Life Insurance, worth it or a scam?
In the spring of 2012, MetLife, amongst other insurance companies, was accused of selectively using research in the social security death benefits index to stop paying annuities, while at the same time, not using the same index to pay off old life insurance policies. An article appeared 29 March 2012 in AnnuityNewsJournal detailing the charges. The description of the social security death benefits index in the article was not precise or entirely correct, but recognizable to any genealogist who has used it. Many states’ attorney generals argued that if the life insurance companies used the social security death benefits index to stop paying annuities, they should also use the same index to start paying life insurance death benefits; kind of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Two Different Reasons Life Insurance Companies Have Been Distrusted For More Than a Century
The problem is beneficiaries of life insurance policies may not know they are beneficiaries and or which company holds a particular policy. Wouldn’t a national data base be nice? In the meantime, search for unclaimed insurance policies on a state by state basis. For instance the New York State Comptroller’s Office has a quick and easy search mechanism for unclaimed funds requiring surname only, but each insurance company must comply with the laws for reporting and many don’t do this in a timely fashion. A database that searches 41 states is Missing Money.
This distrust of the motives of life insurance companies is pretty well ingrained in the American public’s pysche. As far back as 1884, the distrust was so rampant, agents informed local newspapers of payouts and it was printed as news instead of advertisements. Here is an example in the Reading Eagle, genealogically important because Pennsylvania collected death certificates beginning in 1906.
Reading Eagle, 25 June 1884, p. 1, (Reading, Berks Co., Pa.), John T. Craig.
Imagine how amazing that distrust must have been if agents reported to the newspapers when policies were paid out and how quickly the beneficiaries had their money in hand. Other snippets even go into how much money an insured paid in to the company over time and how much their beneficiaries received.
Prior to statewide death certificates, any reason a death appeared in the newspaper was a good thing and helped narrow down the date of death. Articles might be:
- death notices
- funeral notices
- news articles
- estate notices
- cemetery yearly reports
- health department reports
- insurance payout articles
You don’t really need to wonder what kinds of business practices were in effect if it made the news when the policies paid out, instead of making the news when the policies didn’t pay out. Yikes.