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The I.I.I. Offers Tips on Finding a Lost or Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy

If a family member or close friend dies, and you are unable to locate a hard copy of his or her life insurance policy, there is unfortunately no national or statewide database which lists in-force life insurance policies. However, the I.I.I. suggests the following steps, which can recreate the deceased individual’s financial affairs:

  • Search files, bank safe deposit boxes: A search of the deceased individual’s financial files, bank books and canceled checks may show evidence of premium payments to a life insurer. In addition, life insurance policies are often placed in bank safe deposit boxes, so it is worth taking a close look at the contents of any such boxes. Finally, a review of the deceased person’s address books may indicate the names of insurance agents or insurance companies with whom they conducted business.

  • Consult current and prior financial advisors: Besides financial advisors, the deceased individual’s attorney, accountant or insurance agent may be a potential source of information about life insurance policies that were purchased, and then forgotten about.

  • Review life insurance applications: The application for each life insurance policy is attached to that policy. So if you can find any of the decedent’s life insurance policies, look at the applications for them. The application will have a list of all other life insurance policies the deceased person owned at the time of the application.

  • Check with state agencies: State governments regulate the insurance industry. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a Life Insurance Company Location System; it can help you find the state insurance departments that can help identify insurers that might have written a life insurance policy for the deceased. The state comptroller’s office in most states also takes receivership of unclaimed money from life insurance policies belonging to the deceased, if the deceased’s beneficiaries do not lay claim to the policy’s proceeds.

  • Contact a private search firm: Several private companies will, for a fee, contact insurance companies on your behalf to determine if the deceased person had a life insurance policy. Moreover, the MIB Group, Inc., an insurance trade association used by hundreds of U.S. carriers in underwriting life insurance applications, maintains a Policy Locator Service. Their database contains over 150 million records representing inquiries submitted on individually underwritten life insurance applications processed during the last 12 years. An MIB Group search costs $75 and they claim to find evidence of one or more life insurance policy applications about 25 percent of the time. MIB Group customers must provide them with the proper documentation, including the policyholder’s death certificate and proof indicating the person requesting access to the deceased person’s life insurance information is entitled to receive it. Details and an application are available at MIB’s Policy Locator Service.
“Before having to go through the steps we describe here, grown children ought to talk with their elderly parents now about life insurance policies survivors should know about,” Dr. Weisbart said. “It is an awkward but necessary conversation to have so that families can be prepared when ‘the time comes.’”

For more information on life insurance and annuities, go to the Life Insurance section of the I.I.I. Web site.

For a related audio file, go to Finding a Lost Life Insurance Policy.

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

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