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How to Find a “Lost” Life Insurance Policy

You may have noticed some of the country’s largest life insurance providers, such as AIG, MetLife and Prudential, have been in the news lately.  A handful of states recently settled with MetLife and AIG for millions of dollars in order to eliminate old and introduce new claims handling procedures when it comes to unclaimed life insurance policies.  Throughout an investigation that started in 2011, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that insurance companies such as MetLife and AIG were using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master List to stop making payments to the insured that had passed away, but were not using this same resource to identify life insurance policyholders that had passed away.  The NAIC felt the insurance companies have an obligation to attempt to locate the beneficiaries of these deceased policyholders instead of quietly pocketing the money as profits.

For more information on the outcome of this investigation, see the NAIC News Release.

Where to Start Looking

Although a life insurance policyholder should notify their named beneficiaries of any and all policies payable to them in the event of their passing, all too often beneficiaries are unaware that these policies even exist.  In the event you are unable to locate the life insurance policy of a deceased, or are unsure if the deceased had a life insurance policy, the NAIC suggests you check a few of these places for policy information and documents:

  • Look through files, storage bins and safe deposit boxes.  You might find a current or old copy of the life insurance policy, or another life insurance policy application, which will likely list all the insured’s life insurance policies.
  • Skim through the insured’s contact list for insurance listings. Look for names of insurance agents, claims reps or insurance companies.  A quick call to these people will help to eliminate some of the possible providers.
  • Contact any attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, bankers, business associates or any other financial advisors of the insured.  They may be aware of important information on the insured’s insurance policies, including the location of policy information, etc.
  • Cancelled checks or bank statements for automatic payments to an insurance company can help to narrow down the list of possible insurance providers of the life insurance policy.
  • Income tax returns from the last few years may reveal if the insured claimed any interest earned on his/her insurance policies.
  • Contact the insured’s auto or homeowners insurance agent.  They may have sold or written the life insurance policy for the insured, and would therefore be able to provide you with all the information you would need in order to file a claim for benefits under the life insurance policy.

What You Will Need

In order to investigate the identity of the insurance provider, you will need to gather a few pieces of information and documents.  The more information that you can locate, the easier it will be to investigate the existence and/or location of the life insurance policy.  Here are a few things you will need to try to find:

  • What type of policy was it?  The two main types of life insurance policies are term life insurance and permanent life insurance.
  • An old copy of policy will list important policy information.
  • Personal information of deceased (i.e., their full name, including maiden name, Social Security Number, and the state in which the policy was purchased).
  • Copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
  • Try to determine if the life insurance policy was purchased through an insurance company, agent or broker, or through an employer.  Contact their customer service or HR department to obtain additional information and details on the insured’s insurance policies.

Who Can Help

If you are unable to locate any information pointing towards a particular insurance company, agent or broker, gather as much information as you can on the state in which the policy was purchased.  Contact the State Insurance Department of the state in which the life insurance policy was purchased.  According to the NAIC, “life insurance companies that know an insured has passed, but cannot locate the beneficiaries of the policy, are required to turn over the benefits of the policy to the state’s unclaimed property office.” Therefore, if you believe you know the state in which the life insurance policy was purchased, check with that state’s unclaimed property office to determine if you can find any information on deceased’s life insurance policy.

If you still have difficulty in collecting the life insurance benefits you are entitled to receive, contact Grabhorn Law for further assistance.

Source:  Looking in the “Lost and Found”:  How to Locate a Life Insurance Benefit When You Don’t Have the Policy – NAIC Consumer Alert –