Life insurance can be uncomfortable to talk about. It is perfectly natural to wonder if somebody has a life insurance policy at the time of their death. Unfortunately, when people pass away, they often pass away with life insurance policies that their loved ones never knew existed! If they did know at one time that a policy existed, it may have been long forgotten about. Sometimes even the owner of a life insurance policy forgets that it exists if it is paid up for years.
If a life insurance policy is left unclaimed unfortunate to the survivors and heirs, because it may mean that they never collect money from the policy. If life insurance money is unclaimed it also means that the policy and the money spent on it were a complete waste. Life insurance is meant to provide financial protection and a nest egg after someone passes away. If somebody you know passed away, you should be aware that it exists. So, how do you know if somebody had a policy before they died? Learn how to find a policy here.
Easy and Free Ways to Check
There are ways to find out if somebody had a life insurance policy that are easy to try and free. Here are some of the best tips for finding that policy.
- Check old paperwork- There is a lot of paperwork associated with life insurance policies, particularly older ones. Usually, people hang on to the actual policy, which is a large printed and bound book of papers. The policy itself is the actual contract between the person and the life insurance company, and it should be retained by the owner since it is quite valuable. Life insurance companies may also send premium notices, statements, and other mailers and notices about the company and the policy. Even a copy of the original application is provided to the applicant and may be kept in old files.
- Check Bank Statements- Life insurance policies usually require premium payments be made until the insured person reaches the maturity age of the policy, which is between 90 and 120 years of age depending on the issuing company and the year that the policy was issued. While life insurance policies can be paid up or self-sustaining prior to maturity, chances are good that payments were made recently to the life insurance company. If you see money going from a bank account to a life insurance company, particularly by written check, there may be an active policy!
- Check with Financial Professionals- If you know any financial advisors, lawyers, accountants, or agents that the deceased person either was working with recently or in the past, they may be aware of a policy. Even if the professional has not worked with the deceased person for decades, they may remember some details that allow you to track down a policy. Similarly, a trusted friend or another family member may also remember if a policy existed at some point.
- Check with your state’s insurance department- The state in which you think the life insurance policy was written would be a good place to start. You can find your state’s insurance department linked from the NAIC.
- Check with “unclaimed property” offices. All states have unclaimed property offices which deal with life insurance policies. In fact, if a life insurance policyholder passes away and the insurance company cannot locate the beneficiary, they are required by law to turn over the benefits of the policy to the state’s unclaimed property office. You can search for your state’s unclaimed property program on Unclaimed.org.
Use a Policy Locator Service (This Costs Money)
You can also use a policy locator service such as the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) or the Policy Inspector Service. MIB.com provides you information about the MIB, and a portion of the website is dedicated to locating lost policies. The MIB is a nonprofit member-owned corporation that was created to share underwriting and applicant information across its members, which are comprised of life insurance companies. It has become a broad information sharing system across life insurance companies, that help companies assess risk and price life insurance appropriately. Because so many life insurance companies are members, the lost policy locator is effective because the MIB can search across its entire database. The database contains almost every policy in the United States. Chances are good that they will locate your policy. It does cost $75.
Policy Inspector is a private company that will contact life insurance companies looking for a policy on your behalf. They have relationships with over 500 life insurance companies, who they can go out to and attempt to locate a policy. Policy Inspector charges $99 for a search, per policy.
Ask Friends and Family
This may sound obvious, but friends and family members may remember the existence of a policy. Even if they do not know if the policy was still in-force and active when the decedent passed, they may remember that a policy was purchased at some point. If they remember any details, you may be able to contact the likely life insurance companies and track down the policy. Remember, if you are named as a beneficiary on a policy, you have a right to know that the policy existed at time of death. If the life insurance company can confirm that a policy exists, they can also send you the proper claim paperwork so that you can get the claim processed and the money paid.
Call Major Life Insurance Companies
The reality is that most people purchase life insurance from a handful of companies in the United States. Likely companies that a person might have an existing policy with at their death include the likes of:
- Northwestern Mutual Life
- Pacific Life
- New York Life
- John Hancock
- Mass Mutual
- Lincoln Financial
- Principal Life
If you go through the list of major companies and contact the customer service departments of each company, you can ask if a policy existed at the time somebody died. If you are a beneficiary, they will tell you about the policy. It shouldn’t take too long to contact each company, and it is a free way to start your search with no other information.