Designation of beneficiary. 632.48(1)(1)
Powers of policyholders.
Subject to s. 632.47 (2)
, no life insurance policy or annuity contract may restrict the right of a policyholder or certificate holder:
Irrevocable designation of beneficiary.
To make at any time an irrevocable designation of beneficiary effective at once or at some subsequent time; or
Change of beneficiary.
If the designation of beneficiary is not explicitly irrevocable, to change the beneficiary without the consent of the previously designated beneficiary. Subject to s. 853.17
, as between the beneficiaries, any act that unequivocally indicates an intention to make the change is sufficient to effect it.
Protection of insurer.
An insurer may prescribe formalities to be complied with for the change of beneficiaries, but formalities prescribed under this subsection shall be designed only for the protection of the insurer. The insurer discharges its obligation under the insurance policy or certificate of insurance if it pays a properly designated beneficiary unless it has actual notice of either an assignment or a change in beneficiary designation made under sub. (1) (b)
. It has actual notice if the prescribed formalities are complied with or if the change in beneficiary has been requested in the form prescribed by the insurer and delivered to an intermediary representing the insurer.
Notice of changes.
An insurer that receives a request from the department of health services under s. 49.47 (4) (cr) 2.
for notification shall comply with the request and notify the department of any changes to or payments made under the annuity contract to which the request for notification relates.
Legislative Council Note, 1979: The amendment to sub. (2) adds a situation in which the insured has acted reasonably in dealing with a representative of the insurer. As between the insurer and the insured, the burden should fall upon the insurer if the agent makes an error of this kind. The insurer, of course, may have a cause of action against its agent. [Bill 20-S]
Under the facts of the case, the decedent's oral instruction to his attorney to change a beneficiary was a sufficient “act" under sub. (1) (b) even though the new beneficiary was not designated with sufficient specificity. Empire General Life Insurance v. Silverman, 135 Wis. 2d 143
, 399 N.W.2d 910
Estoppel from medical examination.
If under the rules of any insurer issuing life insurance, its medical examiner has authority to issue a certificate of health, or to declare the proposed insured acceptable for insurance, and so reports to the insurer or its agent, the insurer is estopped to set up in defense of an action on the policy issued thereon that the proposed insured was not in the condition of health required by the policy at the time of issue or delivery, or that there was a preexisting condition not noted in the certificate or report, unless the certificate or report was procured through the fraudulent misrepresentation or nondisclosure by the applicant or proposed insured.
History: 1975 c. 375
Estoppel under this section may apply against insurers who seek a medical examiner's opinion regarding fitness for insurance without establishing any formal rules regarding the examiner's authority. Grosse v. Protective Life Insurance Co. 182 Wis. 2d 97
, 513 N.W.2d 592
Required group life insurance provisions.
Every group life insurance policy shall contain the following:
Evidence of insurability.
A provision setting forth any conditions under which the insurer reserves the right to require a person eligible for insurance to furnish evidence of individual insurability satisfactory to the insurer as a condition to part or all of that coverage.
Misstatement of age.
A provision specifying that an equitable adjustment of premiums or of benefits or of both will be made if the age of an insured person has been misstated and clearly stating the method of adjustment.
Facility of payment.
A provision that any sum becoming due by reason of the death of an insured person is payable to the beneficiary designated by the insured person, subject to policy provisions if there is no designated beneficiary, and to any right reserved by the insurer in the policy and set forth in the certificate to pay at its option a part of the sum not exceeding $1,000 to any person appearing to the insurer to be equitably entitled thereto by reason of having incurred funeral or other expenses incident to the last illness or death of the insured person. This subsection does not apply to a policy issued to a creditor to insure his or her debtors.
If it is not term insurance, equitable nonforfeiture provisions, but they need not be the same provisions as are in individual policies.
A provision that the policyholder is entitled to a grace period of not less than 31 days for the payment of any premium due except the first. During the grace period the death benefit coverage shall continue in force, unless the policyholder gives the insurer advance written notice of discontinuance in accordance with the terms of the policy. The policy may provide that the policyholder shall be liable to the insurer for the payment of a proportional premium for the time the policy was in force during the grace period.
