Fairport Women

Gain insights, tips, and resources relevant for women in all stages of their lives from the Fairport Wealth team.

Rebuilding Home: It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask…There Are No Stupid Questions

By Deborah Feldman

Do you know someone who is “bigger than life?” My mother-in-law would fit that bill. You either loved her or hated her, there was no in between. She was outspoken, liked to yell and scream to make her point, thought that the world ended at the New York border, believed that her opinion was always correct, had little patience for those who did not agree with her and, generally speaking, was not well liked. When she walked into a room, she was either met with complete disdain or love. Personally, I fell into the “I love Judy” camp, and Judy loved me. Our relationship was based on a certain respect for one another from afar.  It was easy for me to be patient with her – I was not her child, avoided heated debates with her, didn’t live in New York so our communication/quality time was always planned with a definitive end, and we had many years of interesting times together.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Judy never learned how to drive a car and she took public transportation or depended on her husband/friends/family to get her where she wanted to go. Her marriage was very 1950s traditional…Michael worked, paid the bills and took care of their finances, while Judy was a stay-at-home mother. This relationship worked until it didn’t. Michael developed cancer and eventually succumbed to it in his 70s. This left Judy in an interesting position…one in which she hadn’t had much experience – she was now responsible for herself and unbeknownst to the rest of the world, was ill-equipped to do so.

Aside from needing a ride to get groceries or to a doctor’s appointment, Judy appeared to be bravely facing the world as a strong, capable widow. Nobody knew that she was struggling to manage her affairs. Her DNA would not allow her to admit that there was something that she didn’t know. She had a well-kept secret until one day, shortly after Michael’s death, she received a terminal prognosis from her internist and at the same time received a notice from her long-term care provider that her policy was cancelled.

I was completely caught off guard when she called me in a complete state of panic. She told me that she was going to need this coverage. She had asthma and leukemia and would eventually need long-term care type help. She didn’t understand why the policy was cancelled because she thought that when Michael died, she didn’t have to pay premiums any longer. I asked her if she called the insurance agent who sold her the policy, and she told me that she had and that they had gotten into an argument. He told her that there was nothing that he could do. She had received notices of premium payment due and ignored them and the policy was cancelled. I asked her to send me a copy of the policy, which she did, and I began my own journey into the complex world of trying to get a cancelled long-term care insurance policy reinstated.

My first call was to the insurance agent. He told me his version of his conversation with Judy and basically said that there wasn’t anything that he could do because the policy was cancelled. After my disappointing call with the insurance agent, I decided to go big – I would call the President of the insurance company. Now, in no way did I believe that I would ever speak with this person. My hope was that I would speak with someone who would empathize with Judy’s plight and get the policy reinstated. I made my first call, then my second call and finally my third call was the charm. I spoke with the President’s assistant, James. He was a good listener as I painted the picture of Michael’s death, Judy’s lack of involvement in their finances, her belief that after paying premiums for over 20 years and Michael’s death, that she didn’t have to pay premiums any longer. Judy’s poor health and even the fact that Judy never had a driver’s license made an impression. James said that he would see what he could do but stressed that he wasn’t very hopeful because of the policy cancellation. I said a little prayer and crossed my fingers as we hung up.

Imagine my surprise and delight when James called me back to tell me that if Judy would pay the past 3 premium payments and the next 3 premium payments, the policy would be reinstated! Whenever I retell this story, people are always amazed that the insurance company took this position. They always ask if there was something or someone else involved – and, between you and me, there may have been a conversation with the president’s assistant about how I thought this would make a great personal interest story in the Wall Street Journal or Kiplinger’s Personal Finance…but this is a story for another blog…

For more insight from Deb, you can read the previous issue of Rebuilding Home here, or stay up-to-date on new issues by following Deborah Feldman’s blog on LinkedIn.

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