What do you need to do before you can deal with an insurer on someone else’s behalf?

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A few weeks ago I needed to ring a relative’s insurance company to make a change to her policy. She has osteoporosis and an age-related sight condition (so she can’t read paperwork easily). The only way I would be able to talk to the insurer on her behalf was to make a phone call with my relative in the same room (tricky as we lived hundreds of miles away) or to get her to write a letter, which was difficult because of her poor sight. This got me thinking about how easy — or difficult — insurers make it.

The standard approach
Most insurers will only deal with the policyholder unless they have their permission to talk to someone else. And, to be fair to them, they do have to comply with the Data Protection Act. In order to get permission, most insurers will ask:

  • For you and the policyholder to make a call while you’re in the same room. This means the insurer can speak to both of you and make sure it’s OK to add your details to the policy as a ‘nominee’ who can help with claims or changes to the policy.
  • For the policyholder to write (or at least sign) a letter giving permission for you to act on their behalf.

SAVVY TIP: Most insurers won’t let anyone other than the policyholder cancel the policy, although the nominee can sort out claims or add or reduce cover on the policyholder’s behalf.

Who takes a more flexible approach?
I’ve contacted a number of major insurers and will update this as I hear from more. This is what I’ve found out so far:

Age UK Insurance: Standard procedure is to ask both the policyholder and relative to be on the phone at the same time, but if that’s a problem the relative could ring the insurer and get a quote reference number to pass to the policyholder. She could then ring the insurer and quote the same number to authorise the adding of a nominee to the account details.

Aviva (including Aviva partners, such as Barclays): A customer can nominate someone as ‘DPA nominee’ to deal with their policy on their behalf when they buy the policy or at any point afterwards. The nominee can be a friend or relative, and there’s no problem if you’d like to have more than one nominee. If the standard procedure won’t work for you, Aviva’s call centre can organise a conference call so both of you are on the line at the same time.

Churchill and Direct Line: The standard approach is for the policyholder to call the insurer, but will call them if that’s easier. It means you (as the relative/neighbour) could ask the insurer to call your relative and they’d be able to get permission directly from them.

Esure: Both the policyholder and relative would need to be in the same room when the call was made.

Halifax/Lloyds: A three way call between the insurer, the policyholder and the relative/friend can be arranged if necessary. The standard procedure is for the policyholder and relative to make the call together, but a three way call is definitely an option.

Legal & General: As with most other insurers, the standard procedure is to have both the policy and nominee on the phone at the same time, but if that’s not possible, L&G says it will try and arrange a three way call to sort out authorisation. If the policyholder is in hospital or a nursing home, they treat cases on an individual basis but will try and reach a ‘sensible’ outcome.

M&S Bank If a policyholder calls M&S Bank and says that they want their relative/friend to act on their behalf, the insurer does not need them to be in the same room or on the phone at the same time. The call centre will simply ask them to confirm that they want the nominee to act on their behalf.

Planning ahead
Just because you’re elderly doesn’t mean you can’t manage to sort out banking and insurance etc on their own. But if they have poor sight, become ill or have a fall, they may no longer be able to cope as well.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re going to see them this Christmas and you think you may have to act for them in the future in relation to their insurance, you could:

– Ask them to write or sign a letter. Depending on their eye sight, you could ask your relative to write a letter giving permission for you to deal with their insurer on their behalf.

Related articles:

Understanding powers of attorney so you can look after someone else’s affairs

Looking after the finances of someone as a deputy – what does the Court of Protection do?

What are deferred payment agreements if you need to pay for your long-term care?

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