Do I have a case?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Do I have a case?

Hello – I’m a Canadian living in Japan and began a life insurance policy with
Nationwide in 2009. Up until January 2018, premium installments were made via
international transfer from my account in Japan. My January transfer, however,
was rejected by their bank. Apparently, they no longer accept international
transfers and are demanding that payments be made from a US bank
account/US credit card/etc., which I do not have nor have I ever. I was given no
warning or explanation and am now wondering what it was, exactly, that I paid
for over the past 9 years or so. I feel like there has been some form of
misrepresentation and that Nationwide is responsible to provide coverage as
agreed to at the inception of the policy or, failing that, refund my past premium
installments. Please advise. Thank you.

Asked on May 1, 2018 under Insurance Law, Alaska


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

I find it rather unusual that a United States based life insurance company would have sold a life insurance policy to a non-resident who was also was not a US citizen, or that a Canadian would not have applied for a policy in Canada, where many U.S. life companies operate thru subsidiaries or branches, not to mention that some major Canadian life insurers operate branches or subsidiaries in the U.S. I’d be curious as to the reasons — perhaps the beneficiary is based in the U.S. or there was a special reason for it, but still, it’s rather unusual. However, having written the policy I would find it equally unusual that the life insurer would no longer willing to accept premium payments from the policy owner in the manner that it had been accepting payments for years. I assume that a US policy would require premium payments be made in US dollars, and that is what he has been doing.  There have been a series of laws passed that are designed to thwart foreign terrorism and drug trafficking that may have raised eyebrows at the insurer if the checks he had been using were written on a foreign bank (even in US dollars) and there may be some recent requirements that I am unaware of as I have been retired from the insurance company for a good number of years, I normally would be surprised.  However given the bureaucracy at some life insurers, and the inability of too many low level staffers to deviate from their day to day processes, nothing they do or fail to do really surprises me. In any event, what the policyholder’s rights are may depend on whether it is still in force or if the lack of payments has caused it to lapse. That in turn could depend on the specific type of life insurance involved (term or cash value, and if cash value, whether there was sufficient remaining cash to pay the premiums as they came due).  Assuming the policy is inforce (if it’s not that could be a big problem) he should be careful to keep it in force — especially if there has been any adverse change in his health.The first thing that I would suggest is the policy owner write to a senior officer of the life insurance company and explain the situation, state that he or she wants to continue the policy, does not have a bank account in the U.S. and why it would be inconvenient or impossible to establish one, and ask the senior executive to suggest an alternative that does not involve his opening up a US account, or intervene on his behalf so he could continue to pay the premium as he had done for many years. If that does not work, I suggest he see if he can pay via credit card or bank wire — and if the latter, change the frequency of payments from monthly to annual r semi-annual to reduce bank charges. If that fails, he could arrange with a friend or colleague or lawyer in the US to pay the premium on his behalf and simply transmit the funds to the intermediary in advance of the due date as one’s friend, colleagues or lawyer is less likely to be insensitive or bureaucratic.
As for getting 9 years of premium back, it is not going to happen.  Had he died during those 9 years, the life insurance company would have paid.
One more possibility, if all else fails, he could write a letter to the Insurance Department of the state in which the insurer is based and seek its help. However, most insurance departments are far from competent or are quasi-captives of the industry.  In any event, they are even less likely to help a non-citizen/non-resident than they would be to help a local. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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