According to a release from West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue, the Unclaimed Property Division has returned $1.2 million to life insurance claimants in fiscal 2019.
In fiscal 2019, which ends June 30, insurance companies have reported $2.7 million in unclaimed life insurance benefits.
The benefits are unclaimed because in many cases, the deceased did not tell anyone a policy existed, meaning the beneficiary did not file a claim, the release said.
“That’s always been the crux of our case,” Perdue said. “How can someone file a claim for policy benefits when he doesn’t know of a policy? It’s a classic definition of unclaimed property.”
Before legal action, the Treasurer’s Office received little in the way of unclaimed reported life insurance assets.
Life insurance companies originally argued that a beneficiary must file a claim with the company for life insurance proceeds — a qualification made impossible to meet, the Treasurer argued, if he or she doesn’t know the policy exists.
The Treasurer eventually appealed its case to the state Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to circuit court, ruling life insurance companies have an obligation to determine whether insureds have died and thus whether beneficiaries are due proceeds.
In April 2016, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law House Bill 4739, a bipartisan effort to clarify the obligations companies possess.
“We’re proud that our fight to reunite people with their life insurance benefits has been fruitful,” Perdue said. “As with all forms of unclaimed property, I repeat the same mantra – it’s your money and we want you to have it.”
To conduct a free search for unclaimed property in West Virginia, visit wvtreasury.com.
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