History: 1975 c. 375
; 1979 c. 110
s. 60 (11)
Conversion option in group and franchise life insurance. 632.57(1)(1)
Scope of application.
This section applies to all group life insurance policies other than credit life insurance policies and applies to franchise life insurance policies providing term insurance renewable only while the insured is a member of the franchise unit.
Conversion right upon loss of eligibility.
If the insurance, or any portion of it, on a person insured under a policy covered by this section ceases because of termination of employment or of membership in the class or franchise unit eligible for coverage, the insurer shall, upon written application and payment of the first premium within 31 days after the termination, issue to the person, without evidence of insurability, an individual policy providing benefits reasonably similar in type and amount to those of the group or franchise insurance, but which need not include disability or other supplementary benefits.
Form of policy.
The individual policy shall, at the option of the applicant, be on any form then customarily issued by the insurer, except term insurance, at the age and for the amount applied for.
Amount of coverage.
The individual policy shall, at the option of the applicant, be in an amount as large as in the group or franchise life insurance which ceases, less any amount of insurance which has then matured as an endowment payable to the insured person, whether in one sum or in installments or in the form of an annuity.
The premium on the individual policy shall be at the customary rate then applied generally by the insurer to policies in the form and amount of the individual policy, to the class of risk to which the person then belongs without applying individual underwriting considerations, except as to occupation or avocation, and to the person's age on the effective date of the individual policy.
Conversion upon termination of group or franchise insurance.
If the group or franchise policy terminates or is amended so as to terminate the insurance of any class of insured persons, the insurer shall, on written application and payment of the first premium within 31 days after the termination, issue to any person whose insurance is thus terminated or amended, after having been in effect for at least 5 years, an individual policy on the same conditions as in subs. (2)
, less the amount of any other group or franchise insurance made available to the person within 31 days thereafter as a consequence of the termination or amendment. The group policy may provide that the maximum amount of insurance available under this subsection is an amount not less than $2,000 without a conversion charge and an additional amount not less than $3,000 by paying the insurer's usual conversion charge on the additional amount.
Extension of claims under group or franchise policy.
If a person insured under the group or franchise policy dies during the conversion period under sub. (2)
and before an individual policy is effective, the amount of life insurance which the person would have been entitled to have issued as an individual policy shall be payable as a claim under the group or franchise policy, whether or not the person has applied for the individual policy or paid the first premium.
History: 1975 c. 375
; 2001 a. 103
Limitation on credit life insurance.
Nothing in chs. 600
authorizes licensees under s. 138.09
to require or accept insurance not permitted under s. 138.09 (7) (h)
History: 1975 c. 375
; 1979 c. 89
Participating and nonparticipating policies. 632.62(1)(a)(a)
A stock insurer may issue both participating and nonparticipating life insurance policies and annuity contracts, subject to this section.
Fraternals and mutual insurers.
A fraternal or mutual insurer issuing life insurance policies may issue only participating policies, except for the following situations in which it may issue nonparticipating policies:
Paid-up, temporary, pure endowment insurance and annuity settlements provided in exchange for lapsed, surrendered or matured policies.
Annuities beginning within one year of the making of the contract.
Such term insurance policies as the commissioner may exempt by rule.
Every participating policy shall by its terms make its holder eligible to share annually in the part of the surplus to be distributed as provided in sub. (4) (b)
Every insurer issuing both participating and nonparticipating policies shall separately account for the 2 classes of business and no part of the surplus allocated to the participating class may be voluntarily transferred to the nonparticipating class.
No life insurance policy or certificate may be issued in which the distribution of dividends, if any, is deferred for a period longer than one year.
Every insurer doing a participating business shall annually ascertain the surplus over required reserves and other liabilities. After setting aside such amounts as may be lawful and considered necessary by the insurer's board of directors for providing for the growth of the company and for protecting the ability to meet ongoing and future claims and other obligations and needs under both normal and stressed environments, and after making provision for the payment of reasonable dividends upon capital stock as determined by the insurer's board of directors and such sums as are required by prior contracts to be held on account of deferred dividend policies, an insurer shall distribute as dividends the remaining surplus, if any, attributable to participating life insurance and annuity policies in such amounts, including zero, and in such allocations among the participating life insurance and annuity policies as its board of directors determines to be reasonably proportioned to its calculation of the life insurance and annuity policies' contribution to the distributable surplus. A dividend may be conditioned on the payment of the succeeding year's premium only on the first and second anniversaries of the policy.
