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Partners: Nominated beneficiaries too much of a grey area

Partners Life’s confirmation that it will not accept nominated beneficiary requests is about ensuring advisers don't put themselves in a position where their guidance could prove incorrect, its managing director says.

Wednesday, August 28th 2019, 6:49AM 5 Comments

The insurer has said it received a slight increase in requests to include details of nominated beneficiaries on policies in recent weeks. 

That had prompted it to clarify its position.

Nominated beneficiaries are people identified as being intended to receive the proceeds of a policy.

This method is most commonly used to avoid having to set up multiple policies, to make a trust the recipient of an eventual pay-out, or to avoid insurance claim money being caught up in the administration of an estate.

A small number of insurers allow beneficiaries to be nominated on policies.

But Partners Life said a nominated beneficiary request could contradict insurance law and was vulnerable to being challenged in court.

"Not being able to provide clients with certainty about the legality of such a fundamental part of their contract is not appropriate in our opinion, so as a result our policy has been not to accept such requests," Partners Life said in an update to advisers.

“Unfortunately, commonly due to competitive pressuring by advisers, from time to time some of our staff have agreed to accept nominated beneficiary requests, despite our long-standing position.”

Managing director Naomi Ballantyne said because a number of companies did offer it as an option, some insurance advisers wanted Partners Life to, as well.

But she said advisers should not put themselves in a position where they were giving advice on something that did not have an absolutely certain outcome and could be legally challenged.

“The issue is when you die you are no longer the owner of your contract. Your wishes mean nothing. It’s for the new owner – the joint owner who is now the single owner or someone appointed by your estate to decide.”

She said only a will or a buy-sell agreement from a business could legally dictate where the money would go.

“Partners Life will not accept nominated beneficiary forms for individual policies, unless or until the policy ownership structure under the Life Insurance Act or other legislation is amended in a way that makes such a process legally valid,” the insurer said.

Adviser Jon-Paul Hale said he had been aware that was Partners’ position for some time.

He said he had only used a nominated beneficiary on three clients’ policies in the past eight years, to funnel the benefits of a policy to the trustees of a trust.

Tags: Jon-Paul Hale Life insurance Naomi Ballantyne Partners Life

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Comments from our readers

On 29 August 2019 at 9:41 pm JPHale said:
From my recall, this was originally notified as a withdrawal from the market in 2016/2017.

My understanding of the legal bit is in line with Naomi, as there is the added potential that the resulting owner of the policy could pursue the insurer for the lack of payment to them, and potentially successfully so.

The insurer could be put in a position of having to pay the claim twice with little recourse on the first claim paid, as the recipient (trust) has received and done what it needs to with the money and there's nothing left to chase... The first payment made, wasn't fraud, and ultimately comes back to the conduct of the insurer with payment in error on their side, and a legally received payment as expected on the trust side. Messy at best.

The Nom Ben form is more a memorandum of wishes, than a binding contract piece. Which is also open to challenge.

And for the three client's I have used it for, it was to strengthen the intent that the funds diverted were for the benefit of their trust, with the owners also being trustees.

As we all know getting clients to finalise the required documentation is a bit of a nightmare.
On 6 September 2019 at 12:37 pm RS said:
It's a tad ironic that the one comapnye that has climbed in to Nom Ben status, is one of the few that doesn't have policy fees, so multiple policies are no cost disadvantage I would have thought.
On 9 September 2019 at 10:45 am Ron Flood said:
RS. It may be due to the fact a 2yr old can be a nominated beneficiary but is too young to be a policy owner.
On 2 December 2022 at 11:16 am JPHale said:
Interestingly, my 2019 comments are about to become true with a policy paid with an appalling lack of due process to a nominated beneficiary that perpetrated fraud.

This has denied both the estate and the remaining nominated beneficiaries the due payment of claim, the contract supposably promised.

Which is going to mean a rather interesting outcome for the insurer concerned; as review of the documentation suggests, stunning incompetence in the administration of the claim payment.
On 17 March 2023 at 11:23 am JPHale said:
As an updated to this, as I suggested in 2019, the insurer involved in the 2022 claim I commented about is paying the claim for a second time...

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