When someone close to you passes it forces you to deal with many uncomfortable issues as well as doing your best to sort through someone’s entire life and possessions. Passwords to computers, safe deposit boxes, bills, and years of accumulated stuff make it difficult to properly administer an estate or execute a will. Another major issue is finding a lost life insurance policy. Who do you go to? What company did they use? It can all be so overwhelming.
In the following article we have done our best to provide you with the tools necessary to help you locate a lost life insurance policy, especially for life insurance beneficiaries. Hopefully the information below will help you on your journey.
13 Top Tips to Find Lost Life Insurance Policies
Nowadays, we know just how important life insurance can be in order to protect loved ones and provide them with money after passing. Over the next few years, we are hoping to see the number of people that have a policy rise and we are doing our best to help this cause. When more people have a policy, more people’s (including their families) financial futures are protected.
However, there is one factor that often goes unsaid and that is how life insurance policies can be located after the insured passes away. For example, you may have known that your loved one had a policy in place without knowing who it was with or where the documents were being kept. If this is you, there is no need to panic just yet because we do have some solutions for you today.
Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a national database showing everyone’s life insurance policy but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be found. Below, we have listed some of the most useful steps that you can take to find a missing life insurance policy and start making the required claim.
Check Bank Statements
When someone sets up life insurance they may initially pay by credit card. However, normally companies require ongoing payments to be made via ETF or by check. So pull up the deceased’s bank statements for the last year and see if any payments were made to financial institutions, such as many of the top life insurance companies. Once you locate the company you can simply give its claims department a call.
Search for Documents
If you have been looking for the documents for an extended period of time, this won’t be something you will want to hear but be sure to look through bank safe deposit boxes and if they had any storage spaces. Furthermore, look through their address books to see if it mentions the name of an insurer or even an agent. If there is a filing cabinet full of documents, check that they weren’t using an old file with the wrong name to store the letters and such.
Contact Financial Professionals
If you have completed the steps above and really have no idea where to start, you should contact any professionals that the deceased used in their lifetime including accountants, investment professionals, attorneys, insurance brokers, and any others. If there was an estate planner involved, they should have information regarding the policy.
National Policy Locator App
Although there isn’t a giant database with all details just yet as we said earlier, there is an app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners who are working on a way to locate a lost life insurance policy. With a map of the US, you can click on the required state before it explains your options. As well as phone numbers to insurance departments, it could also provide online forms or even the policy locator service in that state if there is one in place.
Although this tool can be useful, you should keep in mind that you will probably need to be the executor, an immediate family member, or the beneficiary to see it through. Furthermore, it cannot help if the deceased purchased the policy in a different state; if you know the state in which it was purchased or know where they have lived, the app can still be used. Sadly, this is also a slower process than the others we have today and many states suggest that searches can take up to 90 days.
Search the Mail
When a life insurance policy is in place, the policyholder should receive bills or statements every so often so another good tip is to search the mail. Of course, there is a danger that they have just received their annual bill and won’t have another for twelve months. In the best case scenario, they may have paid monthly which means you only have a maximum of one month to wait until the next bill comes to the door.
Visit the Bank
Not only can you check if the deceased had a safety deposit box with the local bank, you will also be able to check whether any type of insurance was taken out with them. If neither of these inquiries lead anywhere specific, some banks may allow you to see a recent statement if you are an immediate relative and the circumstances are explained. Here, you might be able to see where payments were being made.
Whether it was their current employer at the time of death or previous employers, it could be a good move to get in touch because they will have details of any group life insurance that existed. Although most group life benefits will end on the final day of work, it could still be a good idea to get an overview of what policies were in place.
Contact Fraternal Groups
Check with any fraternal organizations, unions, associations, and professional membership groups, such as ABE for attorneys or AICPA for CPAs.
Earlier, we mentioned the fact of talking to finance professionals who may have dealt with the deceased but we are going to make a specific mention of the insurance agents. Perhaps a certain policy was mentioned to them or they could have even helped to set a life insurance policy up so it is definitely worth a shot. Seeing as though they will have a specific file for the deceased, they could have information regarding current or past insurance policies.
