WWII veteran unpleasantly surprised by value of 27-year-old burial insurance policy


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A disabled World War II veteran and retired minister got a surprise recently when he reviewed his small burial plan.

The veteran discovered that the plan is practically worthless if he surrenders his policy, or cashes it out. He said he was disappointed to learn that he’s paid more into the plan than its cash value.

Burial insurance is often taken out in small amounts of $5,000-$10,000 and is marketed to seniors as a form of whole life insurance that they should buy to protect their loved ones from big expenses after they’re gone.

 “Pitiful” is how Merrill Campbell describes a burial insurance policy.  He took out in 1994 when he was 67 years old. The retired Church of God minister and disabled World War II veteran is now 94. He had purchased the $5,000 burial policy 27 years ago to help ease any financial burden on his wife and family.

“I wanted her protected if something happens to me,” Merrill Campbell said. “I want to leave her where she doesn’t have to worry about nothing.”

His monthly payment is $25.51 He purchased the policy when he was still preaching at the LaFollette Church of God.

Merrill says the policy’s expiration date is November of next year. Still in relatively good health, Mr. Campbell says he plans on living beyond November 2022 and said he believed the whole life policy would be worth at least $5,000 beyond that date.

“And if I live past that, and I plan on doing my best, it drops. It don’t pay nothing,” he said. However, when he called his insurance carrier recently about the policy, he got a surprise.

“They just told me it ended on 11 and 2022. I wasn’t covered anymore,” he said. “…They said cash value was 23 dollars.”

“I think they just took his money. Don’t want to give him nothing for it,” Loretta Campbell said.

“There is no way on earth that they should be allowed to sell a policy like that, no way,” Merrill Campbell said.

The way Merrill figures it, he’s already paid over $8,000 into the $5,000 burial plan.

“They have charged 6 percent interest on my money,” he said. “They have loaned it out and charged 6 percent, they have that much more off of my money.”

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to Mr. Campbell’s insurance carrier — they have not responded to our inquiry.

Consumer advocates say first understand both the pros and cons before buying burial plan.

Some have raised red flags calling it a predatory type of insurance targeting seniors. Another option would be to accumulate a nest egg of $5,000 or so and keep it in a moderately liquid investment so that your heirs can access it quickly to cover burial costs.

“I think the state of Tennessee should not allow that kind of policy to be sold to an old man when he was expecting a burial fund,” Merrill said. “But they should never allow a policy to be sold where a company can take — if I paid all the way through — almost 9 thousand dollars and not pay one penny.”

Burial insurance, also called final expense insurance, can be beneficial but also confusing. So, before purchasing a plan, discuss and understand the pros and cons with a licensed insurance agent.

Don’t talk with just one agency, talk with several agents.

We will continue to assist Mr. Campbell in getting a resolution to his situation.

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