Beneficiaries of a life insurance policy (i.e. those who benefit from the policy) typically assume that they can start collecting on the policy at any time once the insured dies. While this is often the case, there are certain circumstances that may exclude them from collecting anything under the policy. One such exclusion is the suicide clause.
Suicide is defined as the intentional killing of oneself. Life insurance policies variously refer to suicide simply as "suicide," or as "intentional self-destruction," or "death by one's own hand." Although these phrases all describe the same incident, questions of interpretation can arise. A number of states have focused on the question of what intent is required in order for a death to be considered a suicide.
Suicide clauses appear almost universal in life insurance policies. They are difficult to recognize, however, as suicide clauses can appear anywhere in a life insurance policy and are often no more than one or two sentences long. These exclusions may easily be overlooked, and even if they are read, they may not be easily understood.
If a court finds that a decedent (i.e. person that has died) with an insurance policy has committed suicide, a suicide clause embedded in the life insurance policy will eliminate any recovery under the policy (aside from a refund of premiums paid). Thus, knowing which situations are considered suicides will aid beneficiaries in determining whether they are barred from recovering under a life insurance policy. Such situations include those where:
In any situation where it may be questionable whether an insured's death was the result of suicide, an insurance company is likely to claim that a suicide clause will bar your recovery as a beneficiary. Since determinations as to whether or not a decedent has committed suicide vary on case-by-case basis, having an attorney experienced with life insurance is essential. An attorney will be able to analyze the language of the policy to make sure that a suicide clause exists and will also strengthen the probability that you may recover under the life insurance policy in question.
Last Modified: 10-08-2014 03:23 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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