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Life Claim Settlement Practices

One of the more important things a person can do during their lifetime is to purchase a life insurance policy to cover final death expenses and possibly even leave a monetary benefit to their heirs.  However, there are times when a policy purchased years earlier goes unnoticed and unclaimed following the policyholder’s death.

In 2009, a Florida market conduct investigation revealed that life insurance companies were using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to stop paying a deceased person’s annuity, but not using it to search for beneficiaries of a life insurance policy and initiate an investigation as to whether benefits were due.

This action ultimately led to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (Office), through a joint effort with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, being the first insurance regulator in the nation to enter into a regulatory settlement agreement requiring corrective actions pertaining to claims settlement practices and the reporting and remitting of unclaimed property.

It was also the catalyst for the creation of a multi-state task force with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), chaired by Florida Commissioner Kevin McCarty, to guide and coordinate the national multi-state examination process. Public hearings were held in Florida and California to probe into company business practices.

The results of this national investigation have caused a paradigm shift in the way the entire industry operates and changed protocols for how they conduct searches to locate a beneficiary.

The states of Florida, California, Illinois, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are serving as lead states for examinations of the 40 largest insurance groups, which comprise more than 92% of the market for life and annuity products nationwide.

To date, Florida has regulatory settlement agreements with 14 life insurance companies: John Hancock, Prudential, Met Life, AIG, Nationwide, TIAA-CREF, ING, Transamerica, New York Life, Aviva, Midland, Lincoln, Genworth and Sun Life Companies. Parallel settlements with state controllers and state treasurers require the insurers to remit current unclaimed benefits to the states. Nationally, the life claim settlement agreements have resulted in returning over $1 billion to beneficiaries directly by the companies and over $1.7 billion being delivered to the states, who continue efforts aimed at locating and paying the beneficiaries.

Florida Consumer Recovery Amounts:

There are two ways the identified property and/or funds are being returned to Florida consumers:

  1. Directly from the life insurance company through improved internal search processes imposed as part of the regulatory settlement agreements; and,

  2. Through Florida's Department of Financial Services' Bureau of Unclaimed Property -- the insurance company remits property to the state when they are unsuccessful at locating a beneficiary. Families may then search the website for a loved one's name to see if there is unclaimed property available to collect.

    More than $59 million in property has been identified and remitted to the DFS Bureau of Unclaimed Property by life insurers as part of the regulatory settlement agreements with more than $2 million already claimed by Florida consumers.

Florida's Regulatory Life Claims Settlement Agreements (Link)

Additional Resources: