It’s important to talk with your loved ones about life insurance, but it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable about the subject. Instead of facing the discomfort, some avoid it by purchasing life insurance and then not discussing it with their families. Because of this, it’s very common for people to die and their family members not even know the deceased had life insurance.
Life insurance companies insure thousands of people every day. They typically do not know when a policyholder passes away unless they are told, so they are not responsible for informing beneficiaries that they have money coming to them. It’s up to you to determine if there is a life insurance policy floating around out there and it’s up to you to make a claim.
If you are unsure whether or not your loved one had life insurance, there are a few ways you can find out if you’re willing to do some work.
Gather your loved one’s bank statements. Read through them to see if any regular payments were being made to a life insurance company.
Go through the mail. Keep a close eye on the deceased’s mail for many months after their death. There may be policy premium notices, dividend notices, policy service notices or statements.
Look through storage areas. Check storage areas for evidence of life insurance, such as the policy itself or payment receipts. Storage areas could be filing cabinets and desk drawers. Did your loved one had a safe or a safety deposit box? Check those as well. If you do not have access to the safety deposit box, you will need to bring the death certificate along with an executor’s testament to the bank. Spouses typically only need a death certificate and marriage certificate.
Read through address books. Address books, whether they are paper or stored on a cell phone, may contain clues to a life insurance policy, such as the phone number to a life insurance company or agent.
Contact your loved one’s financial professionals. If your loved one had an attorney, accountant, an investment or financial advisor, call them and ask if they know of any life insurance policies.
Check with your loved one’s employer. Contact your loved one’s employer for any group life coverage or other life insurance policies purchased through work.
Review tax returns. Go through your loved one’s income tax returns from previous years to see if there are claims for interest earned on any life insurance policies.
Contact your state’s insurance department. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners website can help you find your state’s insurance office contact information. It’s a good place to start if you haven’t had luck elsewhere. Some states have online locator tools to search for missing life insurance policies as well.
Search for free online. Websites such as the NAIC, missingmoney.com and unclaimed.org allow users to search for unclaimed assets. To look for a life insurance policy of your loved one, simply put his or her name into the search tool.
Pay a company to search for you. There are several companies out there who will search for a lost life insurance policy. A few popular companies are MIB and Policy Inspector. They will typically contact hundreds of life insurance companies to find out if your loved one had life insurance. Each company has different limitations and rates, so choose wisely. Be aware that there are scammers out there who will say they want to help you find unclaimed money for an up-front payment and then are never heard from again. Do your research before hiring a company.
If you have life insurance, tell your loved ones about the policy. Don’t force them to go through all these steps in an effort to track it down. Life insurance protection for your loved ones is one of the most thoughtful financial products you can purchase, but what good is it if your beneficiaries don’t even know it exists? Buy life insurance coverage and have a conversation about it with your loved ones.
Photo credit to: Greg Ortega