When a loved one passes away, sorting through their estate-related documents can be tough. It gets even trickier when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for.
For this reason, it’s quite common for life insurance policies to go unclaimed. If you are a beneficiary, the life insurance company should conduct a search to find you. However, they aren’t always successful.
If you think you might be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you don’t have to wait for the company to find you. Learn how to find out if someone has life insurance so you don’t inadvertently leave money on the table.
What is an unclaimed life insurance policy?
There are tens of millions of dollars in life insurance benefits that go unclaimed each year. The average unclaimed benefit is $2,000, but some potential payouts could have been as high as $300,000.
Why is this happening? Communication, or the lack thereof, is usually the culprit.
The policyholder may not have informed their loved ones about their life insurance policy before they passed away. This means that their beneficiaries don’t necessarily know to look for the policy when going through financial documents. Because a life insurance policy has a beneficiary designation, it may not necessarily be mentioned in their Will or Trust.
Life insurance companies will conduct a search for the beneficiary, but they aren’t always successful. If the company cannot locate or identify you, and you can’t find the policy, or don’t know that it exists, it can go unclaimed.
For these reasons, a life insurance policy that goes unclaimed is quite common. If you have a loved one who passed away, it may be a good idea to conduct a life insurance search to make sure there aren’t any unclaimed benefits.
We provide instructions on how to find out if someone has life insurance next.
How to find out if someone has life insurance
There are several methods to finding out if someone had a life insurance policy when they passed away. Many of these require some detective work on your part.
The first actionable step is to utilize life insurance policy locators from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the MIB Group, or the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a professional group that represents the chief insurance regulators in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories. NAIC provides an online policy locator tool that can help you track down an unclaimed life insurance policy. Upon submitting the online form, the NAIC will ask insurance companies in their network to scour records on your behalf.
The MIB Group is a private company that underwrites for life insurance companies located in the U.S. and Canada. If you are the Executor or Administrator of an estate, you can use their policy locator service to search for the decedent’s life insurance policy. Surviving spouses and closest living relatives can also submit a request if an Executor was not appointed. You must submit a completed and notarized application form, the original death certificate, and a money order or certified check for $75 via mail along with your request.
Last but not least, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) assists individuals in locating unclaimed property in any state. Their service is not limited to life insurance policies; you can also search for other types of unclaimed property such as checking and savings accounts. Use the NAUPA website to search via your state’s treasury department or perform a wider search on missingmoney.com.
Other tips for how to find a life insurance policy
Keep in mind that the national search tools provided above are limited to participating life insurance companies. Your search is not over if these search tools do not produce any results. Try some (or all!) of these other tips for finding a lost or unclaimed life insurance policy:
Check with your deceased loved one’s family and friends to see if anyone remembers them mentioning a life insurance policy.
Keep checking the decedent’s mail for at least one year in case they receive a life insurance premium notice.
Search through bank transactions for life insurance premium payments.
Check with their previous employer(s) or union to see if they enrolled in a work-sponsored group policy.
Check your state’s unclaimed property office.
Try contacting some known insurance companies.
Contact your state insurance commissioner and ask for state-specific online search services.
Sort through the decedent’s personal document to look for life insurance policy documents. Common hiding places include safe deposits, file cabinets, desk drawers. Don’t forget to check their digital files if you were given access.
Check the decedent’s tax returns for insurance company interest payments.
Consult with the decedent’s lawyers and financial advisors.
Hire a private detective or search firm that is known to locate unclaimed property.
Update your estate plan today
If you can’t find your loved one’s life insurance policy after they have passed away, know that there are tools to help you with your search. Not sure if they had a life insurance policy? It’s still a good idea to check. This is because tens of millions of dollars of life insurance benefits go unclaimed each year. If you happen to be a beneficiary to a life insurance policy, you wouldn’t want to leave those benefits on the table unclaimed.
The number one reason why life insurance policy benefits go unclaimed is a breakdown in communication. When an individual decides to take out a life insurance policy, they may not necessarily share that information with anyone else. Assets with a beneficiary designation are designed to pass automatically to the beneficiary upon the policy holder’s death, and this takes place outside of the probate process. Because of this, the individual may not mention the policy in their Will or Trust, because these aren’t the modalities through which the policy is distributed.
To prevent this from happening, we highly recommend including your life insurance policy documentation with your estate planning documents in a safe, secure location. That way, your loved ones can easily discover your Will and/or Trust, plus any key documents related to assets and property that may be distributed to them directly outside of the probate process. This helps reduce the risk of unclaimed life insurance benefits that you intended to provide.
Life insurance policies belong to a class of assets that provide beneficiary designations. These are assets that are distributed directly to your named beneficiary when you pass away. They are not included in your estate and thus bypass probate. However, they should still very much be included as an important piece of your estate planning strategy. Learn more about beneficiary designations here.
At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement options today!
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