State Treasurer says proposed bills would steal money from Oklahoma residents

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OKLAHOMA -- The fate of unclaimed life insurance policies are under debate at the state capitol.

Currently, insurance companies do not have to track down the rightful beneficiary. But two measures under consideration would require them to do some detective work.

Right now, insurance companies don’t have to pay a beneficiary at all unless a claim is filed.

While these proposed laws would change that, the State Treasurer is still unsatisfied, saying some Oklahomans would still be left in the dark.

Fern Spavital Hessner’s late husband, “Big Jim” Spavital, died of a heart attack in 2003.

She never knew about his life insurance policy until last year, when she got a notice in the mail.

"Well, when we received the notice, I just thought it was a scam of some kind," Fern said.

But it wasn't a scam. Fern says she claimed more than $70,000 dollars, thanks to investigative work done by the State Treasurer’s office.

"We felt like it was a gift from him, you know, because he had been gone for so long and he'd missed so much. I felt like it was a gift to the children," Fern said.

Now, state lawmakers are determining if life insurance companies should be required to do the digging. If so, those companies would be forced to search records to find clients that passed away, and get the money to its rightful owner.

"We are in support of it because we really think that it protects consumers going forward, while not placing a burden on existing contracts," Buddy Combs, with the Oklahoma Insurance Department, said.

However, the new law would not cover past life insurance policies, and State Treasurer Ken Miller says those beneficiaries may not ever be found.

"If the bill passes, it means that there will be many Oklahomans who do not get insurance benefit proceeds that their loved one left them. It means that insurance companies would get to keep the money that is rightfully due to Oklahoma citizens,"  Miller said.

The State Treasurer says if this does become law, he will continue to fight it.

You can find information on the treasurer’s website if you think you may have unclaimed money.

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