A MoneySaver has won a fight for her mother's life insurance fund after tweeting MoneySavingExpert.com creator Martin Lewis.
Axa had been playing hardball with Kay Lawn from York after her mother Joan Angus passed away on 29 January, after missing a final payment on her Sun Life Direct over-50s' policy.
After Axa refused to honour the policy, Kay tweeted Martin to say: "HELP! Mum died two weeks ago and had a policy with Axa. Final payment was missed – as mum was ill. Now it's refusing to pay."
But Axa staff saw the tweet and got in touch with Kay – and decided to pay her the £2,270 the policy was worth.
Paying for eight years
Joan had been paying for the policy by sending cheques to Axa every three months. But she forgot to sign her last cheque, for £72, which was sent while she suffered confusion and disorientation.
By the time the company returned the cheque to her, Joan had been admitted to hospital and was unable to sign it.
While her mother was in hospital, Axa told Kay the policy would be cancelled unless the instalment was paid.
Kay recalls: "My brother attempted to pay it, but Axa wouldn't accept a card payment, and said he needed to send a cheque.
"Unfortunately he had just changed bank, and didn't receive a chequebook until the day my mother died.
"Axa then declared the policy void, as my mother had died without paying this instalment. It wouldn't take into account that both my mother, and my brother, tried to make payments. It refused to budge."
Axa says: "The reason we couldn't take the subsequent offer of payment was because it can't be taken on a policy if the policyholder has died, which sadly was the case here."
Kay then decided to tweet Martin to make the issue public.
"After seeing my tweet to Martin Lewis, Axa got in contact right away," she says.
"And I'm really pleased to say it decided to pay us the money we're owed. The grand total of £2,270 – here's to the power of Twitter!"
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Beware over-50s' plans
Life insurance guarantees a lump sum upon death, as long as you pay an insurer an agreed amount every month or every quarter for either a number of years or until you die, whichever comes sooner. (See our Life Insurance guide if you need help getting a plan.)
Policies are usually sold to families to ensure the remaining partner can cope with paying for housing, childcare and other costs.
The older you become, the bigger the premium will be when you start the policy, so it's usually best to start one as soon as possible. Life insurance policies also take your medical history into account, so they can become prohibitive.
If you're over 50, you can take any kind of life cover, including level term assurance – which includes mortgage protection, whole of life and family income benefit.
Over-50s plans are a type of 'whole of life' policy, but can leave you paying more into the policy than gets paid out when you die (see Martin's Warning! Axa Sun Life and other over-50s plans blog post for a full explanation of how these schemes work).
In Joan's instance, for example, although Axa paid out £2,270, we calculated that if Kay's mother paid in £72 every three months for eight years, that actually amounts to £2,304 – meaning she paid in more than was paid out after her death.
This happened because with Joan's policy, the amount paid out was fixed at £2,270, as long as she paid in for at least two years.
For many over-50s in good health, a simple alternative is putting money away in top savings, or even better, in tax-free cash ISA savings. There are also simple funeral plans which guarantee to cover the cost of a funeral.
A spokeswoman for Axa says: "One of our team was in touch with Ms Lawn as soon as her tweet came to our attention.
"I am sorry that Ms Lawn didn't have the experience that we usually give to our customers and claimants.
"I'm pleased to say however, that we have resolved this problem for Ms Lawn and the sum assured from the policy has been paid."