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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 not taking adequate steps to try to pay out on life insurance policies where information in the companies' possession indicated that the insureds had died but no claim had been filed. Often, these companies were using information from 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 the Department of Financial Services and the Attorney General's Office, 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 former 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 27 life insurance companies: John Hancock, Prudential, Met Life, AIG, Nationwide, TIAA-CREF, ING, Transamerica, New York Life, Aviva, Midland, Lincoln, Genworth, Sun Life Companies, Symetra Life/ Symetra National Life, Allianz Life of North America/Allianz Life of New York, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Pacific Life Insurance Company, AXA, Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Hartford Fire & Casualty Group, Securian Life Insurance Company, Great American Life Insurance Company, Standard Insurance Company, Ameriprise Subsidiaries (RiverSource Life Insurance Company/RiverSource Life Insurance Company of New York), Aflac, and State Farm. 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 $8.7 billion to beneficiaries directly by the companies and over $3.25 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 $217 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 $90 million already claimed by Florida consumers.

Florida's Regulatory Life Claims Settlement Agreements (Link)

Additional Resources: