Courtesy of iii.org
Locating life insurance documents for a deceased relative can be a daunting taskfor one thing, as of this moment there are no national databases of all life insurance policies. However, with a little sleuthing, you can successfully navigate the paper trail.
Here are some strategies to help simplify your search:
1. Look for Insurance Related Documents
Search through files, bank safe deposit boxes and other storage places to see if there are any insurance related documents. Also, check address books for the names of any insurance professionals or companiesan agent or company who sold the deceased their auto or home insurance may know about the existence of a life insurance policy.
2. Contact Financial Advisors
Present or prior attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, bankers, business insurance agents/brokers and other financial professionals might have information about the deceased’s life insurance policies.
3. Review Life Insurance Applications
The application for each policy is attached to that policy. So if you can find any of the deceased’s life insurance policies, look at the applicationwill have a list of any other life insurance policies owned at the time of the application.
4. Contact Previous Employers
Former employers maintain records of past group policies.
5. Check Bank Books, Statements and Canceled Checks
See if any checks have been made out to life insurance companies over the years.
6. Check the Mail for a Year Following the Death of the Policyholder
Look for premium notices or dividend notices. If a policy has been paid up, there will no notice of premium payments due; however, the company may still send an annual notice regarding the status of the policy or notice of a dividend.
7. Review the Deceased’s Income Tax Returns for the Past Two Years
Look for interest income from and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies. Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.
8. Contact State Insurance Departments
Twenty-nine state insurance departments offer free search services to residents looking for lost policies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a “Life Insurance Company Location System” to help you find state insurance department officials who can help to identify companies that might have written life insurance on the deceased. To access that service, go to the NAIC’s Life Insurance Company Location System.
9. Check with the State’s Unclaimed Property Office
If a life insurance company knows that an insured client has died but can’t find the beneficiary, it must turn the death benefit over to the state in which the policy was purchased as “unclaimed property.” If you know (or can guess) where the policy was bought, you can contact the state comptroller’s department to see if it has any unclaimed money from life insurance policies belonging to the deceased. A good place to start is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration.
10. Contact a Private Service That Will Search for “Lost Life Insurance”
Several private companies will, for a fee, contact insurance companies on your behalf to find out if the deceased was insured. This service is often provided through their websites.
11. Do You Think the Policy Might Have Been Bought in Canada?
If so, you try contacting the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association for information.
12. Search the MIB database
As we had said, there’s no database of policy documents, but there is a database of all applications for individual life insurance processed since January 1, 1996. (nb: There is a fee for each search and many searches are not successful; a random sample of searches found only one match in every four attempts.) For more information, go to MIB’s Consumer Protection page.