How to Find a Lost Life Insurance Policy
Wondering If You Have an Unclaimed Life Insurance Payout?
Billions of dollars of life insurance benefits have gone unclaimed. A 2016 CBS 60 Minutes report revealed that audits of the largest U.S. life insurers led 25 carriers to dole out over $7.5 billion in unpaid life insurance benefits. A 2011 audit ordered by the Texas Comptroller’s Unclaimed Property Division uncovered over $178 million worth of unpaid life insurance benefits due to Texans.
State laws mandate the length of time an insurance provider can hold unclaimed life insurance benefits. After the mandated period, funds revert to a state agency that administers unclaimed property. If you believe you may be the beneficiary of a lost life insurance policy, there are steps you can take to help you find it and obtain its benefits.
Why Life Benefits Can Go Unclaimed
Life insurance benefits go unclaimed for various reasons. Sometimes, beneficiaries don’t know they are the beneficiary of a policy or that a policy even exists. Or a beneficiary may have moved from the address listed on the policy and the carrier is unable to locate them. If an insurance company goes out of business and transfers its outstanding policies to another provider without notifying beneficiaries, a beneficiary may not know how to file a claim.
If a policyholder doesn’t submit a change of address when they move, the carrier may lose contact, ending the policy’s paper trail. In some cases, the insurer doesn’t know a policyholder has died because a beneficiary fails to send a death notification.
Who Can Claim a Lost Life Insurance Policy
Typically, a life insurance beneficiary would file a claim when the policyholder dies. But in some cases, a deceased’s lawyer, estate trustee, a business or domestic partner, or family member not listed as a beneficiary might file the claim. Funeral homes may file the life insurance claim on behalf of the family, particularly when the proceeds of a policy will pay funeral and burial expenses. And while someone other than the beneficiary may file a claim, only the listed beneficiaries can collect the policy’s benefits.
To file a claim, what you need to submit to the insurer varies by company. Here are a few things your insurer may require you to submit:
- Deceased’s Social Security number, and dates of birth and death
- Manner of death of the deceased, such as natural causes or an accident
- Name of the funeral home and the policy number
- One or more copies of the deceased’s death certificate
- A copy of the beneficiary’s government-issued ID, like a driver’s license or passport
Many providers allow you to submit a claim over the phone or online, while others require submissions via snail mail.
Search for Unclaimed Life Policy Benefits and Money Online
If you’re unsure if a deceased loved one had a life insurance policy and want to find out, you can turn to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) online Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. The service requires you to enter data about the deceased such as their name, last known address, dates of birth and death, and Social Security number. The NAIC submits the information to participating life insurance companies, and each carrier then searches its life insurance database to see if your loved one’s data matches the data of any of its policyholders.
The NAIC’s policy locator service doesn’t provide instant results. If a carrier finds a policy for your loved one, it can take up to three months to contact you, then it may require you to send a copy of the death certificate before you can continue with a claim.
Since its creation in 2016, the NAIC’s free policy locator service has helped more than 46,600 beneficiaries find life insurance policies and annuities with payouts of more than $650 million.
The NAIC’s service is best to use shortly after a loved one passes. If you start your search several years after a loved one dies, go to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) website. The site contains a clickable map, which links to the unclaimed property administrators in every state. These administrators oversee all types of unclaimed funds, including life insurance benefits. From a state’s unclaimed property webpage, you can enter your personal information to search its database.
If you find life insurance proceeds or other funds owed to you, you can file a collection request. The administrative agency, often a state auditor or controller, will likely contact you via email with additional instructions for claiming your money. The administrator may request a copy of a government-issued ID, your Social Security number, and proof that you reside or once resided at the address associated with the lost property. Processing times vary by state; in California, it can take up to 180 days.
Other Places to Find Information
NAIC and NAUPA’s solutions can help you find a lost life insurance policy but can take three to six months to bear fruit. Often, the easiest way to find a lost policy is through old-fashioned detective work.
- Search files: Search for financial documents in your loved one’s file cabinets and safe deposit boxes. Remember that some people also store important papers in unorthodox ways, like in shoe boxes, bags, under beds, and in dressers. Also search for life insurance applications, which may list additional policies.
- Examine mail: Examine the deceased’s mail, looking for life insurance dividend or premium notices. Also review all available bank statements, searching for payments to insurance companies.
- Examine tax returns: Review tax returns, searching for interest payments to life insurance companies or interest income from a policy.
- Contact financial advisors: Accountants, attorneys, estate planners, and investment advisors hold a wealth of information about their clients. If your loved one sought the help of a financial advisor, contact them to inquire about life insurance policies.
- Contact former employers: Contact the deceased’s former employers to find out if they held an employer-sponsored group life insurance policy.