The following article by Darlene J. Swiger appeared in The Exponent Telegram .
CLARKSBURG — A 52-year-old Tucker County woman received the $70,774 in life insurance proceeds from her husband Thursday, nearly 19 years after his untimely death.
Treasurer John Perdue’s office reunited Jackie Godwin with the missing funds during a presentation at the Harrison County Courthouse.
Godwin was able to get the unclaimed life insurance check, along with many other rightful owners, due to a fight started by Perdue with dozens of lawsuits back in 2012.
The treasurer’s lawsuit claimed life insurance companies should turn over proceeds upon death of the insured, using Social Security’s Death Master File to identify deceased policy holders. Many insurance companies already used the file to identify the deceased and cut off annuity payments.
Perdue argued that many beneficiaries don’t know a policy exists, or, like Godwin, don’t have adequate details. The fight made it to the state Supreme Court, which sent it back to the circuit court for re-evaluation using the Death Master File as a guideline. Subsequent state legislation strengthened many of the guidelines, however, litigation continues with some of the companies.
“The Legislature was able to kill the grave robber bill and we got some changes made. We have found over $16 million in policies in three years and will continue to find them. I estimate there are $80-$100 million in the state,” Perdue said.
Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, was instrumental in getting the bill passed that gives the treasurer the right to go after beneficiaries’ life insurance payments.
“The majority party comes back every year with another bill to take away these rights. It is a smart and good program. We don’t want to diminish the program in any way,” Romano said. “Contact your lawmakers and tell them that people need this help to get their rightful unclaimed property.”
Godwin may have never received the money if a friend had not contacted her to say her name was published in the unclaimed property listings in the local paper.
She called the treasurer’s office and their staff walked her through all the steps necessary to prove her identity and claim the proceeds.
“Their staff was incredible. I cried when I found out the amount,” said Godwin, who plans to share the money with her two daughters and their families. “One of them needs a roof on her 108-year-old house. The other needs a water well drilled. The tractor needs fixed. This money is needed for everyday expenses.”
Godwin, who is now married to Danny Godwin, plans to move out of their 1964 trailer, as well.
As of June 13, the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Division had received $16.4 million in life insurance proceeds due to beneficiaries since 2012.
For more information on West Virginia’s unclaimed property program, call 1-800-642-8687 or go to www.wvtreasury.com.