First of all don’t worry. Insurance companies are required to pay death claims even if the beneficiary can’t find the policy of the insured person. Just because you can’t find a policy doesn’t mean that the contract isn’t still enforceable in it’s original form. You don’t need to buy a new policy if you lose your physical copy of your current one. Your original policy is in force according to it’s original terms as long as all premiums are paid.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about losing your policy. The policy is an important document that outlines many other rules, restrictions, benefits, and allowances for your particular policy. Here is an explanation of what you should do if you lose your policy, and why it’s important that you keep it.
Can you Get A Copy?
Yes the life insurance company is obliged to give you another copy of your policy if you request it. They keep copies of all contracts on hand either physically or digitally and can usually produce a policy fairly quickly when a client requests it. A life insurance company does not send digital copies of policies, so the copy is not produced overnight. Usually it needs to be printed, bound, and mailed which may take a couple of weeks. So if you need to produce a physical copy of your policy for something (such as a court order) make sure that you plan appropriately by requesting it with plenty of time to spare.
Are There Any Risks to Losing the Policy?
Losing a policy carries too potential kinds of risks. One type of risk is that someone will try to make malicious changes using your personal information, and the other is the risk that comes with the loss of information about your policy that you may not know if you don’t have it. Not knowing your policy details may sound like a small risk, but you may miss out on potential financial benefits if you don’t know about them. You may have a partial disability and not need to make payments on your policy for instance, or you may be compensated for an injury such as the loss of a digit.
The risk you are probably most concerned with is risk that someone will use your policy to make changes to it that you don’t want. This is not impossible, but it the likelihood is small. Only the owner of the life insurance policy can make material changes to it, such as designating a new beneficiary or even updating an address. Life insurance companies take fraud very seriously. If an address change is made, a notice of the change goes to both the old address and the new address. If you weren’t the one to request a change, you will get a notice that someone is trying to make changes to your policy.
Any other changes similarly create a change notice mailed to the address on record and possibly emailed depending upon the policies of the life insurance company. The selling agent is also notified so there are a lot of people “in the loop” to policy changes.
Life insurance companies also do compare signatures on change orders to known signatures on file. An order signed with a forged signature will actually oftentimes get caught by the processors (though they are not trained experts in handwriting).
There is not a lot of risk in losing your policy, so you should not worry too much. However, as soon as you know that it is lost you should call your insurance company and notify them, and request another copy of the policy be sent to you.
Steps to Obtain A New Copy
Obtaining another copy of your policy is relatively easy. These are the steps you should take:
- The owner of the company calls the insurance company customer service line, or notifies the agent who sold them the policy.
- The insurance company will verify that they are speaking to an authorized person, and then internally request a new policy to be created.
- The insurance company will print, bind, and ship a new policy to either the agent or the owner of the policy.
- That’s it! You have an official paper copy of your original policy.
Why you Want to Keep your Policy
The life insurance policy is the actual contract that spells out every benefit cost and restriction of your agreement with the insurance company. The policy will have things like:
- The owner and the person whose life the policy is based on (the insured).
- The face amount of the policy (the amount paid out if the insured person dies).
- The premium requirement that must be paid.
- Any additional riders on the policy. Riders are additional benefits or features to your policy that may or may not come with additional charges.
- The term length of your coverage if it is a “term policy“.
- Rules and restrictions on your policy. These are important and may affect the benefit paid (such as rules regarding whether suicide is covered during the first couple years of the policy life or the date at which coverage ends and any convertibility features from term to permanent insurance).
There are many things that are very important to know if you own life insurance. There is not much chance that you remember them all without your policy. While you can call your agent or customer service and they can probably answer your question, you don’t want to rely on them and you don’t want to risk being given bad information. While there is a lot on your policy that is important, here are some common things that are spelled out in detail that are important to you:
- Surrender charges. These are charges against the cash value of your policy if you surrender it. These are usually highest in the first year of policy ownership (if there are any) and gradual reduce over time. Before you surrender a policy for it’s cash value, you always want to make sure you understand any charges to get an accurate surrender value.
- Riders. Things such as the waiver of premium rider (which waives premium requirements if you get disabled), the disability income rider (which actually pays you income if you get disabled), or the accidental death and dismemberment rider (which pays you for losing body parts and pays a higher death benefit for accidental death). There are also other important riders such as the term conversion rider which spells out when and under what circumstances a term policy may be converted into a permanent policy. No matter which riders you have, they are clearly defined on the policy and this is very useful information to have.
- Term renew-ability. Most term life insurance policies can actually be renewed annually after the expiration of the defined term length. This is usually at a very increased rate, but you may choose to renew your term if you your health does not allow you to obtain new coverage.
There are many other important pieces of information on your policy. If you lose it, don’t panic. Call your agent and notify your insurance company, and you will have a new policy copy in a matter of weeks!