Rose named her only son Jack as the primary beneficiary of her life insurance policy. But when Rose passed away, Jack had no idea where to find her policy. He had never received a copy of the insurance papers and wasn’t even sure which life insurance company Rose had chosen.
Believe or not, this is a fairly common scenario. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Typically, if you find the life insurance policy within a reasonable amount of time, you’ll still be able to claim the death benefits.
Here are a few steps you can take to locate a missing life insurance policy:
· Look through your loved one’s checkbook register to see if she had written checks to a life insurance company. If you can’t find her checkbook, you may be able to request copies of old checks from her bank.
· Call the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). This organization maintains a detailed medical database, and they keep track of insurance companies that request information on patients. They may be able to give you some clues as to which insurance company carries your relative’s policy, especially if she bought the policy within the last seven years.
· If your loved one had an attorney, insurance agent or accountant, check with them to see if they have any information about her life insurance policy.
· Call your relative’s former employers. If she had a group policy through her employer, they’ll be able to give you more information.
There is no specific time limit in which a beneficiary must claim death benefits. However, you are required to present the death certificate to the insurance company to confirm the policyholder’s death. If the beneficiary never claims the benefits, then no one else receives the money.
Avoiding a policy lapse
Although you do have some time to track down the missing life insurance policy, you should move as quickly as possible. If too much time passes and the insurance company is not informed of the policyholder’s death, their policy could lapse. Therefore, you need to make sure that you track down the life insurance company and notify them as soon as possible of your relative’s death.
What happens to unclaimed death benefits?
If a life insurance company cannot locate the beneficiary of a policy within three to five years after the policyholder’s death, the money is transferred back to the state. It is then placed into a bank account and characterized as “unclaimed property.” However, this rarely happens because life insurance companies typically find the beneficiary through the use of their own searching techniques.
Depending on the state in which you live, you may be able to go online or search the local paper for unclaimed death benefits. If you believe you may be the beneficiary to unclaimed benefits, you can also call the state comptroller or treasurer.
Make sure your beneficiary is covered
If you have named a beneficiary of your life insurance policy, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure they receive the benefits. First of all, give the beneficiary all the details about your policy, including the life insurance company name and phone number, your policy number and your insurance agent’s name and contact information.
Secondly, keep your life insurance information in a safe place along with any other important financial and medical records. Be sure to tell your beneficiary where this information is stored. This will ensure that your beneficiary can easily locate your information and claim the death benefits to which they are entitled.