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May 30, 2023

In the realm of personal finance, life insurance stands as a pillar of financial security and peace of mind. It promises a safety net to our loved ones in case of our untimely departure. But what happens when this safety net is compromised by unscrupulous individuals or organizations? In this blog, we will delve deep into a lesser-known but significant issue—life insurance theft. More specifically, we will look at this issue within the context of Florida law, where certain unique legal aspects come into play.

I. Understanding Life Insurance

Before we jump into the specifics of life insurance theft, let’s first understand the fundamentals of life insurance itself. Life insurance is a contract between an individual and an insurance company. The individual pays premiums (regular payments) to the insurance company, and in return, the insurance company promises to pay a lump sum (known as a death benefit) to the nominated beneficiaries upon the death of the individual. This financial security helps beneficiaries handle financial obligations such as funeral costs, debts, or loss of income.

There are mainly two types of life insurance policies – term life insurance and permanent life insurance. Term life insurance covers a specific term, say 10, 20, or 30 years. If the policyholder passes away during this term, the death benefit is paid out to the beneficiaries. On the other hand, permanent life insurance, as the name suggests, covers the policyholder’s entire life and also has a cash value component that can be borrowed against.

II. Life Insurance Theft: An Overview of Litigation Strategies

Life insurance theft is a form of insurance fraud that specifically targets life insurance policies. This could involve an array of illicit activities, including identity theft leading to false claims, forgery or alterations of policy documents, misrepresentation or non-disclosure of facts, and premium diversion where premiums are fraudulently redirected or manipulation and elder abuse where a change was the product of undue influence.

In the case of identity theft, the thief might use someone’s personal information to take out a life insurance policy without their knowledge, or make a false claim on an existing policy. Forgery generally involves altering policy documents or forging the policyholder’s signature to change the policy’s terms or the beneficiary information.


Policy change documents can be sometimes easily forged. Often policy change documents simply require written submissions and people forge signatures to obtain the death benefit or insurance monies. These cases are tough and rely on expert handwriting experts and the credibility of witnesses.


Another very common way to challenge a beneficiary designation change is through an allegation of undue influence. Florida law will recognize and overturn a Life Insurance Policy designation change if procured by manipulation or contrivance such that it was not the true intent of the decedent. Plaintiffs if they can establish (1) confidential relationship (2) active procurement (3) a substantial benefit, get an evidentiary shift.

The presumption of undue influence necessitates demonstrating a confidential relationship between the donor and the donee, and the active procurement of the gift. The term ‘confidential relation’ covers a wide range of relationships where one person trusts and relies on another. Courts usually find a confidential relationship in all but the most distant relationships. On the other hand, the ‘active procurement’ involves a list of criteria as per the Carpenter case.

Despite the lack of specific court guidelines, patterns can be discerned in cases of undue influence involving live transfers or gifts. Courts tend to focus on several recurring factors: the donee’s level of involvement in the donor’s affairs; the donee’s level of involvement in the actual gift in question; the relationship between the donee and the donor; the transparency or secrecy of the transaction; the impact of the transfer on the donor’s pre-existing estate plan; and the physical health and mental acuity of the donor at the time of the gift.

While each case is unique, these factors offer critical insights into determining whether undue influence may have occurred. It’s also essential to note that while a donor might have full control over their faculties, they can still fall prey to undue influence. Consequently, the physical and mental state of the donor is an important aspect to consider in all undue influence cases.


If the decedent lacked sufficient capacity to understand the nature and object of his bounty the change to life insurance policies can be challenged on the ground of incapacity. This challenge is heavily dependent on treating physicians, expert witnesses and medical records.

If you or your loved ones have been the victim of Life Insurance fraud give us a call. Our attorneys litigate insurance disputes throughout the State of Florida. If a policy designation has been changed improperly we are here to help.

Brice Zoecklein, Esq.

Zoecklein Law PA