A few years ago, Sharon Likins learned about the state government’s bounty of unclaimed revenue flipped around by banks, insurance companies, and others. So, the Florida retiree started the state’s “treasure hunt” website and discovered three hundred dollars in her late mother’s name. The Florida life insurance policy was a little incentive from an existing insurance policy with Prudential.
Sharon Made a Significant Florida Life Insurance Discovery.
The discovery had been a pleasant surprise, though it raised a question. Just what occurred to the initial policy that Likins had not known about? They did not discuss anything about having an existing Florida life insurance policy. In addition, they resided in the same Palm Coastline home their mother had lived. In addition, they stated that the company did not have a record of the policy.
Likins’ late mom was among hundreds of thousands of Florida citizens from Miami to Jacksonville. Furthermore, residents had obtained Florida life insurance policies worth enormous amounts. However, those unwitting will never pay out the proceeds. That is because Prudential and other significant life insurance providers in Florida have neither found the survivors nor notified their unclaimed benefits to the government.
Florida Regulators Get Involved.
Four years ago, Florida regulators established a flaw in the business. As a result, the government reached a settlement deal in 2011 and 2012 with the top three Florida life insurance companies: John Hancock, Prudential, and MetLife. The agreements required the insurance companies to improve their techniques. In addition, develop new practices for tracking when policyholders have passed away. Finally, send their benefits to Florida if the life insurance companies cannot locate beneficiaries.
However, reading a recently unsealed lawsuit from a company specializing in recovering benefits states the state’s system is deeply flawed. Lawyers for Utter Asset Data recovery Professional services deemed the arrangement a windfall for the insurance providers and a “disservice” to retiree-rich Florida. The couple is asking a Tallahassee judge for the opportunity to prove it.
The suit asserts which Total Asset’s auditors “uncovered a massive scam by the state” via several Florida life insurance companies. Total Asset accuses them of “knowingly failing to report” no less than 9,000 unclaimed Florida life insurance contracts, similar to Likins’ mother.
Let us Dive Into the Data.
In the state’s unclaimed property data source, Total Asset found those 9,000 accounts reflected only a small portion of the profit-sharing bonuses. In addition, those accounts the insurance companies gave to Florida over a decade ago. Furthermore, they should have paid the policyholders’ actual beneficiaries. In addition, those accounts symbolize a snapshot taken by Utter Asset’s auditors. Again, that means that carriers did not pay hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of dollars in life insurance benefits to beneficiaries in Florida.
“We know this is certainly the tip of the iceberg,” stated attorney Jeffrey Sloman. Sloman is the former U.S. attorney in Miami now with The Ferraro Law Office. Ferraro is representing Michigan-based Utter Asset Recovery. Shoppers know there is always a lot more out there. It appears because there is a systemic practice by the insurance industry to stick their heads in the sand and pretend their clients continue to be alive, Sloman added.
The Court Gets Involved.
Utter Asset Data recovery requested a Circuit Courtroom judge in Leon County to hang a hearing. Their reasoning was to determine the “fairness and reasonableness” of the state’s settlements with the insurance companies. In March, Judge John Cooper put this query on hold when he viewed Prudential’s actions and MetLife to dismiss the suit this spring. A third insurer, John Hancock, was dropped as a defendant because it settled so early with Florida regulators.
Industry representatives sharply disputed Total Asset’s accusations, suggesting they strive to pay out Florida life insurance claims owed to every policy beneficiary. “We have been cooperating with the state from the start,” stated Newark, N.J.-based Prudential’s chief communications officer, Bob DeFillippo, who declined to comment on the litigation. “Our company has aimed to pay out people everything we owe them.”
It is More Complicated Than it Seems.
Business representatives assume that carriers pay benefits when they confirm a policyholder has died and discovered beneficiaries. Nevertheless, that two-pronged process is certainly not as simple as it sounds. If or when insurance companies are unable to check a death, they may be able to refrain from paying existing insurance benefits. The conflict over the alleged troubles of major insurance companies to pay out off the beneficiaries of departed policyholders happens to be escalating.
Regulators in Florida and other states discovered which life insurance providers happened to be using data known as the Personal Safety Death Excel at Register. Carriers used this data to determine whenever annuity owners had died so that they could halt payments to them. Nevertheless, the insurance companies were not regularly analyzing that list to check whenever Florida life insurance policyholders had died. As a result, carriers could not compensate their beneficiaries.
Under Florida’s settlements with the insurance providers, Florida requires carriers to check for policyholders’ deaths. They check by regularly inspecting the Personal Security list. The company must take as many as five years to confirm deaths and look for beneficiaries through their last-known address. If the insurers cannot locate any heirs, the company transfers the assets to the state.
Google Can Assist Too.
Prospective beneficiaries can Google search the state’s public data source www.fltreasurehunt.org to see whether they are entitled to benefits and then claim the proceeds. The government even actively searches for heirs and has found that many insurance providers failed to locate them. As soon as the cooking pot of unclaimed money hits fifteen billion, the government exchanges several million into a fund for general public education. However, there is no time restriction on which to make a claim. All proceeds from Florida life insurance policies dating back to the ’40s are still accessible for claiming.
Since part of the state’s settlements, the three insurers have turned around the names of about ten thousand deceased policyholders with unclaimed life insurance benefits:
- John Hancock (3,083)
- Prudential (1,590)
- MetLife (5,227)
Of those, beneficiaries have paid out:
- 378 John Hancock claims totaling $1.9 billion
- 37 Prudential claims for $134,852
- 3 MetLife claims for $994.
Furthermore, based on state officials, the three insurance providers have contributed $7 million in payments for Florida’s regulatory investigation and monitoring of the industry’s conformity. A spokesperson for the state Department of Economic Services mentioned that the newest figures portray the very tip of precisely what could be exposed. In addition, the three companies had accounts ranging back potentially decades.
Some Examples of Results.
She stated that the government performs unique record queries and ships notices with claim forms to prospective beneficiaries. Among them: A Miami woman whose partner died in 2005. Sixty-six said her partner had an existing insurance policy with John Hancock. However, she had forgotten about it after the turmoil of that death. Hancock failed to mention that they have this policy for her partner. She learned about the policy’s $13,240 in unclaimed money from a government letter last year. They would never have known if it was not for the state.
A Hollywood woman stated the government had even notified her 12 months after death for an unclaimed $7,640 John Hancock benefit owed to her. One might think Hancock could have found them with the technology available today. However, nobody is going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Each person said their families had moved since the purchaser signed the original contract.
Soon after regulators had reached the state settlements with John Hancock, Prudential, and MetLife, Florida regulators proclaimed that the terms and conditions might correct the business wrongs of the past. In addition, they would benefit policyholders’ heirs moving forward. This ruling sends a powerful message that Florida will not give up fighting for its people. This ruling represents an additional need to improve industry methods.