- Written by Lindsey Crossmier
Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.Read More
- Edited ByLamia Chowdhury
Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.Read More
- Reviewed ByEric Estevez
Owner of HLC Insurance Broker, LLC
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 6, 2023
- 7 min read time
- This page features 8 Cited Research ArticlesKey Takeaways
- There are local and national databases that can help you find a life insurance policy.
- To avoid delays, make sure you have the proper documentation in order, like a death certificate, before trying to start your claim.
- Even if the policy has lapsed, you could still qualify for a death benefit.
Steps To Finding Out If a Life Insurance Policy Exists
There are many ways to find out if a life insurance policy exists. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) database and the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) databases can help you find a policy. In addition, you can contact the deceased’s employer or look for policy documents for specific information.Pro TipCold calling life insurance companies would be a tedious and ineffective method. There are other steps you can take to streamline the process during this difficult time.
“The first place to start looking is the NAIC database,” Steve Rohrig told RetireGuide. Rohrig is an associate director of training at Senior Market Sales, as well as a certified life underwriter, chartered financial consultant and retirement income certified professional.
Use a Life Insurance Policy Locator Service
The most well-known service is the NAIC policy locator. To use the database, you’ll need to make an account and enter your personal information.You’ll also need to input the deceased’s:
- Social Security number
- Legal first and last name
- Date of birth
- Date of death
Once the policy is found, the life insurance company will contact you within 90 days. You do not need to contact the life insurance company yourself.
You can also use the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) policy locator tool. If the insurance company knows the insured passed but can’t find the beneficiary, this is where the death benefit will be located.
You’ll need to know the state where the life insurance policy was initially purchased to properly search through NAUPA’s policy locator tool. If you’re unsure, you can guess and keep searching until the policy is found.
Other Ways To Find a Lost Life Insurance Policy
You can also call your state’s insurance department. They can help you find the provider. The Insurance Information Institute has a list of each state’s department of insurance with their phone numbers.
If you know the name of the life insurance company, you can contact them directly to see if the policy exists.
Check With the Employer or Former Employer of the Deceased
Life insurance coverage was available to 57% of private industry workers and 79% in management, professional, and related occupations, according to a 2022 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With those high percentages, there’s a chance your loved one could have had coverage through their workplace.
Make sure you ask to speak to an HR representative and have documentation ready to prove your relations to the deceased.
Look for Policy Documents or Payment Receipts
“Check in their filing system for annual statements, premium bills and bank accounts for anything that mentions policies in force,” Rohrig told RetireGuide.
You can also check their safety deposit box or contact the deceased’s auto or home insurance agent to see if they purchased life insurance coverage through them.3 Minute Quiz: Can You Retire Comfortably?Take our free quiz & match with a financial advisor in 3 easy steps. Tailored to your goals. Near you or online.
What To Do If You Find a Life Insurance Policy
Once you find the life insurance policy, you need to contact the life insurance company to file a claim. Some issuers allow you to start this process online.Documents Needed for Filing a Life Insurance Claim:
- Certified copies of the death certificate
- Autopsy report
- Copy of the life insurance policy
- Completed claim forms
Whether you have all your required documents in order dictates how long it will take for your life insurance to pay out.
If you need help filling out the claim forms, contact a certified life insurance agent.Advertisement
Understand the Payout Options Available to You
Once your claim is submitted, you’ll need to choose how you want the death benefit paid out to you. There are four main payout types.Life Insurance Payout Types
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- Lump-Sum Payments
- You will receive the entire death benefit in one payment.
- Installments and Annuities
- You will get the death benefit in smaller, scheduled payments over time.
- Retained Asset Account
- The death benefit is kept in a checking account run by the issuing insurance company. You can access it by writing checks.
Common Issues When Finding a Life Insurance Policy
“Your roadblocks are going to be privacy issues and data security. Make sure you have the death certificate and proper documentation,” Rohrig told RetireGuide.
