International Styles

Insurable Interest

A contract of life insurance must, according to law, be supported by an interest in the continuance of the life of the insured. Such an "insurable interest" may assume hundreds of forms and may have its origin, as we shall see, in a great variety of relationships. An exact definition of the term in a few words is therefore difficult, if not impossible. Mr. Justice Field briefly summarized the nature of the interest in the following words:

It is not easy to define with precision what will in all cases constitute an insurable interest so as to take the contract out of the class of wager policies. It may be stated generally, however, to be such an interest, arising from the relations of the party obtaining the insurance, either as creditor of or surety for the assured, or from the ties of blood or marriage to him, as will justify a reasonable expectation of advantage or benefit from the continuance of his life. It is not necessary that the expectation of advantage or benefit should be always capable of pecuniary estimation, for a parent has an insurable interest in the life of his child, and a child in the life of his parent, a husband in the life of his wife, and a wife in the life of her husband. The natural affection in cases of this kind is considered more powerful as operating more efficaciously to protect the life of the insured than any other consideration. But in all cases there must be a reasonable ground, founded upon the relations of the parties to each other, either pecuniary or of blood or affinity, to expect some benefit or advantage from the continuance of the life of the assured. Otherwise, the contract is a mere wager, by which the party taking the policy is directly interested in the early death of the assured. Such policies have a tendency to create a desire for the event. They are, therefore, independently of any statute on the subject, condemned, as being against public policy.

Sections in Chapter 29.

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