How To Find Out If Someone Has Life Insurance
There are several things you can do to find out if someone left behind a life insurance policy when he or she died. To find an unclaimed life insurance policy, talk with friends and relatives, check personal records the deceased left behind and contact your state insurance commissioner’s office.
- Written by Terry Turner
Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator
Terry Turner has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).Read More
- Edited ByMatt Mauney
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist, editor, writer and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience working for nationally recognized newspapers and digital brands. He has contributed content for ChicagoTribune.com, LATimes.com, The Hill and the American Cancer Society, and he was part of the Orlando Sentinel digital staff that was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2017.Read More
- Financially Reviewed ByEric Estevez
Licensed Independent Insurance Broker
Eric Estevez is a duly licensed independent insurance broker and a former financial institution auditor with more than a decade of professional experience. He has specialized in federal, state and local compliance for both large and small businesses.Read More
- Published: January 25, 2021
- Updated: July 28, 2022
- 6 min read time
- This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
- It is quite common for life insurance policies to go unclaimed, which is one reason why communicating end-of-life plans to your beneficiaries is so important.
- The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) helps people track down unclaimed life insurance policies.
- You may have to do some detective work if the NAIC is unable to help. Ways of doing this include looking for physical and digital documents, checking the deceased’s bank accounts for premium payments to a life insurance company and checking the deceased’s mail for at least one year after death for any life insurance premium notices.
What Is an Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy
If a person with a life insurance policy dies, but his or her beneficiaries are unaware of the coverage, it is an unclaimed life insurance policy. This is relatively common and can happen for several reasons.
- The beneficiaries are not aware a life insurance policy exists.
- The beneficiaries are not aware they are named as beneficiaries in the policy.
- The beneficiaries can’t locate the insurance company.
- The insurance company can’t locate the policy’s beneficiaries.
- The insurance company no longer exists.
- The insurer and policyholder lost contact with one another.
- The insurer is unaware the policy holder died.
The amount of unclaimed life insurance benefits in the United States topped $1 billion dollars by 2013, according to Consumer Reports. At the time, the average payout was $2,000 and some were as much as $300,000.
Consumer Reports estimates that the odds that you are a beneficiary of an unclaimed life insurance payout is about one in 600 — better than your chances of winning the Powerball lottery.
How to Find a Life Insurance Policy When Someone Dies
There are several ways to find a life insurance policy when someone dies. These include internet tools and some detective work on your own.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) — a group that represents the chief insurance regulators of each of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories — has an online tool that can help track down unclaimed life insurance policies.
Once you fill out an online form on the policy locator tool, the NAIC will ask participating insurance companies to scour their records to see if they have a life insurance policy in the name of the deceased person you listed on the form. The companies will also look for policies that name you as a beneficiary.
The NAIC tool has been around since 2016. More than 145,000 people had used it as of July 31, 2020. In that time, the policy locator had found 46,665 matches with claims totaling $650,520,451.
Other Ways to Find a Lost Life Insurance Policy
The NAIC locator tool only works with participating life insurance companies. If it doesn’t turn up a match, you can still do some work on your own to track down a missing or lost life insurance policy.
- Talk to the deceased's family and friends.
- Check bank statements for premium payments to a life insurance company.
- Check the deceased’s mail for at least one year after the death for life insurance premium notices.
- Check with the Canadian OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance online search tool if you believe the policy may have originated in Canada.
- Check with your state’s unclaimed property office or use the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ online property locator tool.
- Contact the deceased’s previous employers or union in case there is a group life insurance policy.
- Contact the life insurance company if you know it.
- Contact your state insurance commissioner or look online to see if your state has online search services available to look for lost life insurance policies — at least 29 states offer this free service.
- If you have a copy of one life insurance policy, review the attached application which will list any other life insurance policies.
- Look through the deceased’s personal files, books, safe deposits or other secure storage places for insurance documents.
- Review the deceased’s tax returns for interest payments from an insurance company.
- Search the deceased’s computer and other digital storage — external hard drives, flash drives, a Dropbox or other online storage.
- Talk with the deceased’s financial advisors or lawyers.
- As a last resort, you can hire a private search firm that specializes in locating unclaimed life insurance policies.
What If the Insurance Company Changed Names or Went out of Business?
If the insurance company has changed its name, has gone out of business or has been bought out by another insurer, you may be able to do an internet search to find out what company currently has its assets and policies.
Once you have the new name, find the state of the company’s home office and contact that state’s insurance commission or department.
You can find a list of insurance company names and home office addresses in “A.M. Best’s Insurance Reports,” an annually updated report on companies. It is available in many larger libraries.
Obtaining a Death Certificate When Filing a Life Insurance Claim
To claim a death benefit payout from a life insurance policy you will need two things: A copy of the life insurance policy and a copy of the policyholder’s death certificate.
A death certificate is a legal document recording a person’s death. Obtaining a death certificate copy is likely easier and more straightforward than tracking down a lost or unclaimed life insurance policy.
- Your county coroner's office or state vital records department
- The funeral home or mortuary that handled the deceased
Death certificates are public records in some, but not all states. In some states, you will need to provide proof of your relationship to the deceased. In those cases, generally only immediate family members, government agencies, the executor of the deceased’s estate and funeral directors can request an official copy.
To request a copy, you’ll need to show a valid government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license and proof of your relationship to the deceased such as a birth certificate or marriage license.
The life insurance company will also have its own rules on how to submit the death certificate. This varies from company to company, so you should check with the company about its requirements before submitting the death certificate along with the policy.
7 Cited Research Articles
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2020, September 10). NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator Matches More Than $1 Billion in Life Insurance Benefits and Annuities to Beneficiaries. Retrieved from https://content.naic.org/article/news_release_naic_life_insurance_policy_locator_helps_consumers_find_650_million_life_insurance.htm
- Allstate. (2020, January). How to Locate an Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy. Retrieved from https://www.allstate.com/tr/life-insurance/unclaimed-life-insurance-policy.aspx
- Weisbaum, H. (2013, February 4). Unclaimed Life Insurance Payouts Top $1 Billion. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/id/100431855
- Consumer Reports. (2013, February). How to Claim and Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/02/how-to-find-lost-life-insurance-policies/index.htm
- Insurance Information Institute. (n.d.). Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits. Retreived from https://www.iii.org/article/unclaimed-life-insurance-benefits
- Insurance Information Institute. (n.d.). 12 Steps for Locating a Lost Life Insurance Policy. Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/how-can-i-locate-lost-life-insurance-policy
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (n.d.). Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. Retrieved from https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome