This past week alone, Texas and two other states proposed unclaimed life insurance changes to existing unclaimed property statutes or state insurance codes. Three State legislatures introduced new bills that will effectively change aspects of their respective unclaimed life insurance benefits acts.
Life insurance carriers that operate in Texas, one of the nation’s most populous states, should be advised of the potential operational impact of this newly proposed legislation. Texas life insurance carriers will be expected to perform beneficiary location and outreach programs when benefits are due after confirming matches of the Death Master File Due.
The new pending legislative actions are as follows:
Texas Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act & Death Master File Comparisons
Identical bills TX SB 561 and TX HB 1243 would update the Texas Insurance Code to require insurers to perform comparisons of their in-force life insurance policies against a Death Master File on at least a semi-annual basis. Additionally, insurers would be required to complete and document a good-faith effort to confirm death and determine whether proceeds may be due within 90 days of a potential match. In the event that benefits are due, insurers must identify and seek out the beneficiary.
Once a match is confirmed, proceeds are to be considered unclaimed three years after the date on which the good faith effort failed to locate a beneficiary or authorized representative.
If passed the effective date will be September 1, 2017.
Keane Compliance Update, May 22, 2017: Texas SB 561 was enacted on May 19, 2017 and will become effective September 1, 2017.
Oklahoma Dormancy Period Change and DMF Comparisons
Oklahoma Senate Bill 270 and House Bill 1857 are identical and seek to amend provisions of its existing unclaimed property statute related to funds held under life insurance policies, annuities or retained asset accounts.
Amendments include a change in the dormancy period for accounts to five years after the date of death of the insured as opposed to five years after the funds become due and payable. Additionally, accounts are to be considered matured at the presumption of death of the account holder, or if the policy or contract has reached its maturity date.
Similar to the NCOIL Model Act utilized by other states, OK SB 270 would require insurers to compare accounts to a Death Master File (DMF) on an annual basis, as well as complete a documented good-faith effort to confirm death and determine if benefits are due no later than 120 days after a potential match is identified.
If passed, the effective date for both OK SB 270 and OK HB 1857 will be November 1, 2017.
Hawaii Insurance Code Amendments
Hawaii’s Insurance Code could change slightly with the introduction of HI Senate Bill 208. Under the act, insurers will be required to perform comparisons of their insureds’ in-force policies, contracts, and retained asset accounts against a DMF on a semi-annual basis.
Insurers must make a good-faith effort to confirm death and determine whether benefits are due within 90 days of potential match identification.
Hawaii SB 208 also defines knowledge of death as the receipt of a death certificate or as a DMF match validated by the insurer.
If passed, the act will take effect on January 1, 2018.
Beneficiary location laws and unclaimed life insurance benefits acts first came into effect in the latter portion of 2011 following the guidance of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. Since the introduction of that first piece of legislation by Kentucky, 30 other states have either passed or proposed some form of legislation that requires insurers to conduct regular comparisons of the DMF, confirm potential matches, and actively seek out beneficiaries when proceeds are due.
Keane will continue to track and monitor all legislative activity and provide updates here on our blog and within our Compliance Portal. To stay informed, we encourage you to sign up for our legislative alerts to receive real-time updates on the latest happenings within the unclaimed property industry.