Income Tax Returns
When it comes to finding a lost life insurance policy, the steps above are all quite common but there are others that are completely forgotten and the first is to check the previous two years’ tax returns. As well as interest paid, you should also be looking for any interest received from life insurance providers. When a permanent policy has been set up, the cash value section of the policy will build over time so interest income should occur regularly. Normally life insurance is not taxed but if cash was withdrawn above the policy basis, it is a taxable event.
Unclaimed Property Office
Sometimes, the life insurance company will be aware of the death of the insured but, if they cannot find the beneficiary or if they do not come forward, the death benefit passes over to the state. As long as you know where the policy was bought – perhaps you can find this information using our previous tips – you can contact the department of the state comptroller to see if they have the unclaimed money life insurance settlement property. If they do, you can start to make progress.
For example, those looking for life insurance settlements in California can go here. According to California’s life insurance settlement property search website, in 2008 the California State Controller’s Office began an audit of national insurance company practices. What they found was an industry-wide practice of companies failing to pay death benefits to beneficiaries. Often, companies would draw down the cash value of the life insurance policy to continue paying premiums, even when they knew or should have known the policy holder had died and the beneficiaries should be paid. The policies then would be canceled — without notifying the policyholder or their family members.
The good news is many states, such as California, have required life insurance companies to return the full value of the policy to the beneficiary.
Behind the scenes in the life insurance world there is a useful database that insurance companies use to exchange information and it belongs to the MIB Group. Dating right back to 1996, information has been stored since and it relates to the applications that have been made. Although you won’t be able to see whether they went ahead and opened a policy after the application, you will be able to check where the deceased has applied in the past. According to MIB themselves, there is a $75 charge for the Policy Locator Service and around 30% of cases yield positive information.
So far, we have provided you with some superb solutions and at least one of them should allow you to find out the company name and this is all you need. In most cases, you will only need the name of the insurer to start the process of claiming the death benefit. However, we now have an option for situations that have you struggling to find anything at all – private investigators. With access to tools we could only dream of, sometimes this is the only solution and they will spend time digging deeper that we could attempt to find relevant information. Of course, this will cost some money (probably around $200 – $300) just as we saw with the last option but the success rate is often higher.
Avoid at All Costs
If you want to avoid this happening again and prevent your immediate relatives from having to do the same for you in the future, make sure that your family talks about life insurance. You can check out some amazing quotes by using or life insurance cost calculator.
Although talking about death and money can be two tricky topics for some people, this is a conversation that needs to be had and it will only take a few minutes. As long as you tell people who your policy is with and where you store your documents, they will have everything they need to keep the process easy without any unnecessary pressure or stress.
Hopefully, we have helped you to locate a lost life insurance policy. As you can see, there are actually many different methods that people use so this is why we said that there was no need to panic just yet. If one step doesn’t work, continue down this list and keep trying different sources. At some point, you are likely to find a name and this is all you need to get the ball rolling. Once you know the name of the insurer, you can get in contact and the necessary arrangements can be made.
Making a Claim
To start, you will need to contact the company and let them know that you wish to make a claim. As you may know, there are some documents that you will need to start the process and it normally begins with the death certificate and the claim form. When it comes to the death certificate, this can normally be obtained from the county recorder and you will need one certified copy per policy. For the claim form, this will be given to you by the insurer.
If you find the policy document, this will also be required. If it remains lost, you should be able to continue the process but it will require more paperwork as well as extensive background and identity checks as you would expect. Once the claim form has been sent, it is then just a waiting game and you will hear back from the company in good time.
There we have it, some superb advice for you regarding lost life insurance policies. As long as you follow the steps above, you should be in a good position to make a claim in the near future. As we have said, the best way to prevent this happening again or when you pass away is to share the appropriate information with the right people. If all the documents are readily available and loved ones have the correct information, it saves stress, time, and even money!