Dsenior wise ear: When my father passed away, we thought he had a life insurance policy, but we don’t know how to find it. No suggestions? — son looking
Dear Researcher: Lost or forgotten life insurance policies are common in the United States According to a study by Consumer Reports, 1 in 600 people are beneficiaries of an unclaimed life insurance policy with an average profit of $2,000. It could be like finding out you have a secret savings account.
Unfortunately, there is no national database to track these policies. But there are a number of strategies and a few resources that can help you in your search. Here are several to get you started.
>> Search for files: Check your dad’s financial records or where he kept important papers to find a policy, premium payment records, or insurance bills. Also contact his employer or former employer’s benefits administrator, insurance agents, financial planner, accountant, attorney, or other adviser, and ask if he knows of any life insurance policies. Also check safe deposit boxes, watch the mail for premium bills or life dividend notices, and review old tax returns, look for interest income and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies .
>> Acquire help: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a policy locator service (see NAIC.org and click “Consumer”, then “Life Insurance Policy Locator”) that allows you to perform a national search for insurance policies or annuities on behalf of persons who died. There are also six state insurance departments (Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon) that have free police locator service programs that can help you search. To find direct access to these state resources, visit the American Council of Life Insurers website at ACLI.com – click on “Missing Policy Tips”.
>> Contact the insurer: If you suspect a particular insurer has underwritten the policy, contact that carrier’s claims office and ask. The more information you have, such as your father’s date of birth and death, social security number, and address, the easier it will be to find him. Here are the contact details for some major insurers: Prudential, 800-778-2255; MetLife, Metlife.com/policyfinder; AIG, 800-888-2452; Nationwide, 800-848-6331; John Hancock, JohnHancock.com – click on “Lost or Unclaimed Policy Form” at the bottom of the page under “Quick Links”.
>> Search for unclaimed property: If your father died more than a few years ago, the benefits may have already been remitted to the unclaimed property office in the state where the policy was purchased. Go to Missing Money.com, a website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, to search for records from 39 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Or, to find links to each state’s unclaimed property division, use Unclaimed.org.
If your father’s name or the name of a potential benefactor produces a hit, you will need to prove your claim. Required documentation, which may vary by state, is detailed in the claim forms, and a death certificate may be required.
>> Find paid services: There are several companies that offer policy locator services for a fee. The MIB Group, for example, which is a data sharing service for life and health insurance companies, offers a policy locator service on MIB.com for $75. But it only tracks individual policy requests made since 1996.
You can also get help from Policy Inspector (PolicyInspector.com) for $99 and L-LIFE (LostLifeIns.com) for $108.50, which will do the research for you.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” show and the author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send questions to Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.