How to Find Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy
Unclaimed life insurance may seem like a strange concept — after all, the death of a loved one may result in numerous current and future expenses. Usually, the beneficiaries claim the money after the policyholder dies. However, unclaimed life insurance is more common than you think.
According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 1 out of every 600 life insurance policies remains unclaimed, with an average benefit of $2,000. Therefore, unclaimed life insurance money with a cumulative worth of billions of dollars may not go to the rightful beneficiaries. This problem is quite unfortunate. But in these times of economic distress and high unemployment, an unclaimed life insurance policy could be a life-saver for nominees — if they only knew about it.
What Is an Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy?
An insurance policy is considered unclaimed when the life insurance policy owner dies, but the named beneficiaries do not contact the insurance company to claim the death benefit. There are several reasons why that can happen, including the beneficiary not knowing about the life insurance policy.
Unclaimed life insurance policies also occur because the life insurance company does not have knowledge of the policyholder’s death. Many life insurers get to know about the death when the beneficiaries make a claim.
Why Should You Check for Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies?
If your family member has passed away and you are uncertain whether they took out a life insurance policy to benefit you, it’s a good idea to do some research and find out if you have rights to a death benefit. Here are some reasons to check for a life insurance policy:
- You could be entitled to unclaimed life insurance benefits: Depending on the policy’s coverage amount, you may be entitled to a big sum of money. This can be very helpful if you lose the breadwinner of the family. The death benefit, which is the money you receive from a life insurance policy, is not taxable, and you can use it as you see fit.
- The insurance company could be trying to reach you: If you are named a beneficiary in a life insurance policy, the insurer will try to reach you after learning that the policyholder has passed away. However, if the insured provided incorrect contact details of the beneficiaries, you might never receive a call.
Reasons Why Life Insurance Benefits Remain Unclaimed
There are many reasons why unclaimed life insurance exists:
The life insurance company may have lost track of the policyholder: Even during this digital age, the main mode of contact between financial companies and their clients is traditional letters in your mailbox. When you decide to move to a new place, you should provide your financial institution with your new mailing address if you want to keep in touch with them. The same goes for other contact details like phone number and email address if you decide to change them.
The US Post Office only forwards first-class mail to the forwarding address for a year, and even then, the sender remains unaware that the mail is being forwarded to the new address since it is not the job of the Post Office to inform them of the change.
The life insurance company is unaware of the policyholder’s death: Life insurance companies typically remain unaware of a policyholder’s death until a beneficiary contacts them for the death benefit. Even supposing the insured stops paying the premiums abruptly, the insurer will not have any reason to believe they have died — the policyholder may just be in a financial crisis or unable to pay the money. They may also be preoccupied with something and may have forgotten to make their monthly payment.
In addition, there are also life insurance policies that have a cash value component, with the Automatic Premium Loan (APL) feature. This feature allows the insurers to take out the premium from the cash value if the payment does not come in by the end of the grace period. This prevents a policy lapse, which could result in the loss of the entire death benefit. Once the cash value is exhausted, only then will the policy lapse.
Moreover, some life insurance policies are in a stage in which no premiums are due. These policies are bought with a single premium or 10–20 premiums, but the policyholder might live a long time once the payments end. Hence, the insurance provider would have no idea whether the policyholder is alive or dead.
Companies that offer group life insurance to their employees will notify the insurer of an employee’s death. Also, it’s possible that the deceased may have owned an individual life insurance policy with the same provider. However, suppose the employee has switched to another company that does not offer group life insurance from the same insurance company. In that case, the insurer will have no idea whether the person is dead or alive.
The policyholder is not listed in the Social Security list: Life insurance policy search by Social Security number is one of the few ways to find out if a person is alive or has deceased. However, millions of people are not covered by Social Security and will not be found on the list. They include federal employees hired before 1984, railroad employees, certain foreign nationals who work in the US, some state, county, and municipal workers, etc.
The life insurance company cannot locate the beneficiaries: This may be because the policyholder has written a vague beneficiary designation, for example, “my son” or “my wife,” without naming them specifically. He may also not have provided their current address or Social Security number (recommended). That is why you must add each beneficiary’s detailed personal information, so it’s easy for them to get their life insurance benefits.
Furthermore, an issue may occur If it’s been decades since the policy was taken out and the beneficiaries moved to other places. If the policyholder was not diligent about updating the contact details, the life insurance company might not be able to find the beneficiary. Moreover, note that the insurer won’t be able to disclose beneficiaries’ names before the death of the insured due to privacy reasons.
