by John Darer CLU ChFC MSSC CeFT RSP CLTC
Divorce is a Reasonable Forseeable Possibilty
The divorce rate in the United States around 44.6% of marriages. Source: The Hive Law
As the Structured Settlement Watchdog I typically do 100 hours of pro bono work each year. Not only is it well received and needed by consumers, it also informs on service gaps (known, unknown or should have known gaps) and on how companies in the industry can improve.
Known Structured Settlement Servicing Issues That Have Been Uncovered
When using split funded structured settlements in any combination, whether a mixed duration split, annuity company split, or a product split, it's a good idea to have a simple summary of the documentation delivered to the client.
In 2015, I received a call from a concerned Allstate annuitant whose benefits had been abruptly "cut off". The structured settlement payment stream from the annuity, was the annuitant's share from a divorce settlement, Naturally they were concerned. I did not write the policy.
Unfortunately, just two years following its life insurnace companies ceasing underwriting this line of business, Allstate had outsourced customer service to a Phillipine call center with inadequate training. The rep ecnountrered by the annuitant was neither knowledgeable enough, nor helpful. The ill-prepared Allstate Phillipine call center rep needlessly sent the annuitant into a state of panic by incorrectly stating (because they likely did not know how Allstate issued annuity policies) that her benefits were over.
Fortunately, the annuitant contacted me, someone with enough experience to know the history and nuance and peculiarity of how Allstate issued policies. Instead of issuing a single policy, as is the customary practice with every single life insurance company I've dealt with in 40 years in the insurance industry, Allstate split the certain and life contingent portions into two separate annuity policies.
Structured settlement annuities are a unique policy form that enables different types of structured settlement payments to be combined in a single annuity contract.
What happened was that the periodic certain policy stopped and the "switch" to the life contingent policy did not happen as it was supposed to. It took some calling to find someone at the home office of Allstate who was from the old structured settlement department (Allstate stopped writing new structures in 2013), who could take remedial action but eventually the situation was rectified. It would have been helpful however and have saved the annuitant a quite a bit of agita, if the original broker had placed a summary in with the delivery of the policy.
2. When a Policy payment is split between two former spouses then each spouse should receive notices concerning the policy
Eight years from the above Allstate issue there is a new issue. The payments are life contingent and require an annual attestation of Proof of Living [see Proof of Living and Structured Settlements (4structures.com)]. It was relatively smooth sailing from 2016-2022. Something has changed. The divorce split annuitant had been contacting E.M. at Allstate and she would send the Proof of Living form which the annuitant would complete and send in. However apparently things changed in 2023 when E.M. was no longer there and Allstate having been reconstituted as Everlake Allstate Life Structured Settlements | What You Need To Know (4structures.com).
The split annuitant speaks of intolerable on hold times on the Everlake service line and being told that Everlake (or its servicing company) would only send notice to her ex-husband, who she has been divorced from for 15+ years! She is listed as an annuitant in the company records as a result of the long in place divorce decree.
3. When one divorced spouse payee initiates a Structured Settlement Transfer and the Annuity Issuer will not split, or further split payments?
This exposes the non-selling split annuitant spouse and dependents to a servicing agreement and possible invasion of privacy from secondary market actors that are mostly non regulated. At what point should this issue be disclosed and who is responsible for disclosing it?
4. Companies who are divesting their life insurance or annuity divisions or product lines that include structured settlements should include this consideration on their punch list
It seems to me that dealing with this forseeable issue earlier rather than later, by establishing updated policies and procedures to address these issues, will be less of a burden for the annuity issuer and qualified assignment company than having to dig out after a divestiture. There is the reputational risk exposure as well.
Divorce Statistics that Validate Why Annuity Issuers, Attorneys and Settlement Planners Must Initiate Discussions to Address Reasonably Forseeable Issues in updated Company Procedures and Workflow
- The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years.
- Women file for 66% of divorces.
- The most common age for divorce is between 25-39 years old.
- The median age for divorce is 39.
- The divorce rate among those over 50 (gray divorce) has doubled since the 1990s.
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
- The rate of divorce decreases with higher levels of education and income.
- States that have no-fault divorce laws have higher divorce rates than states that require proof of fault.
- Children of divorce are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems.
- Children of divorce have a higher risk of divorce themselves when they grow up.
- The average age for couples to divorce for the first time is 30 years old for men and 29 years old for women.
- The divorce rate for first marriages within the first five years is around 20%.
- The divorce rate for military couples is higher than the general population, with a rate of 3.7% compared to 3.2%.
- The percentage of divorced adults in the US has more than doubled since 1960, from 9% to 22%.
- The percentage of divorced adults who remarry is around 75%.
- The divorce rate for couples who marry before age 25 is around twice as high as for those who marry after age 25.
- The divorce rate for same-sex couples is around 39%
What About Non Binary Couples and Divorce?