Beneficiaries and Missing Life Insurance Policies

Last week the American International Group agreed to pay $11 million to resolve a multi-state investigation by a group of state insurance regulators, into the handling of death benefit payments to beneficiaries when the policy holder dies.

AIG joined several other insurers that already settled, agreeing to check their lists of policy holders regularly against the Social Security Administration’s master “death file” database and to put more effort into locating beneficiaries.

Traditionally, insurance companies have required beneficiaries to file claims to receive benefits from life insurance policies. That has meant that claims sometimes are never filed — perhaps because policy documents were lost, or because beneficiaries did not know a policy existed. But state insurance regulators, for the past two years, have been looking into the practices of large insurers and urging them to proactively identify policies that may be due for a payout.

State regulators have charged that insurers used the Social Security Administration’s list of recently deceased people to stop making annuity payments to dead customers, but, at the same time, did not use the list to check whether any life insurance policyholders had died.

Read entire story by Ann Carrns at the NY Times.

The American Council of Life Insurers has the following tips for finding missing policies.

Missing Policy Tips

The American Council of Life Insurers does not locate missing or lost life insurance policies.  Suggestions for conducting your own search are listed below.

Conducting Your Search

If you suspect your loved one had a policy, but cannot locate it, you may want to conduct your own search using the steps provided below. As an alternative, MIB, an insurance membership corporation, offers a policy locater service for a fee. For more information about this service, visit MIB’s Web site: www.policylocator.com.

  • Check your loved one’s papers and address and telephone books to look for life insurance policies and the names of insurance agents.  Contact every insurance company with which they may have had a policy, even if you’re not sure the policy is still in force.
  • Check with the employee benefits office at their latest and previous places of employment.  Or, check with the union welfare office.
  • Check bank books and canceled checks for the last few years to see if any checks may have been written to pay life insurance premiums.
  • Check the mail for one year after death for premium notices, which usually are sent annually.  If a policy has been paid up, there will not be any notice of premium payments due.  However, the company may still send an annual notice regarding the status of the policy or it may pay or send notice of a dividend.
  • Review your loved one’s income tax returns for the past two years.  Look for interest income from and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies.  Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.
  • Check with the state’s unclaimed property office to see if any unclaimed money from life insurance policies may have been turned over to the state.  If, after a number of years, an insurance company holding the unclaimed money cannot find the rightful owner, it turns the money over to the state. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ website (www.naupa.org) includes links to each state’s unclaimed property office. For multi-state searches, www.missingmoney.com combines information from most, but not all, state unclaimed property databases.
  • Of course, you may wish to contact life insurance companies directly to see if a policy exists.  Each state insurance department has a listing of life insurance companies licensed to do business in its state.

Contacting the Company That Services Your Life Insurance Policy

If you are the owner or beneficiary of a life insurance policy written long ago, you may need help locating the life insurer that services and pays claims on the policy.

Over the years, a policy owner may lose touch with the life insurer due to frequent moves, or the company that issued the policy may have changed its name or merged with another company.

Two sources of information can assist you in finding the life insurance company that currently services your policy:

  • The state insurance department of the state in which the insured person resided at the time he or she bought the insurance policy.
  • Best’s Insurance Reports, available in the reference section of many larger libraries. This annual update lists insurance company names and addresses, as well as insurers’ name changes, mergers and other changes.

The best way to avoid problems with life insurance claims is for policy holders to discuss the policies with their beneficiaries.  Copies of the policy should be kept in a safe deposit box or with a lawyer or financial adviser, and make sure your beneficiaries know how to access them.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to an attorney to assist you with your estate planning needs.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

How Will the Mortgage Settlement Affect Distressed Homeowners?

49 state attorney’s general have reached a landmark agreement with 5 of the nation’s top loan servicers (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally/GMAC).  The settlement will provide up to 25 billion dollars in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.

The settlement provides benefits to borrowers in the signing states whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

Homeowners whose primary residence was part of a foreclosure action between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and whose home loan was serviced by a participating servicer, may be eligible for an Independent Foreclosure Review.  

To find out more information regarding how this settlement may affect borrowers or how to find out if you qualify for assistance, check out the new National Mortgage Settlement website, and/or read the press release from the NH Attorney General’s office.

If your home is in foreclosure, an attorney may be able to assist you.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service today at 603-229-0002 for a referral to a competent lawyer who specifically handles foreclosure matters in New Hampshire, or request an online referral.   A consultation with an attorney could make all the difference!

 

American Central Lending Services – Consumer ALERT

Released December 14, 2011 by Michael A. Delaney, New Hampshire Attorney General

NEWS RELEASE

    
Attorney General Michael A. Delaney has issued a consumer alert to warn consumers about a fraudulent Internet lending operation using the name American Central Lending Services and falsely representing that they are located in Portsmouth, NH.  Investigators have determined that this company does not do business in New Hampshire, has no ties to New Hampshire and is engaging in false and deceptive practices in attempts to steal money from consumers.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau warns consumers to exercise extreme caution when applying for a loan through the Internet and to not provide sensitive and confidential information on any on-line application, such as address, date of birth, social security information or banking/credit card information without having particular guarantees that the company is legitimate and the website is secure.  Consumers are also cautioned that any request to wire money, especially out of the country, is a red flag indicating a potential consumer scam.  Consumers should only wire money when they have personal knowledge and familiarity with the recipient.  Often scam artists operate outside of the United States and are skilled at concealing their true identities and location.

Consumers may obtain other information about consumer protection issues, or report consumer complaints, on the Consumer Protection Bureau’s website at <http://www.doj.nh.gov/consumer>.  

If you  have been victimized by an internet scam, the Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to competent attorneys who are trained to handle this type of legal matter.  Call LRS today at (603) 229-0002 or request a referral online at https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.

Receive Scam Alerts

Sign up to receive scam alerts  through email from the NH Consumer Education Partnership, formed by the NH Banking Department, the NH Insurance Department, the NH State Treasury, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, and the NH Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau.

http://www.nh.gov/consumer/

If you think you may have been scammed or suspect your identity may have been stolen, the Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to attorneys who have experience assisting people with consumer law and/or identity theft issues.  Call 603-229-0009 or fill out the online request form.

How to Start a Business in New Hampshire

“The New Hampshire Business Resource Center and the International Trade Resource Center offer resources to enhance the economic activities of the state through business attraction outreach, in-state business expansion efforts, and facilitation of government and international sales.”

For more information and links to many resources such as Business Assistance Programs, Emergency Management Tools, and Energy Efficiency Programs, go to the NH Business Resource Center  at  www.nheconomy.com/business-services/start-a-business-in-nh/.

Whether starting a small home-based business or a corporation, your business must comply with state laws and regulations. There may be licensing and permit requirements to consider, or zoning and environmental regulations. If you plan to hire employees you also need to be aware of federal and state labor laws regarding benefits and wages, and discrimination.

The Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to an attorney who can assist you in starting your business, from sole propietorships to corporations and franchises. For more information call 603-229-0002 or fill out the Lawyer Referral Request Form at

https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us

LawLine: Free Legal Advice – 800-868-1212

Do you have a BRIEF LEGAL QUESTION? LawLine, the NH Bar Association’s free legal hotline is held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 – 8 pm.

Volunteer New Hampshire attorneys will take calls from the public and will give brief legal information and advice. This is a FREE public service. Call 1-800-868-1212.

Do you have more than a brief legal question and suspect you may need an attorney to represent you?  The NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a competent local  attorney who handles your type of legal matter.  Call (603) 229-0002 today or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service request form at:  https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.