The beneficiaries don’t know that a life insurance policy exists to benefit them: Sometimes, the beneficiary may not even know that they have been named beneficiaries on a life insurance policy. The policyholder may have various reasons for withholding this information from them. That’s how insurance companies may end up with unclaimed life insurance policies.
Remember to inform your beneficiaries about their entitlement to a death benefit payout. It is also essential to provide the right name and location of the insurance company as well as the policy number.
The life insurance company cannot be located: The original name of the life insurance company may be changed, making it difficult for the beneficiary to locate it. Since old insurance policies can span decades, the beneficiary may not know where to claim their benefits from.
A life insurance company typically informs the policyholder about changing its name or location. However, if the policyholder has moved away without updating the contact information, this can be difficult.
Keep a record of such pertinent details and any changes so that your beneficiaries can claim their benefits with ease.
How to Find an Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy
If you think that a deceased loved one may have taken out a life insurance policy on your behalf but has not disclosed it to you, why don’t you do some detective work? Here is how to find the life insurance policies of a deceased parent or any other relative:
Search for Insurance-Related Documents
If you suspect that your spouse, parent, or loved one may have taken out a life insurance policy, you should look into their old paperwork. Go through their files, bank safe deposit boxes, and other places where they may have stored the insurance documents. Look for their old correspondence, particularly snail mail, for any letters from an insurance company. Also, look through address books for the names of any insurers.
If you come across any insurance companies, give them a call. Even if the insurance document is for auto or home insurance policy, it may be worth your while to call and inquire whether the deceased has also taken out a life insurance policy from them that has you stated as a beneficiary.
In case your search is successful, you’ll need to verify your identity and send the company a copy of the policyholder’s death certificate along with the Social Security number. As for the claims process, it’s not rocket science, so you’ll easily deal with it.
Contact Financial Institutions and Professionals
If you know that the deceased was in touch with financial institutions or advisors, like accountants, banks, investment advisors, or insurance brokers, contact them to ask whether your loved one has taken out an insurance policy in your name. They may have some information on the matter.
Look for Life Insurance Applications
Every insurance policy comes with a policy application attached to it. Look for any of the insurance policies of the deceased. Whether it is a car insurance policy, home insurance policy, or pet insurance policy, the application will contain information about any other policies owned at the time of application.
Contact Ex-Employers and Unions
If the employer offers group insurance policies, it’s possible the deceased may have purchased a separate life insurance policy from the same insurer. You should also find out about any unions or professional organizations that may have offered a life insurance policy to the deceased.
Check Bank Statements
The deceased’s bank statements may provide a good indication about whether they took out a life insurance policy or not. Search for checks or any automated payments made to insurance companies. If you find something, you can phone those companies and ask them about any life insurance policy the deceased may have taken out.
Keep an Eye on the Mail
If you cannot find any life insurance policy information through the deceased person’s documents or contacts, there are more ways to do an unclaimed life insurance money search. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the mail for any letters from an insurance company. If the insurance policy has been paid in full, the insurer will not send you any notice of premium payments due. However, you may still receive an annual notification regarding the status of your policy or notice of dividend.
Review Income Tax Returns
The deceased’s income tax return can also clue you in to whether they have taken out a life insurance policy on your behalf. Take a look at the tax returns of your loved ones for the past two years to see if they have generated any interest income from interest expenses paid to life insurance companies.
Life insurance companies pay interest on your premiums. They also charge interest on policy loans. So, if you come across such transactions, you might discover an unclaimed life insurance policy.
Reach Out to State Insurance Department
There are 29 state insurance departments that offer free unclaimed life insurance search services for people who suspect they are the beneficiaries of life insurance policies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a “Life Insurance Company Location System” that can guide you towards state insurance departments to help you identify companies that have provided a life insurance policy to your deceased loved one. You can use the service by going to NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator.
Contact Your State’s Unclaimed Property Office
When a policyholder dies, and a life insurance company becomes aware of the fact but is unable to contact the beneficiary, this type of money is considered “unclaimed property,” and it must be yielded to the state in which the policy was purchased. If you have an idea where the policy was bought, you can get in touch with the state’s unclaimed property office to check if it has received any unclaimed life insurance benefits. We advise you to start by visiting the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
Use a Private Search Service
You also can contact a private search company that can help you in your unclaimed life insurance search for a fee. These agencies can do the hard work for you by reaching out to different insurance companies to find out if a deceased person has taken out an insurance policy from them.
