It shouldn't astonish anyone that a recent piece of legislation betokens a division of interests between corporate America and average citizens.
Inquiries have shown that life-insurance benefits have been unpaid because the beneficiaries didn't know they were beneficiaries.
That's not so surprising. Imagine how many people are written into wills and insurance policies without knowing it.
Wills are one thing — beneficiaries find out through the legal system. But life-insurance policies? Who knows?
Now, it turns out, everyone.
Nationwide, 89,000 people are going to be enriched by an aggregate $665 million. In New York, which is top heavy in people affected, 18,000 individuals are in for $206 million of that pool.
Why so much for so many New Yorkers? That hasn't been explained, but the law certainly will be welcome by those 18,000. Many of the insurance companies are headquartered in New York City, and that could be a factor.
The law is likely not a huge hit with insurance companies. Unclaimed benefits must have been part of their budgeting process for generations.
As sympathetic as we are for the business side of our economy, we have to conclude that the prior system was not right. The insurance companies were able to keep money that had been provided for people who never knew they had a stake. It's hard to justify that.
New York State Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky was asked about the windfall and said most of the eligible are from middle-class families. So the unexpected funds are likely to have a noticeable impact.
Here's what to do if you have the slightest inkling you may be in for some money: Go to the State Financial Services Department website at www.dfs.ny.gov and find the “lost policy finder” system that has been set up there. You can watch a video news conference and get more information on how it all works.
The new development is a result of a state law that now requires the companies to actively look for beneficiaries rather than wait for claims to be filed. That's an important distinction. The companies must regularly search their records to identify policyholders when they die and then must try to locate beneficiaries.
The difference in the new system and the state law is that these unclaimed funds will now find their way to the intended recipients.
It's a new lease on life for previously unsuspecting designees. And unrealized fulfillment for the deceased who bought the policies.