When a beneficiary fails to inform the insurance company that a policyholder has died, a life insurance policy can remain unclaimed indefinitely. Many such policies go unclaimed each year. Some beneficiaries are unaware that a life insurance policy existed, while others may not know which insurance company holds the policy. The life insurance company may not know how to contact a beneficiary, or the original insurance company may no longer be in business. Whatever the reason for an unclaimed life insurance policy, finding it will require an investigation of the policyholder's records.
Locate the Life Insurance Company
One of the first steps in finding an unclaimed life insurance policy is to locate the company that issued the policy and request a claim form. This is simple if you know the name of the company or the insurance agent who wrote the policy. It becomes more difficult if the insured did not tell you who the insurance company was before he died. If the name of the company is unknown, try finding the insurance company in the following ways:
- Wait for the life insurance company or the insurance agent who wrote the policy to mail a cancellation notice. When an insurance policy goes unpaid, the company must give written notice of its intent to cancel the policy. The cancellation notice will have the name of the insurance company and the policy number. Call the agent or the insurance company directly to inform them of the insured's death.
- Contact the deceased's previous employer. If the insured had a group insurance policy or purchased additional individual life insurance, the employer will notify the insurance company upon learning of the insured's death.
- Determine who the policyholder banked with and review old bank statements for annual, semi-annual or monthly life insurance premium payments. If the insured paid his life insurance premiums by check or automatic withdrawal, the records will show the name of the insurance company that collected the payment.
- Review credit card statements for insurance premium payments. If premiums were paid by credit card, you might need a year's worth of statements to find the insurance company depending on when the policyholder's premiums were due. Some individuals pay their premiums monthly, others annually.
- Reach out to the deceased's investment manager. Some people use a financial planner who manages their financial affairs, including insurance policies. This individual or investment firm would have access to the insurance policies and can inform you how to file a life insurance claim.
Many of these methods require access to the deceased's personal financial statements. Financial institutions cannot provide this information without a copy of a death certificate, as well as information showing that you have the authority to access the records such as a power of attorney or a will. If the deceased designated an individual to take possession or have access to personal records, the financial institution can only release information to that person.
Search Local and National Unclaimed Property Databases
Unclaimed life insurance policies are considered unclaimed property and are protected from being kept by the insurance company. If an insurance company knows of an insured's death, they must turn the benefit over to the state as unclaimed property if they cannot find the beneficiary. The state then is responsible for attempting to locate the policy's beneficiary.
Initiate an online search through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website. This website compiles various state unclaimed property programs and allows users to search for life insurance policies or other undesignated property. Begin your search in the state where the insured died and widen the search to all the places you believe he lived. This will give you the best chance at finding an unclaimed policy.