How to find an unclaimed life insurance policy

There are resources available for locating unclaimed benefits

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An untold number of life insurance policies worth millions of dollars go unclaimed every year because loved ones either fail to file a claim or the policy itself is lost or forgotten.

When a family member passes away, it’s crucial to take care of the essential paperwork, like promptly filing a life insurance claim. In this article, we’ll explain how to find a lost life insurance policy and how to file a claim.

Key insights

The NAIC has a free online search tool that can help locate a lost life insurance policy.

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After a certain period of time has elapsed, insurers must turn over unclaimed death benefits to the state in which the policyholder last lived.

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If you are entitled to claim benefits on a life insurance policy you’ve found, you may be eligible to receive interest as well as the death benefit.

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What is an unclaimed life insurance policy?

“A life insurance policy is typically considered unclaimed when the policyholder has passed away, and the beneficiaries are unaware of the policy's existence or cannot locate the necessary documentation to file a claim,” said Randy VanderVaate, a licensed insurance agent in Dallas.

VanderVaate further explained that policies can also go unclaimed “if the insurance company can't locate the beneficiary due to outdated contact information,” and if no one has filed a claim on a life insurance policy after a certain period of time – typically 30 to 60 days, depending on the insurer – it is considered unclaimed.

Eventually, the insurer must surrender the death benefit (plus interest) to the state in which the policyholder last resided. This time frame varies by state law.

There are many reasons why a life insurance policy may go unclaimed, including:

  • The policyholder never told their heirs that they had purchased a life insurance policy.
  • People have not been informed that they have been named as a beneficiary.
  • The beneficiary is not of legal age. Children must be either 18 or 21 years of age, depending on the state, to claim life insurance benefits. Instead, the death benefit will go to the child’s legal guardian to manage until the child is of legal age.
  • The insurer that issued the policy is no longer in business and it is unclear what company is now managing it.

» COMPARE: Best life insurance companies

How to look for an unclaimed life insurance policy

Tracking down an unclaimed or lost life insurance policy will take some work on your part, but it can be done. Experts recommend the following steps if you need to look for an unclaimed life insurance policy:

Gather personal information and documents

In order to file a life insurance claim, you will need several pieces of information about the deceased, including their Social Security number, birthdate, date of their death, their full legal name and veteran status. You’ll also need a notarized copy of the death certificate.

Review records and storage units

If you can’t find the life insurance policy or don’t know what company issued the policy, you will need to do some detective work. The Insurance Information Institute recommends combing through paper as well as digital files.

This can include tax records, bank records and mail to look for records of premium payments, dividend payments or interest income from a policy. If the deceased had a bank safe deposit box or a storage until, check there, too.

Contact employers and financial professionals

Many employers offer no-cost guaranteed life insurance to their full-time workers as part of an employee benefits package. If the deceased was employed at the time of their passing, contact the company’s human relations or employee benefits department to find out if your loved one had such coverage through their job.

If the deceased had a lawyer, financial advisor or tax preparer, the III recommends contacting them as well to find out if they know of any existing life insurance policies.

Contact the state insurance department

Insurance companies are required to surrender funds from unclaimed life insurance policies to the state where the deceased last lived. Contact that state’s office of the comptroller to see if you can locate a lost policy. You can also use the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ (NAIC) online policy location tool to scour state unclaimed property databases.

Search the NAIC life insurance policy locator

The NAIC operates a free online policy locator tool. You’ll need the deceased’s personal information in order to submit a search request, and you will receive an email confirmation once your request has been received. However, the NAIC will not provide updates on the search process and you will be notified only in the event that a policy is located. This process can take up to several months.

Reach out to a third party

If you don’t want to do the work yourself, or your efforts have been unsuccessful, you may want to consider using a trusted third-party source. The Insurance Information Institute recommends using the MIB Policy Locator Service, a paid online service offered by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), a nonprofit insurance underwriter.

“This service allows individuals to search for lost life insurance policies and annuity contracts,” said VanderVaate. “However, it's important to note that not all insurance companies participate in these databases, so it's not guaranteed to find every policy.”

VanderVaate also recommended “Individuals can register their life insurance policies to make it easier for beneficiaries to locate them in the event of the policyholder's death,” he said. “Beneficiaries can search the database to see if a policy has been registered under the deceased's name.”

» LEARN: How does life insurance work?

How to file a life insurance claim

Once you have located a lost life insurance policy – and you have verified that you’re a listed beneficiary – you can begin the process of filing a claim. The Insurance Information Institute recommends taking the following steps:

  1. Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate. Typically, this is done through your state’s vital records department.
  2. Call your insurance agent or the insurance company. They can help you process your claim in a timely manner and answer any questions you may have.
  3. File a claim. You may be able to do this online, or you may have to work with an agent or company representative, depending on the insurer.
  4. Receive your death benefit. Depending on the company, it can take anywhere from 24 hours to a couple of months to receive your life insurance payout.
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Is there a database to find life insurance policies?

Yes. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a free policy locator tool on its website. You will need to provide personal information about the deceased, including their full legal name, birth and death dates, and Social Security number. You will also be asked about your relationship to the deceased.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website can be another resource. It searches state databases for policy death benefits that have been surrendered by the insurer after being deemed unclaimed by the beneficiary.

What happens if I’ve lost my life insurance policy?

If you’ve torn the house apart and cannot find your life insurance policy paperwork, don’t panic. As long as you know the name of your insurer, all you need to do is call your local agent or the company’s customer service department. Once your identity has been verified, your insurer can send you a new copy of your policy or help you set up an online account.

If you don’t recall the name of your insurer, the Insurance Information Institute recommends using the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) free online policy locator tool.

Bottom line

If you or a family member has lost or misplaced a life insurance policy, or if a loved one has passed away without divulging whether or not they had life insurance, you have to do some legwork to find that missing policy.

If you know the name of the insurance company that issued the policy, the solution may be as easy as calling the company or a local agent. If you don’t know who issued coverage, checking the NAIC’s policy finder website is a good next step.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Insurance Information Institute, “Fact Sheet: Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  2. Insurance Information Institute, “Tips For Finding A Lost Life Insurance Policy.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  3. Insurance Information Institute, “How Do I File A Life Insurance Claim?” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  4. Ohio Department of Insurance, “How to File a Life Insurance Claim.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  5. Prudential, “How To Find An Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  6., “Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies: How to Find Them.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  7. USAA, “Can Minors Be Beneficiaries On Life Insurance?” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  8. Haven Life, “How Long Does It Take To Get A Life Insurance Payout?” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  9., “How Long Does A Life Insurance Claim Take?” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  10. National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “Life Insurance Policy Locator Service.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
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