When a loved one dies, it is not always easy to find and collect the decedent's assets, especially life insurance policies. There may be policies insuring the decedent's life, which were purchased decades ago, through a professional organization or even by the decedent's parents when the decedent was a young child. In addition, insurance companies can change names and merge after a policy is issued, further complicating the process.
When starting to look for a life insurance policy, one should:
- Review the decedent's personal papers for life insurance policies, premium notices, dividend notices, and other insurance-related statements.
- Search the contents of the decedent's safe deposit box for life insurance policies.
- Check with the insurance agent for the decedent's homeowners and automobile insurance to see if the agent also wrote a life insurance policy for the decedent.
- Contact the decedent's current and former employers to inquire whether group or other life insurance was purchased through an employer-sponsored program.
- Review the decedent's bank account for the last year for cancelled checks or electronic payments for life insurance premium or policy loan interest payments.
- Examine the decedent's recent income tax returns for any policy dividend payments or demutualization payments from life insurance companies.
- If the decedent was a member of a fraternal organization, association, union, or other such entity, check to see if the entity offered life insurance to its members.
- Check the decedent's address book for insurance, financial, and legal professionals who may be aware of life insurance policies.
If your search doesn't turn up any results, you can also contact the following entities to request a life insurance policy search:
- Check with the abandoned or unclaimed property office(s) for the decedent's state(s) of residence as insurers are required to turn over policies when they know an insured has died but the insurer cannot find the beneficiary(ies) stated on the policy.
- Request a policy search through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Life Insurance Policy Locator.
- Some states have created specific resources to assist with locating life insurance policies, including Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont.
- Some major life insurance companies have established online lost policy finders, at no cost, including Canada Life/Great-West Life, Metlife, New York Life, John Hancock, and Sun Life of Canada.
- The Medical Information Bureau, which maintains a database of requests made by insurers for an individual's medical information, offers Policy Locator Services, for a fee, that will search its database for a decedent if requested by the decedent's executor, surviving spouse, or child when there is no spouse.
- Other private search services can also be hired to search for a lost life insurance policy for a fee.
To search for a policy and/or make a claim, you will need:
- Decedent's full name and, if applicable, maiden name
- Decedent's social security number
- Decedent's death certificate
- An interest in the policy (named beneficiary or executor)
- Evidence of your identity
If a loved one is still alive, a conversation about existing life insurance coverage can save a lot of time, headaches, and a potential loss of benefits.
However, if a loved one has dementia, mental illness, or some other medical situation where he or she may not be able to tell you about his or her life insurance coverage, and you have authority through a power of attorney or guardianship, the above suggestions can help you to determine if your living loved one has life insurance coverage as well.