32,000 Deaths Dating To 1969 Not Checked, Resulting In Around $262M Not Paid

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You may have a loved one who died and left you money. The Cuomo administration has discovered that tens of thousands of life insurance policies went unpaid because companies never checked to see if the policy holder passed away.

Karen Masucci’s New York City firefighter dad died seven years ago, but it was only recently that she discovered he left a modest life insurance policy. As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, it touched her heart from the grave.

“He was not an affectionate man in showing things, but this was affection from him so it was nice,” Masucci said.

Masucci and her family never would have known about the insurance policy if not for the Cuomo administration, which discovered that insurance companies weren’t checking Social Security Administration death files to pay benefits. In fact, Kramer reported, they kept the money from deaths dating back to 1969 for more than 32,000 people — an estimated $262 million.

“Papers were everywhere. I. you know, I did the best I could he came to live with us. I just missed it or it didn’t exist. I don’t know what happened,” Masucci said.

“It turns out that sometimes people don’t know of … have forgotten that a loved one had a policy in such cases. Unfortunately, life insurance companies were not taking any proactive steps to find out if the policy holder had died,” said Benjamin Lawsky of the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Among those due money included a Northport beneficiary owed $345,000 for five years, a Rockville Centre beneficiary owed $217,000 for six years and a Queens family owed $138,000 owed for 14 years.

(To learn more about the Cuomo administration’s “Policy Finder” website, which will help you locate both life insurance policies and annuity contracts for some 172 companies doing business in New York, please click here.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it’s more than simple justice to make the insurance companies do the right thing. There’s an emotional payout, too.

“It’s not just about the money. It’s that they thought about you, they cared about you. They cared enough about you to take their hard-earned dollars and pay a policy so you would have something once they’ve gone,” Cuomo said.

Officials said still investigating nearly half a million cases for unpaid claims.

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