Coping with death following a natural disaster

Coping with death following a natural disaster
The importance for funeral cover during unforeseen events
Natural disasters have recently left many South African families dealing with the loss of their loved ones and in the same breath, constrained financially. In this article, we help you look out for any exclusions that your funeral policy might have that could prevent pay out in these specific circumstances.
Michael Visser
Michael Visser - Head of Legal - Helpline
30 May 2022 | 3 minute read
Funeral cover exclusions during a natural disaster

Coping with death following disasters

The natural disasters that have struck KwaZulu-Natal have left a trail of devastation in their wake. Many have been left homeless or without access to basic services like water and electricity. Beyond the material damage experienced, the loss of life has had an exponential impact on the emotional hardship many are facing.

A funeral plan covers expenses following a death such as buying a casket and paying the funeral home, and for the costs associated with the burial. Providing your loved ones with financial protection when a family member dies allows them to grieve without having to worry about how those funeral bills are going to be paid.

But a funeral claim could be rejected for various reasons. Don’t let the impact of disasters affect your cover.

What if the deceased’s body is lost in a disaster?

For a Funeral plan to pay out the insurer will require proof of death. This is usually confirmed by providing a death certificate. However, without a body you will need to apply for a presumption of death.

An excerpt sourced from Wikipedia helps explain the process:

In South Africa when a person disappears and there is no evidence either way as to whether or not he is still alive. There is no corpse in respect of which a doctor can issue a death certificate, and no-one who can testify that the person is actually dead. In these circumstances a presumption of death may be ordered, in respect either of common law or of statutory provisions.

Anyone with an interest in the death of a missing person may apply in this regard to whichever High Court has jurisdiction over the area in which the missing person lived at the time of disappearance, and must convince the court, on a balance of probabilities, that the missing person is dead. Deaths are not presumed lightly, in other words; the court must be confident that the missing person is more likely dead than alive. A court cannot declare someone dead but presume that the person is more likely dead than alive. The circumstances under which the person left under, are also taken into consideration and also the age of the person is taken into consideration.

It is important to note that this process may take many years. As long as the deceased had active funeral cover up to the time of the death, then the claim should be honoured - but may be subject to the policies terms and conditions.

Reasons funeral claims may be rejected

Policy exclusions

Many policies will exclude certain events from cover are a result of, for example:

  • Participation in mass protests or riots, as experienced in July 2021
  • Substance abuse (including drugs and alcohol)
  • Contravening criminal activity

Missed premium payments

Your policy premiums need to be paid and up to date. Generally, an insurer will provide you with a grace period to make up a missed payment, but if the premium is not paid within the grace period then your cover will lapse. In the context of disasters, you may miss payment request notifications or cancellation letters from insurers if you have lost access to electricity or cellular signal. If you have any questions related to ongoing cover contact your insurer.

Important steps to follow to ensure you have the correct cover

Obtain and read your policy document / Insurance Contract

When you have an insurance product it is always based on a contract or policy. Your insurer is by law obliged to supply you with your policy. It is extremely important to read this policy in its entirety as only skim reading it would mean you might miss important information. Your policy would include what the policy covers and what is excluded.

Make contact with your provider

When in doubt, contact your insurance provider and ask them questions. A paper trail can assist in handling disputes if they arise, and can also assist you if you need to refresh your memory on what was discussed, requested, or agreed to.

Ask questions before agreeing to insurance

A good tactic to use is to ask for the policy documents prior to you agreeing to the service so you can review all of the terms and conditions in your own time.

Remember that a Legal&Tax legal expert can review your contracts and policies if you need clarification or assistance understanding the conditions of any agreement.

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