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How to track down lost life insurance benefits

Document of Life Insurance Policy and calculator, for background

Locating a life insurance benefit when you don't have the policy on hand is getting easier thanks to online tools.

Free life insurance locator services at the state level

Losing a life insurance policy is a common thing. After you've checked the closet, the dresser, the shoebox and the safe…where in the world could it be?

That question may have a new answer thanks to several states that have free locator services:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Vermont

As a general rule, you'll need the deceased's full name (including maiden name for a married individual) and Social Security number just to do a search through these sites. Then to actually claim a policy's benefits, you'll need a copy of the death certificate.

If you live in a state not represented here, your best bet is to contact your state insurance department and ask about the process you need to go through. You'll likely need the same info listed above.

Of course, there is another way to go about this process. Insurers subscribe to databases that tell them when policyholders die. If they can't track down the beneficiaries on a policy, they must turn any benefits over to the state unclaimed property office.

The period after which an insurer has to surrender unclaimed benefits to the state varies by state. But if you think this could be the case in your situation, Clark has long given out advice on how to track down unclaimed money and property that could be in your name.

An ounce of prevention can help avoid a lost policy

To avoid the hassle of making your beneficiaries search for your policy after death, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommends the following:

  • Update your beneficiary information. Make sure your company and agent have current contact details for all listed beneficiaries.
  • Alert your beneficiaries of the policy. Provide them with the name of your agent and the name of the company that wrote the policy.
  • Make sure a current copy of your policy is with your will or estate paperwork in a safe place where your family or beneficiaries will know to look for it and will have access.
  • Consider asking your insurance company for an annual policy statement if one isn't provided.

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