This story in the news today (USA Today: Funeral expenses leave mother’s body in limbo) highlights some potential risks with using life insurance to pay out for funeral expenses.
Dorothy Johnson believed she had been prudent and wise in taking out a life insurance policy for $50,000 which would cover her funeral expenses and hopefully leave a financial legacy for her children.
She did not foresee that she would die young (53 years) of a heart condition and having made her youngest son the beneficiary, that he would not legally at 16 years old, be able to access the funds.
We all know that insurance companies hate to pay out and will find any loop-hole, small print opportunity to void a policy or clause that you have transgressed to escape making full payment.
In the Johnson’s case, their mother’s body remains deteriorating at the funeral home whilst the insurance company claims that a legal guardian has to petition the court to access the funds. This could take weeks, if not months, and all the Johnson’s want is to be able to hold a dignified funeral for their mother and say their final goodbyes!
The surviving family does not have sufficient money to be able to hold a funeral service without the life insurance funds. They have approached 7 Social Service organizations for help, but as of yet no help has been offered.
This is a sad but true story of how ordinary families across America are affected by funeral costs today. Preplanning is an excellent idea and is meant to save your surviving family the anguish of this sort of situation. However, as this story exemplifies, you MUST ensure that all your ‘ducks are in row’ with any kind of insurance policy you take out to cover final expenses.
In the Johnson’s case it looks like they will not be able to have the funeral they wanted for their mother – a home-going funeral befitting for a woman who did nothing but care for others. The family will have no option but to hold a simple and low cost cremation in order to handle the disposition of their mother.
If you hold life insurance, or are considering taking out a funeral insurance policy, do ensure you carefully check ALL the terms about how the funds can be accessed by your designated beneficiary.