Insurers wary of right to die

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Life-insurance providers have told the federal government its members are willing to lift the standard two-year exemption for suicides and pay out policies on people who end their lives through physician-assisted death, says the head of the industry’s professional association.  Life-insurance policies typically contain an industry-standard clause releasing providers from paying if a client commits suicide within two years of signing the contract.

Frank Zinatelli of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association said if someone follows the legislated process, which is expected to be announced as early as next week, then providers would pay out on policies that are less than two years old.

“If you follow the process, which is outlined by the government or governments, then that possible exclusion won’t be applied,” Zinatelli said, adding that the law might differ between provinces.

He also encouraged the government to include the underlying condition on a person’s death certificate, though he had no objection to including a reference to assisted death also being noted.

Zinatelli said he didn’t anticipate the legislation would result in an increase to premiums, adding that the policy change likely wouldn’t have a big overall impact on the life-insurance industry.

Representatives from the wills and estates industry had differing views on the anticipated impact of the pending legislation.

Tim Grieve, who chairs the Canadian wing of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, expected the repercussions to be minimal.

Estate planners and litigators are well positioned to accommodate legal changes that would allow Canadians to include an advance directive for assisted dying in their wills, he said.

“Our job as estate planners has always been first and foremost to understand the wishes of our client and to document those wishes in a way that would survive challenges from people who don’t agree with those wishes,” Grieve said.

His industry specializes in establishing mental capacity, namely whether people are fully informed and aware of the implications of their wishes.

Shelley Waite, vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s national wills and estates branch, anticipated more significant fallout from the law.

Legislation around advance-care directives differs between provinces, meaning work would have to be done to ensure the laws are consistent so that wishes around medical assistance in death would be portable across the country, she explained.

“What happens if you get diagnosed in Alberta but you wish to live with your parents in British Columbia because that’s where they reside?” Waite asked.

– Source – The Canadian Press – April 10, 2016 (summary)

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