How to deal with an interpleader
Getting served with an interpleader lawsuit can be overwhelming and stressful. You may have thought that you simply filed a life insurance claim because you are a beneficiary name in the life insurance policy, and suddenly you're being sued by the life insurance company against other people who may have made a claim against the same policy.
So what is an interpleader lawsuit?
In the field of life insurance benefits, an interpleader lawsuit is generally filed by a life insurance company who feels that they could be subjected to double payments based upon the reading of the policy, statutory changes, or claims made on the policy. In order to avoid having to pay twice, they often choose to deposit the money in the court registry, like a bank account for the court, and sue all potential claimants to the money. They basically tell the court that they know they owe the money, but they're just not 100% certain who may be entitled to it. They would rather do the right thing and give the money to the court and let the potential beneficiaries fight over the money.
State versus federal court?
Oftentimes, the life insurance company will sue you in federal court when the life insurance company is from a different state than the defendants, and the amount of the policy at issue is more than $75,000. If the amount in controversy is less than $75,000 or at least one defendant and the life insurance company are from the same state, the life insurance company may file the interpleader in state court in Florida.
What should I do if I was sued by a life insurance company with an interpleader lawsuit from Florida?
You must act as quickly as possible to find a life insurance attorney in Florida to help you, unless you are familiar enough with the complexities and nuances of Florida or federal rules of procedure, statutes, and case law to handle the case on your own. Generally, you only have 20 days to file a response to an interpleader lawsuit filed in state court from the date that you were served with a lawsuit, or 21 days to file a response to a federal interpleader lawsuit from when you were served with a lawsuit. If you do not respond timely, the court may issue a default judgment against you, and give all of the proceeds to the other beneficiary.
If I was named as the beneficiary on the life insurance policy, why shouldn't I get all the money?
Life insurance law in Florida is very complex. There are many exceptions and nuances to the law. There are circumstances where a named beneficiary may be ignored and skipped, like where the new divorce statute applies. Sometimes change of beneficiary forms may also be challenged, like where the policy owner did not have the capacity to make the change, or made the change because of undue influence by somebody else. Some beneficiary changes may also not be compliant with the policy terms, and may be disregarded. Each case is very fact specific as to whether you may be entitled to the life insurance proceeds, which is why you should consult with a Florida life insurance attorney as soon as possible.
My relative's Estate is being sued in an interpleader. What should I do?
When no beneficiaries are listed on the life insurance policy, or an ex spouse is listed with no contingent beneficiary, the life insurance company may sue any potential claimant, as well as the estate of the policy owner or insured. The reason is that if there is no beneficiary, or the beneficiary is found not to be valid, the proceeds maybe payable to the estate of the policy owner or insured.
We can represent an estate in an interpleader life insurance case. If your family member's estate was already closed, our office can work to reopen the estate to handle the life insurance claim. If no estate was ever opened, our Florida probate lawyers can open the estate to make the proper claim.
My best advice: Act quickly.
You have a very limited time to file a response to an interpleader life insurance claim. If you fail to act, your claim may be barred forever. Also, the life insurance company's attorneys may try to claim their attorneys fees from the life insurance benefits, so be aware that the benefits could get reduced as the case goes on. You should hire an experienced life insurance attorney in Florida who has handled many interpleader claims to guide you through the case and hopefully get you the benefits you deserve.