within a few months’ time, Harold had made Merry a joint owner of several of his properties and had titled most of his cars and boats in her name. He also changed his $5 million life insurance policy to name “Merry Marie Rodriguez” as his sole beneficiary. Because the couple spent nearly every second of every day together, Merry was fully aware of the change Harold had made to his life insurance policy. She was flattered, of course, but hoped the policy wouldn’t be needed for many years to come.
In the flurry of new romance, it never occurred to Merry that she hadn’t ever told Harold her true name. In fact, she wasn’t very fond of the name and avoided using it for most of her adult life. Indeed, few people outside those involved in issuing her driver’s license and passport knew that her real name was Guadalupe Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez. She had simply gone by Marie or, as Harold called her, Merry.
An unexpected death and subsequent confusion
About a year after Merry and Harold started seeing each other, Harold passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. The whole community was grief-stricken but Merry was particularly despondent. In fact, one of Harold’s lawyers had to remind her to make a claim against his life insurance policy. She finally got around to doing so some six months after his death. As part of the claim process, she had to submit a copy of her driver’s license in order to prove she was the intended beneficiary.
When the life insurance company received the form, its adjusters were quickly confused. The policy named Merry Marie Rodriquez as the beneficiary, yet the person claiming a right to the policy proceeds was named Guadalupe Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez. To complicate matters, the policyholder had two relatives whose names more closely aligned to Harold’s stated beneficiary. None of the women, however, had the formal name of “Merry.”
In light of all this, the insurance company simply denied Merry’s claim. Its stated reason for the denial was that there was no clear beneficiary designation in the policy. Stunned by the news, Merry reached out to Harold’s former attorney. He referred her to a lawyer who specialized in the denial of life insurance claims.
After reviewing the facts of the case and interviewing several witnesses, the attorney put together an evidence packet for the life insurance company. It included several letters Harold had written to “Merry,” pictures of the couple together, statements from witnesses familiar with Harold’s pet name for his girlfriend, and evidence of all Harold’s property transfers to Merry Marie Rodriguez. He also obtained a statement from Harold’s personal attorney regarding his understanding of Harold’s intentions. Merry’s attorney threatened to sue the insurance company if it did not pay Merry on the claim or if it attempted to pay the proceeds to one of Harold’s nieces.
All of the effort eventually paid off. They insurance company ended up paying the $5 million death benefit directly to Merry, just as Harold had intended. While the outcome of this case was a positive one, it does underscore the importance of naming a clear beneficiary in your life insurance paperwork. It also illustrates just how important a specialized lawyer can be for protecting your rights.
As lawyers who practice solely in the area of life insurance claim denials, we see cases of unclear beneficiaries all the time. We know insurance companies use them as a poor excuse for denying valid claims and we don’t stand for it. If you are facing this or a similar situation, call us today. We’re here to help.
- 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.