A MODERN FORFEITURE: TOWARDS ABOLITION OF THE LIFE INSURANCE SUICIDE EXCLUSION.

Author: 

Timothy S. Hall

This article proposes a new approach to a very old problem: Should an individual who dies by suicide thereby lose their life insurance coverage, depriving their beneficiaries of the protection offered by the policy? Modern courts and policies almost uniformly enforce such provisions; however, they are vestiges of an anachronistic view of suicide as a crime. Viewing suicide through a criminal lens has long justified a punitive approach, including the forfeiture of assets. Modern views of suicide, however, do not support its criminalization, and it is practically never treated as a criminal act in the 21st century. Nonetheless, the denial of insurance benefits under suicide exclusion clauses persists in punishing the heirs and beneficiaries of these individuals, creating a modern version of asset forfeiture. I propose that insurance laws be reformed in a way that will protect both the legitimate public policy of not allowing insurance to act as an incentive to suicide; but that will also preserve life insurance’s function of cushioning the financial blow of an untimely death. There has been little recent scholarship considering this problem – after a burst of scholarly interest in the first decades of the twentieth century, most scholars have considered this a settled question. Read More.

 

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