Very Old Whole Life Policy

A family member’s estate was exempted from probate as there was essentially only a single small bank account without a beneficiary named. Now, nearly two years later, we discover there is a whole life policy that was taken out at the time of birth so is roughly 73 years old. The face value was likely $1400 and was paid in full at 20 years. After that time annual dividends were used to buy additional insurance. For you mathematicians on the Board, is there a way to estimate what the death benefit is? The beneficiary on the account was an ex spouse who has declined (or to whom they won’t pay) the benefit. The company won’t currently speak with anyone else and we are trying to decide whether the policy is worth reopening the estate and putting it through probate. Thanks!

I would guesstimate around $10,000. I’m basing that on a policy my parents took out on me for $1,000 when I was born in 56 years ago. Death benefit is now $6,200.

Depending on the state the ex spouse may not be the beneficiary anyway. Some states terminate life insurance beneficiaries on divorce.

It’s worth it to reopen estate.

I would double-check if reopening estate is required for this… I’m no lawyer.

My experience… my maternal grandfather took out whole life unknown $ on my mother in 1936 at her birth.

Weirdly to me, when he died in 2007 she became the beneficiary of insurance on her own life!

She died in 2009 and I got 12k.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Its been interesting. The major unknown in the equation is if, at some point, the policy was borrowed against and not paid back. If it was, the remaining amount could be not much. Unfortunately there appears to be only one way to find out short of just waiting years till any money is turned over to the state as unclaimed. :grinning:

The ex was the beneficiary but has been ruled out by the insurance company by being the ex. With no beneficiary, the insurance will talk to no one other than the executor. Since the estate was initially released from administration the only was to get an executor is to reopen. Also, the guesstimated amount of the insurance plus the bank account is now expected to be over the state maximum for release from administration. So, executor it is.

One more idea… not a lawyer here!
Your situation is sad… I can’t imagine you are talking about more than 10k.
Why not try suing the insurance co in small claims court? If you think your claim is less than the costs to reopen probate.

Best wishes to you heirs

Why? Is there language in the policy that precludes this? The fact that the beneficiary is now the ex-spouse should be irrelevant unless there is language about that in the policy. I would contact your state insurance administrator and file a complaint. I suspect that the insurer simply doesn’t want to pay out. If the policy was redeemed or the cash value taken, the insurer should be able to demonstrate that. That is their responsibility, not yours.

Also, if the beneficiary is identified and the form validly completed, the policy is not even part of estate. The insurer should not even deal with the estate, only the beneficiary with only a valid death cert should be needed.

Good thought but, upon divorce, state law automatically revokes the designation of the ex considering that person as having predeceased the spouse owning the policy. Learning as I go…

Playing executor is no big deal, just thought we had had everything wrapped up.

Good thought but, upon divorce, state law automatically revokes the designation of the ex considering that person as having predeceased the spouse owning the policy.

You should probably say which state you’re referring to, because state laws are not uniform. Or just say “my state’s law” if you don’t want everyone to know what state you’re in.

Good catch. They probably are all different. I just assumed it would be understood as the state with which I’m dealing.

I’ll play devils advocate here, but say a couple has minor children and divorce. I would suspect that the parent with the policy would want to continue with his ex as the policy beneficiary so that his/her children will be supported.

Reading state code isn’t my favorite pastime so I didn’t dig into it. I did wonder if there might be additional shred outs for more complicated situations. Like maybe the ex spouse can be renamed at a date after the divorce is final?