When a loved one dies, one of the first things you have to do in this painful time is access their life insurance policy. However, many times policyholders fail to divulge information to their family members as to where their policy has been stored, for various reasons. Searching for a lost policy, especially when a family is in dire financial need, can be quite a draining exercise, more so when you are also trying to come to grips with the loss of a loved one.
How can you make the search for a lost life policy more fruitful, and less stressful? Here are some pointers:
Check the deceased’s bank documents:
Checks and credit cards are the most common ways that people in the US pay their life insurance premiums. The first place to check is your loved one’s check books and credit card statements (to see if any payments were made to life insurance companies). If this doesn’t work, ask the bank for any life insurance-related ECS (electronic clearing service) transfers. Some banks also offer policies at subsidized rates to their customers, so you will need to check with the bank if your loved one’s bank account is linked to any of their policies.
Contact the deceased’s employer: Many people opt for a group insurance if their employer has the facility. Contact your employer to check if a) your loved one had such an insurance policy, and b) if a component of his deductions was going towards insurance premiums.
Contact the deceased’s friends: Because the topic of life insurance can be frightening or uncomfortable for family members, many prefer to discuss and plan their life insurance with close friends rather than with family. Get in touch with your loved one’s circle of friends and confidantes, and they may be able to give you a clue.
Address book or phone contacts: If your loved one had insurance, it is very likely that he has kept his agent’s contact details handy either in a book, or on his cell phone. Check these sources.
Request access to their email id: If your loved one has searched for his policy online, there might be information in his or her email account. Most email service providers will hand over access to a deceased user’s email account, after making sure that you are in fact closely connected, and requesting for an authorized death certificate. However, it may take you as long as 30 days to finally get access to the account. When you do get access, search on key words such as “life insurance” “policy number”, “term life insurance quote” or “affordable life insurance” to locate relevant emails quickly.
Contact online brokerage firms: Since online brokerage firms deal with hundreds of insurance companies, it might be possible that your loved one has purchased insurance through them. Most online agencies offer free term life quotes, and if one of these was offered to your loved ones, they will have a record of the same, and if your loved one has purchased a policy based on the free life insurance quote.
Enlist the help of professional policy-finding services: When you have searched everywhere with no results, perhaps it is time to enlist help. There are a few individuals and companies who offer professional help to trace your loved one’s policy.
MIB Group has a Policy Locator service that has a record of all policies applied for in the last 13 years. For a nominal fee of $75 they will search through their database of applications and let you know if your loved one had applied for a policy, and if so, the name of the insurance company. You have to then contact the insurance company and check if a policy had been issued on that application.
Lost Life Insurance Finder Expert is a service that will fax letters to hundreds of customer service centers at insurance companies asking if your loved one had any policies enlisting you as a beneficiary. They charge a nominal fee, which is much less than it would cost you to fax letters on your own steam, not to mention saving you the time it would have taken you to compile insurance companies’ contact information.
Finally, if some time has elapsed since your loved one’s death, MissingMoney.com is a website that offers you a free online search of life insurance policies which have been deemed unclaimed and transferred to the state.
When you locate the policy, check if it’s a term life policy or a permanent one. If it’s a term life insurance policy, check that the term has not expired. If it has, then you won’t be able to collect death benefits on it. Similarly, with a permanent life insurance policy, you will be able to collect the benefits only if premium payments are up to date.
There is a good chance that the deceased may have had more than one insurance policy. Usually if you locate one policy, other policies are easier to locate as the application of the located policy usually contains details on other life insurance policies owned at the time of purchasing the policy.
As you can see, all the hassle of trying to locate a policy can be avoided if you have first hand information on your loved ones’ insurance details. If you are a policyholder remember to keep your policy where your family can find it, or better still, keep them informed of the policy details as soon as it is purchased.