Failure to Change Deceased Insurance Policy Holder Can Void Coverage

In a recent opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Court held that the failure to change the named insured on a homeowners’ policy voided coverage.

In 2002, Robert McGowan, Sr., purchased a homeowners policy on his cottage with himself as the named insured.  In 2004, Robert placed the cottage in a trust, and in 2006, he passed away.  Following his death, the property remained in the trust for Robert’s children.  The children continued to pay the premiums on the homeowners’ policy, changed the billing address on the policy, and filed two claims.  However, they never notified the insurer of their father’s death and they never changed the named insured on the policy.

When the children filed a third claim, the insurer noticed that the names in the complaint of the lawsuit related to the claim did not match the named insured on the policy.  The trial court granted a declaratory judgment in the insurer’s favor, finding that it did not have to provide coverage to the children.  The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the doctrines of equitable estoppel and implied contract did not apply to extend coverage to the children.

Changing the named insured on a homeowners’ policy when the named insured dies should be a top priority.

For more information, contact Estate Planning and Probate attorney, Jeffrey M. Black, at (616) 458-3994 or email

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