Every adult in America has dealt with insurance in some manner, whether it be life, car, house, rental, or health. Therefore, it is important to understand that the insurance policy you agree to constitutes the law between the you and the insurance company; it governs the whole relationship. As a result of the policy between the insured and insurer being drafted by the insurer, the insurer has the right to limit provisions, and impose restrictions or conditions, so long as these do not conflict with legal statutory provisions or public policy. Thus, strict compliance with the insurance policy terms and conditions is required for a change of beneficiary. Standard Ins. Co. v. Spottsville, 204 So.3d 253, 258 (La. Ct. App. 2016).
In this case, Tanya Offord (“Tanya”) had changed her primary beneficiary from her previous husband to her mother, Alfreda Smith. However, in February 2009, Tanya married Thurman Offord, Sr. Following her marriage to Mr. Offord, Tanya submitted a change of beneficiary to Allstate. She listed Mr. Offord and her three children as the primary beneficiaries, and she listed her mother as the sole contingent beneficiary. She also listed both Mr. Offord and Ms. Smith as the adult custodians for her children, so that they may receive and control any monies owed to any children who are minors at the time of her death.
Allstate responded to Tanya’s beneficiary change request, acknowledging receipt of Tanya’s beneficiary change request. They then informed her that they could not process the request because, per her policy, only one custodian could be named per child. They included a new beneficiary change request form for Tanya to complete and return. Tanya failed to resubmit the change of beneficiary request form and subsequently died without submitting the form.
Unfortunately, the insurance policy was never entered into evidence, and as discussed above, strict compliance with the insurance policy is required. Therefore, the insurance policy must be reviewed to determine whether or not there was compliance. See Sun Life Assurance of Canada (U.S.) v. Barnard, 652 So.2d 681 (La. Ct. App. 1995). (holding that the actual language of the insurance policy must be considered in determining whether an attempt to change a beneficiary has properly been invoked). Because the insurance policy was never entered as evidence at trial, the Appellate Court cannot review it to determine whether the trial court erred when finding that Tanya did not comply with the terms when changing her primary beneficiary to Mr. Offord. As a result, the court was forced to vacate the trial court’s finding and remand the matter for another trial.
In order to avoid a lengthy trial regarding who the proper beneficiary is for an insurance policy, it is essential to (1) make sure you follow the terms and conditions of your insurance policy; or (2) if you run into an issue regarding a change of beneficiary make sure you hire an excellent attorney. You do not want to experience further legal proceedings because your attorney made a mistake by not entering the insurance policy as evidence.
Additional Sources: Allstate Life Ins. Co. v. Smith, et al.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Lyndsey Fuller
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