Direct insurance and term life insurance
In the case of insolvency, a distinction is made between the actual insolvency proceedings and the subsequent good conduct phase lasting several years. Insurance benefits from private and company pension schemes (bAV), but also from term life insurance, can be paid out in both phases. The insolvency administrator will then regularly collect these insurance benefits and, if necessary, distribute them to the creditors at a later date – and this is completely contrary to the common seller advertising with the alleged insolvency resistance of such contracts.
Direct insurance usually not insolvency-proof
The Federal Court of Justice (BGH, decision of 11.12.2014, ref. IX ZB 69/12) ruled that the employee’s claim to payment of the sum insured under a direct insurance policy is attachable even before the insured event occurs. This means that every creditor can obtain a secure legal position in future insurance benefits even before the opening of insolvency proceedings.
This is the exception to the rule according to which the lien only arises with the establishment of the claim attached in advance and the pledgee cannot acquire a lien on the claim at the expense of the estate beforehand, section 91 subs. 1 InsO. The debtor can then only eliminate an attachment by filing an application for the opening of insolvency proceedings himself within a few months.
However, if the insurance benefit becomes due during the insolvency proceedings, it belongs to the estate – including the option to exercise a lump-sum option, because § 91 I InsO prevents the acquisition of the attachment lien in this respect in terms of time. If the insurance benefit only becomes due in the phase of good conduct, there is a supplementary distribution, § 203 I No.3. InsO.
Neither the content of the employer’s occupational pension commitment nor a benefit not agreed at all with the insurer from the start of the statutory pension is decisive for the due date of the insurance benefit, § 6 BetrAVG, but only the agreements with the insurer. The prevailing practice is disadvantageous for employees if the employee does not know the complete – and solely decisive – insurance contract documents and therefore cannot even check the conditions of his subscription right. This means that the employee has no certainty as to when – even in the case of early retirement – his occupational pension will begin, and of course also no certainty as to whether enough has been paid in for the employer’s occupational pension promise.
Another mistake made by employees is based on the fact that they are promised a pledge or insolvency protection in the employment contract or in the occupational pension commitment. Such promises are absolutely ineffective, because the employment-law pension relationship does not replace any regulation in the insurance relationship with regard to the insured event and secured subscription rights.
Supplementary distribution for term life insurance policies
The Federal Court of Justice (BGH, decision of 18.12.2014, ref. IX ZB 50/13) ruled that in the case of a life insurance policy or term life insurance policy, “what arrives at the supplementary distribution is what would have been paid in the absence of further premium payments, i.e. in the case of an imaginary release of premiums for the insurance policy at the time of the (provisional) termination of the insolvency order.” The actuarial value at the beginning of the residential phase is decisive. If there was already a contractual claim to a surrender value at the time, this belongs to the insolvency estate – if it only becomes due later, there may be a supplementary distribution.
Only if at the time of commencement of the period of good conduct, assuming release from premium payment, there is no minimum remaining sum insured as required by the insurance contract, is a subsequent legal claim to payment of a term life insurance policy only available to the insolvent debtor. However, the insolvency administrator is entitled to any surrender value already contractually owed under the terms of the contract.
According to § 850 b ZPO, the sum insured can only be unseizable if the surrender value does not exceed € 3,579, provided that the policyholder and the insured person are identical. However, if the insolvency debtor insures another life, for example that of a spouse, via a term or life insurance policy, not even this legally minimal protection kicks in.
The coverage of life partners, spouses and other surviving dependants via term life insurance often fails due to a suitable individual adaptation of the usual off-the-shelf contract models. Credit institutions that have had – in the end worthless – insurance benefits assigned to them as security for the repayment of the loan will also lose out.
by Dr. Johannes Fiala and Dipl.-Math. Peter A. Schramm
published on www.neues-deutschland.de (published on 09.12.2015)
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Dr. Johannes Fiala has been working for more than 25 years as a lawyer and attorney with his own law firm in Munich. He is intensively involved in real estate, financial law, tax and insurance law. The numerous stages of his professional career enable him to provide his clients with comprehensive advice and to act as a lawyer in the event of disputes.
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