Testimony and court documents revealed Justin Ross Harris and his wife had two life insurance policies for 22-month-old Cooper Harris, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000.
Prosecutors have portrayed the 33-year-old Harris as an unhappy husband who was exchanging nude photos with several women. Defense attorneys say the death was a tragic accident. Harris remains in jail, charged with murder and child cruelty.
The insurance policies were mentioned among numerous details from the evidence against Harris and weren’t singled out by prosecutors in their arguments.
Still, the case has drawn attention to policies families sometimes purchase for children. Here are five things to know about the children’s life insurance market:
How do the policies for children work?
The policies are typically purchased by parents, grandparents or anyone directly related to the child, according to Steve Weisbart, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute.
Premiums paid into the policies vary according to the terms. Generally, the higher the death benefit — what’s paid out to beneficiaries if the insured person dies — the greater the premium. Insurers require anyone buying the policy have an “insurable interest” in the person covered, meaning the buyer wants the person covered to actually live.
Insurers attach conditions to the death benefit
Insurers require documentation of how a covered individual dies, and the policies will not pay out if the beneficiary is convicted of murdering the person covered.
Policies can be savings devices
Life insurance policies typically have a cash value while the covered person is still living, with the amount based on premiums paid over time. Often, a parent or grandparent buys a policy with the intention of giving the child the option later in life of using the policy as a cash source.
Policies for children typically have less benefits
Policies for adults, whether purchased individually or through employers, typically offer much higher death benefits than those purchased for children. Weisbart said a $5,000 to $10,000 policy is common — amounts to help parents pay for a funeral.
Child policies a small slice of overall market
Weisbart estimates life insurance policies on children represent less than 1 percent of the overall life insurance market, both in terms of the number of polices and the dollar value.
Etti Baranoff, associate professor of insurance at Virginia Commonwealth University, added, “The nature of life insurance is to provide for economic security if the parent dies, not the other way around.”