An open letter to life insurance companies everywhere! Disclaimer: This is a true story. The date, names of the individuals, and the “household name” of the insurance company has been changed, but not the sequence of events.
Dear Life Insurance Company CEO/President,
Re: Betsey Smith Policy A1B2C3
The purpose of this #letter is to share the recent experience with your #customer service department. This is regarding an attempt to report a #death claim, verify that it was still enforced, and to help our #client (the beneficiary) navigate through a very challenging time, the death of her mother.
Your company records customer service calls for training purposes and quality control, therefore, please find this conversation and review it for yourself. It is my hope you will agree that the existing customer service approach may accommodate the company’s #legal requirements, however, from a receiving end it is not user friendly nor was a commonsense approach used. The date was December 20th, 2022, approximately 1:30 p.m. EST. The #policy holder’s name was Betsey Smith. Based on our funeral home’s experience, this occurrence is not an isolated incident, it has become the norm. I ask that as you read this, to please visualize your #family member in this situation.
To be completely transparent, I work at our family funeral home. It’s not uncommon for one of our directors or arrangers to have a decedent’s family member to want to pay for their loved one’s funeral via an insurance policy. Our team understands #privacy laws, how to file a claim, and beneficiary fraud.
Here is what took place, as to provide some perspective from our end.
Betsey Smith’s family literally brought a brown paper lunch bag full of what they thought were insurance policies for their mother when they arrived for the #arrangement conference. She had died the night before. Like many families, they knew their 85-year-old mother would #die at some point. They just thought she would become ill first, then die. Since this was not the case, from their point of view, Betsey’s death was unexpected. Over the years, mom told her daughter that when she died, her life insurance policy would cover the funeral cost. Betsey also made it clear that she wanted the same funeral for herself, as was selected for her husband years ago.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? While we were making the arrangements, together we looked through the brown bag of policies to see exactly what the family had to work with. The daughter/beneficiary who was the next of kin and responsible for the funeral contract, shared that insurance was her only means of payment.
Many of the policies found were eliminated as they were either accidental death policies, or term life that ended at age 80. Upon completion of the insurance audit, only two policies appeared valid. One annuity and one whole life policy valued of $20,000.
Your company’s policy had a handwritten note attached stating there was a loan taken out against the policy. At this point, we felt it was in the family’s best interest to take a minute and contact your company’s customer service department to ensure the policy was enforced and get a feeling for the type of funds available. With their permission, I dialed the customer service number and placed it on the speaker phone. A friendly voice came on the other line and asked how they could help. At that point, I shared that I was from Clock Funeral Home in Muskegon, MI and that I am sitting with the “ Betsey Smith” family who just lost their mother and would like to report a #claim. The daughter went on to say that she was the #beneficiary and voiced permission for an open #conversation. She also said that she would be happy to provide whatever is necessary so they could begin the claim process and know how much money they had to work with.
This is the series of events that happened next:
The customer service representative shared her name and that this conversation was being taped for training purposes.
- She very mechanically said we are so sorry for your loss.
- She asked if the funeral home would be filing the claim & if we have their claim form.
- She verified the deceased’s date of birth and social security number to flag it the system.
Here’s the dialog.
Beneficiary/Daughter: How much is each policy worth?
Customer Service: I can’t tell you that, as we are unsure you are who you say you are.
Beneficiary/Daughter: I don’t understand. I can have the funeral home fax over a copy of my driver’s license , the original insurance policy – whatever, but I need to know how much money we have to work with. We can also zoom or Facetime.
Customer Service: I’d like to let you know, but that’s not our policy. We would need a certified death certificate before we can discuss this.
Funeral Home: So, what you are telling us is that you will process the claim with the proper paperwork but won’t disclose the dollar or approximate dollar value of the policy.
Customer Service: Yes
Funeral Home: You are missing the point. The family sees paperwork for a policy loan, can you confirm if there is an outstanding loan?
Customer Service: No – all I can say is the policies are enforced.
Beneficiary/Daughter: I am trying to determine if there is enough money to cover the funeral cost of $10,000. Can you tell me that?
Customer Service: No – I repeat etc.…
Funeral Home: Can we speak to someone who has the authority to tell the family if this will cover their mother’s funeral?
Customer Service: I can transfer you to my department head, but they won’t disclose the amount either.
Funeral Home: Please transfer.
Department Head: Hello, how can I help you?
Funeral Home: We explain our situation. Share that we would zoom, facetime do what’s necessary, so the family can find out the dollar amount that is available to #plan and pay for her mother’s #funeral.
Department Head: I would love to let you know, but our policy not dis
cuss any dollar amounts until we have a death certificate and signed claim form from the beneficiary.
Funeral Home: Beneficiary/Daughter can sign a claim form and fax it over ASAP, however a death certificate will take between 2-5 working days at best. If you won’t tell Beneficiary/Daughter the amount, how can she be sure it’s enough to pay for the service? Can you tell her if there is more or less than $5000?
Department Head: No
Funeral Home: Okay – it appears that we are at a standstill. The family is looking for guidance. The policies were purchased for the death of the insured. We feel that loans are taken out. It appears that they were not paid back, so therefore they want to know what the death benefit is. If this was your family AND you were me how would you feel? What is the right thing to do? No one is trying to pull anything over – they just want to make funeral arrangements.
Department Head: Very empathetically said, “I have been in your situation. My son was murdered in NYC last year. I had to fly out to make funeral arrangements. The insurance company would not provide any answers without a death certificate. So therefore, I wrote a check knowing my son had ample insurance and I would be reimbursed by his estate.”
Family – We have no funds to write a check and there is no estate as she has nothing. The funeral home is willing to work with us, we just want to give our mother the funeral she paid for via her payments annually to your company.
Department Head: Then I guess you will just have to get us the paperwork as soon as you can.
It appears that the “Vice President of Common Sense” has left the building. As you can see, the only entity that benefited is your insurance company. Please tell me, is a few days of interest and following a standard operating procedure that provides more stress to your customers at a time of high stress something you would want your family to endure?
Jodi M. Clock, CAA,CPLP
Clock Funeral Home
The rest of the story.
The family really wanted a burial, however we both believed there wasn’t enough funds after a policy loan. Together we made the decision to wait a few days until death certificates were both generated and processed. The claim was then expedited. (For those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with Clock’s Funeral Home, our facility does have the proper refiguration to accommodate this.)
It was a good thing we held off. The policy did have an outstanding policy loan. Overall, the family went from thinking there was a $20,000 benefit to realizing a $6,000 benefit. This was not enough to replicate the same service as Betsey’s husband. However, we did work with the daughter to customize as much as possible within her budget. In the end, she was pleased.
My two cents for what it’s worth.
As a society, become too hung up on training? Policies? Worried about losing our job, rather than doing the right thing. Whatever happened to helping a family bury their loved one? Is our give a damn gone? To all #lifeinsurance companies out there – how do we avoid this? Frankly, I’m embarrassed that as a society we have lost sight of what’s important in life.
One last thought!
Contrary to what most people think, or the media has sensationalized, the majority of funeral homes across the country do not want a person to overspend. They want #families to live within their means. Yes, funeral homes are a #business, but the reason Clock’s (and many others) have been in business for 125 years plus, is because we believe in the “Vice President of Common Sense”!