“To make sure you have the proper documents, call ahead of time and ask what’s needed. You should expect some proof of who you are and your relation to the deceased.”
There are other common issues when looking for a policy, like if the policy has lapsed or if the company went out of business. Learn how to navigate these roadblocks and secure your benefit.
The Policy Has Lapsed or Is No Longer in Force
There is a grace period with most life insurance policies when the insurer will still review your payout claim, even if the policy has lapsed. According to Progressive, the grace period typically ranges between 30 to 90 days.
Confirm the grace period for the policy, you could still be entitled to a payout even if the policy has lapsed. If the policy is no longer in force, you likely won’t get a payout.
Policy Information Is Outdated or Inaccurate
Life insurance policies allow for multiple beneficiaries. For example, the insured had listed a primary beneficiary and planned to make you the secondary beneficiary.
But if the primary beneficiary passes away and the insured failed to officially make you the secondary beneficiary before passing, this outdated information can make the payout go unclaimed.
Generally, if the insured made a mistake and you aren’t listed as a beneficiary, you won’t be entitled to a payout.
Follow up with your state’s unclaimed property laws to see how unclaimed life insurance is handled.
Multiple Policies Exist but Only One Is Found
Some buy multiple life insurance policies and ladder them for additional coverage. If you know multiple policies exist and only find one, it can still help you find the rest.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the application includes a list of any other life insurance policies owned at the time of the application.
This can provide you with the names of the other policies, so you can reach out to them directly for more information.
The Insurance Company Changed Names or Went Out of Business
If the life insurance company who issued the policy changed names, contact the insurance department in the insurance company’s home state.
The state insurance department will have records of the company’s current name, mergers and other details so you will know which company to contact.
The NAIC has an online tool to help you find links to each state’s insurance department.
If the issuing company goes out of business, a reinsurance company will help you receive some, if not all the death benefit. If there’s a shortfall of funds to pay death benefits to policyholders, the state guaranty associations will step in.
According to the National Organization of Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Associations, each state has different laws for guaranteed coverage, but typically $300,000 is covered for life insurance death benefits.Never Miss Important News or Updates with Our Weekly NewsletterGet money-saving tips, hard-to-find info and tactics for a successful retirement in our free weekly newsletter.
Life Insurance Policy Search FAQsHow can you find out if someone has a life insurance policy on you?No one can legally take out a life insurance policy without your consent, so you should know if someone has a life insurance policy on you or not.How can you find out if you are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy?To find out if you’re a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, contact the issuing life insurance company. They should have the information available. If you don’t know the name of the life insurance company, use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) policy finder tool.How can you prevent your own life insurance policy from going unclaimed after your death?Make sure you let your primary and secondary beneficiaries know that the policy exists and give them their own printed copies of the policy.Last Modified: July 6, 2023Advertisement
8 Cited Research Articles
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2023). Locating the Company that Services your Life Insurance Policy. Retrieved from https://content.naic.org/consumer_life_co_locator.htm
- Insurance Information Institute. (2023). Tips for Finding a Lost Life Insurance Policy. Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/how-can-i-locate-lost-life-insurance-policy
- Insurance Information Institute. (2023). How Do I File a Life Insurance Claim? Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/how-do-i-file-life-insurance-claim
- National Organization of Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Associations. (2023). What Happens When an Insurance Company Fails? Retrieved from https://www.nolhga.com/policyholderinfo/main.cfm/location/insolvencyprocess
- Progressive. (2023). What Is a Life Insurance Policy Lapse? Retrieved from https://www.progressive.com/answers/life-insurance-lapse/
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 22). Employee Benefits in the United States Summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.nr0.htm
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2021, September 7). Learn How to Use the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator. Retrieved from https://content.naic.org/article/learn-how-use-naic-life-insurance-policy-locator
- Northwestern Mutual. (2021, March 24). Can You Take Out Life Insurance on Someone Without Them Knowing? Retrieved from https://www.northwesternmutual.com/life-and-money/can-you-take-out-life-insurance-on-someone-without-them-knowing/
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