Lost or forgotten life insurance policies are very common in the U.S. According to a study by Consumer Reports, 1 out of every 600 people is the beneficiary of an unclaimed life insurance policy with an average benefit of $2,000. It could be like finding out you have a secret savings account.
While unfortunately, there isn’t a national database for tracking down these policies, there are several strategies and a few new resources that can help your search. Here are several to get you started.
Search records: Check financial records or areas where your loved one kept their important papers for a policy, records of premium payments, or bills from an insurer. Also contact their employer or former employer benefits administrator, insurance agents, financial planner, accountant, attorney or other adviser and ask if they know about a life insurance policy. Also check safe-deposit boxes, monitor the mail for premium invoices or whole-life dividend notices, and review old income-tax returns, looking for interest income from, and interest expenses paid, to life insurance companies.
Get help: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a policy locator service that lets you run a nationwide search for insurance policies or annuities in the names of people who have died.
Contact the insurer: If you suspect that a particular insurer underwrote the policy, contact that carrier’s claim office, and ask. The more information you have, like the person’s date of birth and death, Social Security number and address, the easier it will be to track down. Contact information for some big insurers include: Prudential 800-778-2255; MetLife; AIG 800-888-2452; Nationwide 800-848-6331 and John Hancock.
Search unclaimed property: If your loved one died more than a few years ago, benefits may have already been turned over to the unclaimed property office of the state where the policy was purchased. Go to MissingMoney.com, a website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, to search records from 39 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Or, to find links to each state’s unclaimed-property division use Unclaimed.org.
If your loved one’s name or a potential benefactor’s name produces a hit, you’ll need to prove your claim. Required documentation, which can vary by state, is detailed in claim forms, and a death certificate might be necessary.
Search fee-based services: There are several businesses that offer policy locator services for a fee. The MIB Group, for example, which is a data-sharing service for life and health insurance companies, offers a policy locator service at MIB.com for$75. But it only tracks applications for individual policies made since 1996.
Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.