Each year, hundreds of families conduct frantic searches through boxes and drawers and cupboards and files, anxiously (and perhaps a bit guiltily, too) tracking down the life insurance policies of a recently deceased relative or close friend.
This is not a fun job. And there is no national or state-wide database that lists in-force life insurance policies that could help speed the search.
Should someone close die, and you are unable to find any hard copy or copies of his or her life insurance policies – and you have reason to believe such paperwork exists – do not despair! There are some steps to take that may well save the day!
- Search files, address books, telephone books, bank safety deposit boxes: Look for names of insurance agents and carriers in those files. Bank books and canceled checks may show evidence of premium payments to a life insurance company. And premiums may have been paid by ACH agreement, so look at bank statements, too. If you think you remember a company that the deceased mentioned or may have had a policy with, contact that company – even if you are not 100% sure. And many policies are tucked into safety deposit boxes.
- Contact the employee benefits offices at their places of employment: Former employers may have a record of past group policies. There may be some benefits available for the late employee’s beneficiaries, though the odds are that group policy will not be in force if the deceased was not a group member at the time of death. And check with unions or associations that the deceased supported to find out if insurance was purchased through them.
- Check with current and prior financial advisors: The deceased’s attorney, accountant, financial planner or insurance agent may have information about life insurance policies that were purchased, then forgotten about. It happens!
- Review life insurance applications: Attached to every life insurance policy is the application for that policy. If you track down any of the deceased’s policies, check the application. It will have a list of all other life insurance policies owned at the time of that application.
- Insurance is a state-regulated industry: Check the state department of financial services or insurance regulation for guidelines or other resources to aid your search. And contact that state’s unclaimed property office to see if any unclaimed money from life insurance policies has been turned over to the state. Check this periodically for a few years at least.
- Review the deceased’s income tax returns: Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.
- Check the mail for at least a year after the deceased’s death to identify premium notices, annual reports or other communications from a life insurance company: Premium notices are often sent on an annual basis. Even if a policy is paid up, the company many still send a notice regarding policy status.