The biggest problem behind finding a life insurance policy of a deceased relative is that there is no central, national database of life insurance policies. In fact, each insurer keeps its own records to itself and only 10 states offer a centralized search service.
If you find yourself tracking down a policy and coming up empty handed, here are tips to ease the process.
As mentioned above, there are ten states that provide a centralized search service to tracking down lost life insurance policies. If you reside in one of these states, tracking down a policy can be a lot easier. Once you submit the proper paperwork, the information will be forwarded to all life insurers licensed in the state.
The following states include such service:
- New York
- North Carolina
While each state has its own rules for this service, you generally need to be an executor, a beneficiary or an immediate relative of the deceased person in order to perform a search. You will need to provide basic information about the deceased – such as date of birth and date and a copy of the death certificate.
These searches will only be helpful if the policyholder bought the policy in anyone of the above states. For example, if your relative bought a life insurance policy while living in California and later moved to Vermont, the search system will not help.
In addition, these searchers aren’t instantaneous, which means it could take up to 90 days before an insurer responds to your inquiry.
In the meantime, you can do your own research by looking for evidence of payments to a life insurance company in your relative’s checkbook or credit card statements. It is also important to watch out for any life insurance bills or statements in the deceased person’s mail.
While only select states provide policy search services, there are other methods for finding lost life insurance policy. For example, calling specific individuals may lead you in the right direction about a deceased relative’s insurance policy.
Below is a brief list of individuals you can call inquiring about a policy:
- Employer – particularly the benefits or human resources department – about a group life insurance policy
- Financial advisers who may have assisted your relative
- Insurance agents – auto or homeowners insurance agents may have knowledge about a life insurance policy or sold a joint policy
- Bank(s) – a policy may be stored in a safety deposit box or purchased through the bank
Another valuable research is the MIB Group, an organization that maintains a database of life insurance applications going back to 1996 which can help you find a lost policy for $75. Insurance companies use the database to exchange information among themselves about customers. So, if your relative applied for life insurance after 1995, the MIB probably has a record of it.
While the MIB won’t know whether your relative ended up buying the policy, knowing where he or she applied for coverage is a significant lead. Almost 30 percent of searches turn up information, according to the MIB.
The major benefit of using the MIB is that you could discover the name of the insurance company your relative used to purchase a policy. Once you have the name of the company, you should contact them for the necessary claim paperwork. Be ready to provide the death certificate.