Search the Medical Information Bureau Database
One last-ditch attempt to find an unclaimed life insurance policy is through MIB, Inc., a database for all individual life insurance policies processed since 1996. It serves as a consumer reporting agency and has all the information related to health and life insurance companies. You’ll have to pay a fee to conduct a search for a life insurance policy.
How Long Does a Beneficiary Have to Claim a Life Insurance Policy?
There’s no time limit for making a life insurance claim, so don’t worry about filing a claim too late. To file a claim, you should call the company or proceed with the process online. Typically, the insurance company will need some information, including proof of the death of the policyholder, the policy number, and their Social Security number.
If all of these documents are available and the claim is valid, you will usually get the payout within 30 days, but in most cases, it’ll take around 10 to 14 days. Since life insurers have to pay out a death benefit within a certain time limit, it is rare not to receive your death benefit within 60 days.
The claims processing time depends on several factors, including the company, the state laws, the availability of all the required documents from the beneficiary, and more. However, there are some measures you can take to ensure you get your payout on time. Contact your financial advisor to find out about the best way to claim a death benefit quickly and efficiently.
What Happens to Unclaimed Life Insurance Money?
Life insurance companies do not keep unclaimed life insurance policies with them indefinitely. Some states require insurers to pay out the death benefit to deserving beneficiaries as quickly as possible. As a result, insurance companies routinely perform Social Security database searches to determine whether any of their policyholders have died.
When the insurers find out a person has passed away, they will contact the beneficiaries to pay them the death benefit. But if no one steps forward to claim it, the insurance company will have to turn over the money to the state where the policyholder is last known to reside after a certain number of years have elapsed.
How to Prevent Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies?
If you are a life insurance policy owner, you must inform your beneficiaries about their entitled benefits. They need to know how much payout they can claim and how the claims process works.
Store a copy of your insurance statements in a secure place along with other estate documents, but let your beneficiaries know where all the active policies are kept.
If you have lost a loved one years ago but are unsure whether they left a life insurance policy behind, it may be a good idea to search for it. It can be worth your while to find an unclaimed permanent life insurance policy that you had no idea existed at a time when you need it the most.
If you have ever dealt with the trouble of looking for an unclaimed policy, it should serve as a lesson to you. From now on, you should provide all the relevant information to your own beneficiaries to avoid any unclaimed life insurance scenarios.
In addition, you must keep your nominees’ details updated, including their names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, and mailing addresses, so that the insurer has no trouble finding them.
A life insurance policy may have a large death benefit that can help the deceased person’s loved ones pay for medical bills and cover funeral and burial costs. Moreover, they can use the money for paying off the mortgage on a house or a car loan, take care of college tuition, marriage, or any other expenses that they incur. In these times of pandemic, a discovered life insurance policy can make a considerable difference in the beneficiaries’ finances.
However, make sure not to leave the unclaimed life insurance behind. Maintaining and updating your life insurance records may take some extra effort, but it can help the insurance company find your loved ones when the time comes and pay out the death benefit as intended.
Is there a database to look up unclaimed life insurance benefits?
The MIB Inc. is a huge depository that contains information from all the health and life insurance companies in the US. It can help you investigate a lost or unclaimed life insurance policy for a fee.
Does unclaimed life insurance expire? What happens if life insurance goes unclaimed?
Although your unclaimed life insurance policy will not expire, your life insurance company will not be able to hold your death benefit indefinitely. Suppose no one comes to claim a life insurance policy after a certain number of years. In that case, the insurance company will need to turn over the death benefit and interest accrued on it to the state where the deceased last lived, under the state’s unclaimed property laws.
Is there a statute of limitations on collecting life insurance?
No, there’s no time limit for claiming the death benefit. But keep in mind that the death benefit will be turned over to the state after a certain number of years, so the insurers may not have your money. In this case, you will have to contact your state’s unclaimed property office to find out the status of your death benefit.
Does unclaimed life insurance gain interest?
Yes, an unclaimed permanent life insurance policy accumulates interest. If the beneficiary does not claim the death benefit, the interest will be considered part of the unclaimed or abandoned property and will need to be turned over to the state.