How Do Life Insurance Companies Find Beneficiaries?
With life insurance, the person who buys the policy is often not the one who will be claiming the policy.
If a policy’s named beneficiaries are unaware of the policy, it’s easy to see how the money can go unclaimed. What does a life insurer do to help bridge this gap?
How To Find Out If You’re A Beneficiary
Life insurance companies find beneficiaries in two ways. The most common way is to refer to the information that the policyholder provided at the time of application. The other way is for the life insurance company to search public records to determine who is legally entitled to the policy’s death benefits.
Companies usually notify recipients through a letter in the mail. The letter will inform the designated beneficiary of the insured’s death and provide instructions on how to proceed with claiming the life insurance benefit. If there are multiple beneficiaries, the letter will also give instructions on dividing the benefit among them. If the life insurance company cannot locate anyone, the benefit typically will go to the deceased’s estate.
How To Find Life Insurance Policy Information
If you need information about a life insurance policy, the best place to start is the insurance policy itself. The policy should contain the policyholder’s name, associated contact information, and specific details about the policy, such as the policy number, effective date, and the primary and contingent beneficiaries that were named.
If you need access to the policy itself (and are wondering whether a life insurance policy exists in the first place), then the next best step is to contact the life insurance company. The insurance carrier should be able to provide information about the policy, such as the policy number, premium amount, and beneficiary information.
You must provide the insured’s social security number and driver’s license number to request information about a family member’s unclaimed life insurance policy.
Some life insurers will require you to provide a copy of the policyholder’s death certificate to access this information.
Finding The Life Insurance Company
Suppose you no longer remember the life insurance company’s name. In that case, you can contact third-party services such as the National Association of Insurance Agents and Brokers or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. These two organizations maintain databases of all active life insurance companies.
(If your loved one has had their policy for multiple decades, there is a good chance that their insurance company changed names, given how many mergers and acquisitions are done in the industry.)
Another good resource is your state’s Department of Insurance. This lookup tool lets you find contact info for all state insurance departments.
How To Find Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies Of Deceased Parent
If you’re wondering whether a life insurance policy exists in the first place (or are worried about a lost life insurance policy), there are several steps you can take, as we’ll go through below.
The easiest way to determine if someone has life insurance is to look through the deceased’s estate documents, personal records, important documents, and safe deposit boxes.
If you have access to the deceased’s mail and/or financial statements:
You can check bank statements and other personal records to see if your loved one was making life insurance premium payments (and if so, to which company).
The premium payments can also help you estimate the size of the unclaimed life insurance policy’s death benefits.
Is There A Life Insurance Database?
Family members are often pleasantly surprised to know that they can access multiple free resources to find a life insurance policy.
State Unclaimed Property Office
The first of these “databases” is your state’s unclaimed property office. States require that banks and insurance companies report on a customer’s assets and submit their customers’ property to the State Controller’s Office when there has been no activity for some time (generally three years).
Common types of unclaimed property are bank accounts, stocks, bonds, uncashed checks, insurance benefits, wages, and safe deposit box contents.
There is no claim deadline once the property has been transferred to your State Controller’s Office. In other words, however long that takes, the state will hold onto those assets until they are reunited with their rightful owner.
NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator
The most well-known resource in this area is the life insurance policy locator service provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). This locator includes policies from over 600 insurance companies and is free to use.
Individuals who believe they are a named beneficiary on a life insurance policy or are representatives of the deceased person can use this service to submit a search request.
To complete the search request, you will need a certified death certificate for the deceased, which you can get through the funeral home or vital statistics office.
Submitting A Policy Locator Request
To submit a request, you need to:
- Set up a personal account using your email address and password
- Provide the deceased’s social security number, first and last name, date of birth, and date of death
- Provide proof of your identity
The more information you provide about the deceased, the more likely the search will successfully find annuities and other life insurance policies that you did not know existed!
Thinking Ahead: Making It Easier On Your Family
How Do I Get Proof Of My Life Insurance?
The process for obtaining proof of your life insurance varies depending on the insurer. Generally, you can access documents related to your life insurance online or via mail. If you’re unsure how to access your documentation, the first step is to contact your insurer directly. Many will have a customer service department you can call to discuss your situation and find out how to access your documentation.
It is important to note that all life insurance policies come with a certificate of insurance, which verifies the policy and details your coverage. This certificate is typically sent to you after you purchase your policy and is the primary source of proof.
In addition to the certificate of insurance, your insurer may issue you other accompanying documents, such as a policy summary and explanation. You can sometimes access these documents online through your insurer’s website. If you cannot find the documents online, contact your insurer for assistance.
Who Signs A Life Insurance Policy?
The policy owner and the insured are the two parties that sign a life insurance policy.
The policy owner is typically the person who pays the premiums. The insured is the person whose death triggers the payment of the policy’s death benefit.
For the policy to be valid, both parties must sign the policy documents to acknowledge that they understand the terms and conditions of the policy, as well as any riders or endorsements associated with it.
Whether you use your loved ones’ financial advisors, your state insurance commissioner’s office, unclaimed property administrators, or the NAIC’s excellent policy search tool, we wish you the best in your search!