Losing a loved one is a traumatic and painful experience. The aftermath and the many arrangements to be made can be overwhelming. If you believe you were named as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy but you don’t know how to find out, don’t panic, because there are a number of ways to track down a missing policy.
Facts About Missing Life Insurance Policies and Assets
- More than 25% of all life insurance policies aren’t claimed because either a person doesn’t know their loved one had a policy or they just can’t find it.
- When Prudential reorganized their business structure they could not locate 1.2 million policyholders.
- When John Hancock converted to stock ownership, they could not locate 400,000 policyholders.
- When MetLife demutualized, 60 million shares of its stock went unclaimed.
Lost a Life Insurance Policy: Where to Look First
Where do you start when you can’t find a missing life insurance policy? There are a number steps you can take to find vital clues for locating it.
Here are some basic steps to get you started in your search:
- Locate the deceased person’s bank statements and canceled checks and review them carefully for payments made to an insurance company.
- Check with the person’s bank; some banks also are in the business of selling life insurance to their customers.
- Examine credit card statements for premium payments and income tax records for possible life insurance interest dividends.
- Call employers who may have provided life insurance or know of a union or professional association’s life insurance sponsorship.
- Go through all of the person’s documents, files, drawers and storage boxes; you never know where a person may have chosen to store life insurance documents.
More Ways to Find a Missing Life Insurance Policy
Still having trouble locating that lost insurance policy? Here are a few contact ideas that may be helpful when trying to track down a misplaced policy:
- Check the person’s address book for a family lawyer, insurance agent or other financial advisor who may have knowledge about a missing life insurance policy.
- Contact the local insurance department in the state where you believe the policy was purchased. Note that when an insurance company knows someone has died and can’t locate the beneficiary, the unclaimed insurance funds are turned over to the state’s unclaimed property office.
- Contact the Medical Information Bureau. A representative can check for any existing paper trail going back 12 years through their Policy Locator Service, for a small fee. Life insurance companies use this bureau to obtain medical information when someone applies for a policy, and may have records that can help with your search.
- Contact the Missing Policy Service at the American Council of Life Insurance in Washington, DC.
- Hire a specialized search firm to look for a lost life insurance policy and other unclaimed assets. These organizations can conduct a search for you for a fee.
Collecting Information for a Missing Life Insurance Policy
The basic information you will need to conduct a search for a lost life insurance policy includes:
- The person’s full name, including maiden name if applicable
- The person’s date of birth
- The person’s social security number
- Addresses of residence, dating back as far as several decades
- Old policy numbers, if available
Note that many life insurance companies buy policies in bulk from each other and the policy could be with a new company. The policy number may have changed.
How Do I Know if the Life Insurance Claim Will be Paid?
There are three possible scenarios to consider:
- Term Life Insurance Policy: If the deceased person paid their premium up to the date of their death and passed away during the term period, the beneficiary is entitled to receive death benefits.
- Permanent Life Insurance Policy: The beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits as long as the policy is in force, and would receive any accrued interest backdated to when the person passed away.
- Lapsed Policy: Many life insurance policies have a non-forfeiture clause in the policy under which the insurance company continues payment of the full or partial premium even if a policyholder didn’t pay the premium. Even if a policy has lapsed, you may still be eligible for a full or partial receipt of the life insurance proceeds.
Eliminating Confusion About Life Insurance
Independent agents in the Trusted Choice network who specialize in life insurance deal with complicated scenarios every day. A local member agent can help when you want to get your questions answered, whether you want to convert a term life policy to a permanent policy, or want to know the best way to find a lost life insurance policy. Contact a local member agent today for help with all of your insurance needs.