Originally published at www.lantern.co
By: Erin Greenawald
Maybe you’re pretty sure your loved one mentioned having life insurance before they passed. Or maybe that just seems like the kind of thing they would do to help take care of you—even if they never talked about it. The only problem? They didn’t include policy information with their will, and you have no idea where to begin finding it.
A life insurance policy can help decrease any financial burden you’re facing after the death of a loved one. The money from life insurance could help cover funeral costs, give you some financial padding to take more time off to grieve or give you and your family time to get on your feet if the person you’ve lost was providing necessary income.
Even if the deceased never mentioned a life insurance policy, it can be worth checking for one—it’s fairly common for people to have policies you didn’t know about, or that you didn’t realize you were listed as a beneficiary for.
Whether you know there’s a policy or not, here are some simple steps to take to try finding it without adding too much stress to your plate.
1. Peek Through Their Paperwork
You may have already done this, but if not, a little bit of rifling could be the fastest way to find your answer. The good news is, you don’t have to find any sort of official policy paperwork to start the claims process—if you can just find the name of the insurer (or potential insurer), you can reach out to them to see if there’s an active policy in the deceased’s name.
The best places to look include:
- File folders for any policy paperwork, applications for policies, or even business cards from a specific insurer
- Bank statements for payments to an insurance company
- Safety deposit boxes
- Income tax returns (which may list interest earned on insurance policies)
- The incoming mail for any insurance bills or statements
Even an hour or two of poking around could give you just the lead you need to find the policy. If you find an insurer that you think may have provided a policy, reach out to them by phone or Google “[insurance company name] policy finder” to see if they have an online form. (For instance, here’s New York Life’s and MetLife’s.) If you are the beneficiary or are authorized to receive information, they can help you out—if not, you’ll need to have someone who’s likely listed as a beneficiary reach out.
Another good step to take is to ask anyone who may have helped with their finances if they know about a life insurance policy.
This can include checking in with:
- Financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys to see if they ever discussed life insurance
- Recent employers to see if they had a group policy
- Companies where they’ve purchased other insurance—like auto or homeowners—to see if they also had a life insurance policy through them
If these people are easily accessible to you, it’s worth a quick ask. Same as above, even if you can just get a company name you can go from there.
If you’re not sure how to find these folks, don’t stress about hunting them down because you’ve got one more easy option…
The insurance folks recognize that lost life insurance policies are a common issue, so the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has created a free-to-use tool to search for missing policies.
Simply head to the tool and enter information about yourself and the deceased (including their SSN). All participating insurance companies will then search their databases to see if they have a policy, and will reach out to you with information if you are the beneficiary or are authorized to receive the info.
This can take up to 90 business days, so it’s good to try the above options first since they may lead to quicker results, but it’s great as an easy, last-ditch effort. Even if you found a policy from your earlier searching, it can be worth submitting a request in case there are additional policies you missed.
Finally, if several years have passed and you think you may have missed out on a life insurance policy, the funds have probably been turned over to the state’s unclaimed property office. You can use a site like Missing Money to find the search tool for the state(s) the deceased may have had policies in, and see if there’s anything under your name that’s been unclaimed.