Sub. (4) (b) mandates how a divisible surplus is to be determined. After the surplus is determined, then and only then must the insurer decide how to equitably apportion the surplus. An allocation to annuity policyholders before determining the surplus is contrary to the terms of the statute. Noonan v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. 2004 WI App 154
, 276 Wis. 2d 33
, 687 N.W.2d 254
Unclaimed life insurance and annuities. 632.63(1)(a)
“Contract” means an annuity contract. “Contract” shall not include an annuity used to fund an employment-based retirement plan or program where the insurer does not perform the record-keeping services or the insurer is not committed by terms of the annuity contract to pay death benefits to the beneficiaries of specific plan participants.
“Death master file” means the federal social security administration's death master file or any other database or service that is at least as comprehensive as the federal social security administration's death master file for determining that a person has reportedly died.
“Death master file match” means a search of the death master file that results in a match of a person's name and social security number or the name and date of birth.
“Knowledge of death” means one of the following:
Receipt of an original or valid copy of a certified death certificate.
“Person” means an insured, contract owner, or retained asset account holder.
“Policy” means any policy or certificate of life insurance that provides a death benefit. “Policy” does not include any of the following:
A policy or certificate of life insurance that provides a death benefit under an employee benefit plan subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 or under any federal employee benefit program.
A policy or certificate of life insurance that is used to fund a preneed funeral contract or prearrangement.
A policy or certificate of credit life or accidental death insurance.
A policy issued to a group master policyholder for which the insurer does not provide record-keeping services.
“Record-keeping services” means those circumstances under which the insurer has agreed with a group policy or contract customer to be responsible for obtaining, maintaining, and administering in its own or its agents' systems information about each individual insured under an insured's group insurance contract, or a line of coverage thereunder, at least the following information:
“Retained asset account” means any mechanism whereby the settlement of proceeds payable under a policy or contract is accomplished by the insurer or an entity acting on behalf of the insurer depositing the proceeds into an account with check or draft writing privileges, where those proceeds are retained by the insurer or its agent, pursuant to a supplementary contract not involving annuity benefits other than death benefits.
An insurer shall perform a comparison of its insureds' in-force policies, contracts, and retained asset accounts against a death master file, on at least a semi-annual basis, by using the full death master file once, and thereafter using the death master file update files for future comparisons, to identify potential matches of its insureds. For those potential matches identified as a result of a death master file match, the insurer shall do all of the following:
Complete a good faith effort, which shall be documented by the insurer, to confirm the death of the insured or retained asset account holder against other available records and information.
Determine whether benefits are due in accordance with the applicable policy or contract.
If benefits are due in accordance with the applicable policy or contract:
Use good faith efforts, which shall be documented by the insurer, to locate the beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Provide the appropriate claims forms or instructions to the beneficiary or beneficiaries to make a claim, including the need to provide an official death certificate, if applicable under the policy or contract.
With respect to group life insurance, insurers are required to confirm the possible death of an insured when the insurers maintain at least the following information of those covered under a policy or certificate:
Every insurer shall implement procedures to account for all of the following:
Initials used in lieu of a first or middle name, use of a middle name, compound first and middle names, and interchanged first and middle names.
Compound last names; maiden or married names; and hyphens, blank spaces, or apostrophes in last names.
Transposition of the month and date portions of the date of birth.
To the extent permitted by law, the insurer may disclose minimum necessary personal information about the insured or beneficiary to a person who the insurer reasonably believes may be able to assist the insurer to locate the beneficiary or a person otherwise entitled to payment of the claims proceeds.
The insurer comparison of in-force policies, contracts, and retained asset accounts shall be conducted first to the extent that such records are available electronically and then using the most easily accessible insurer records for records that are not available electronically.
Nothing in this section shall limit the insurer from requesting a valid death certificate as part of any claims validation process.
Fees and costs.
An insurer or its service provider shall not charge any beneficiary or other authorized representative for any fees or costs associated with a death master file search or verification of a death master file match conducted pursuant to this section.