Insurance policy causes widow some grief

March 9, 2010 7:13:31 PM PST
Like many people these days, a woman bought insurance for her credit card -- the kind that pays off the balance in case you die. However, for her grieving husband, collecting the insurance cost a lot of money and even more grief.

Manuel Ruiz and his wife Esther did everything together, from days at the racetrack to trips to Hawaii. They even served together in the Air Force reserves. The couple was about to celebrate 25 years of marriage when Esther got very sick.

"She had two small tumors in her brain," he said.

Esther had lung cancer and her son Jeff Morse says death came fast.

"From the day she was diagnosed to the day they found out it was terminal, to the day she died was 18 days," he said.

Still grieving, Manuel sorted through finances and among the bills were two Capital One credit cards. However, he discovered Esther had purchased insurance. In case of her death, Capital One's "Account Balance Coverage Plan" would pay off the balances.

So, Manuel made a claim. Capital One's insurance carrier told him to keep up the payments until the insurance kicked in, and he'd be reimbursed later. But when the checks arrived there was another shock.

"The checks came and they were made out to Esther Ruiz, Esther L. Ruiz, made out to her, not to me," he said.

Manuel could not cash checks made out to a woman who had died. Since there was no estate, Manuel could not cash them. He pointed that out to Capital One, but one would fix it.

"When people experience death in the family, they have enough already going through turmoil and they don't need these added stresses," Jeff said.

Months went by and Manuel kept asking for the refunds. Finally, the bank decided not to re-issue the checks.

"I would have to go through probate," Manuel said.

So Manuel was out $448, and that's when he called 7 On Your Side. We contacted Capital One and the bank agreed to look into his case and took action.

Then, just as we were interviewing Manuel, he got a call from Capital One, saying the bank not only re-issued his checks, they were on the way to his home.

"Funny that happens right now," he said.

Capital One told 7 On Your Side the bank's normal protocol is to issue refund checks to the estate, not to the heirs. In this case, there was no estate, so it reimbursed Manuel directly.

Capital One said, "We sincerely regret the inconvenience during this difficult time, and appreciate Mr. Ruiz's patience while we worked to correct the payee information."

Now Manuel says he has a little peace.

"It's been a long time. Thank you guys, really," Manuel said.

Manuel says in spite of the troubles, he's glad his wife purchased the insurance, which had cost a few dollars per month for each card.


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