Can life insurance refuse to pay widow?

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Q. My friend’s husband died unexpectedly. She has been told the autopsy showing cause of death won’t be out for four or five months. As far as she’s concerned he was healthy, but if he had something like  high blood pressure can the insurance company refuse to pay out? He was with Irish Life.

Mrs F. Carlow.

A. Thank you for your letter and many condolences for you and your family during what must be a very difficult time. Without have the details of the contract or your husband’s medical history it is hard to give a definitive answer. However we have spoken to Irish Life who told us that it is only in very rare cases – less than 2% – that they would decline to pay out a death benefit.

This only happens if “an individual has mislead them when applying for life insurance” – it not reported a condition. So if your husband didn’t have hyper-tension or anything related to the cause of death when he applied for the insurance, you will be fine.

A spokesman for Irish Life said: “Only what is known at the time of the underwriting is what is taken into account. So if there was hyper-tension, or a history of it in the family, this could be a problem. But you are not obliged to keep advising the insurance company of health deterioration.”

We also spoke to another financial expert at one of the regulators who said everyone is entitled to what they described as “rolling deteriorating health” – ie you don’t have to ring your insurance company every time your cholesterol reading or blood pressure readings are high.

I hope this is of help. And please do get in touch again if there is are continuing issues.

About Michael Lisovski

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