Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Court confirms creditor protection for life insurance

The Michigan Court of Appeals has issued a decision confirming that all elements of a life insurance policy, including the cash value of a whole life or universal life policy, are exempt from levy by a judgment creditor.

The plaintiff sued the defendant - for what is not disclosed - and recovered a judgment in the amount of $2.5 million. Plaintiff sought a writ of garnishment seeking to have the Prudential Insurance Company turn over the cash value of a policy that had been sold to the defendant. Defendant objected to the request.

MCL 500.2207 protects life insurance policies from claims of this nature by creditors. But the plaintiff argued that this section was intended to protect only the death benefit that is payable to the beneficiaries named by the insured, money that the insured himself does not own and can not reach while he is still alive. The cash value, the plaintiff argued, is fully available to the insured and can be taken out by him at any time, although this would reduce the total amount payable under the policy to the beneficiary after the insured is gone.

The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, ruling that the intent of the Legislature was to protect the entirety of the policy. One important point that it noted was that the cash value, if untouched during the insured's lifetime, will add to the recovery by the beneficiary. Conversely, allowing a creditor to attach the cash value would diminish the amount ultimately received by the beneficiary.

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