Ask the Life Insurance Expert

My father died, and I think he had a life insurance policy, but my stepmother won't give me any information. How can I find out if I'm a beneficiary?

This kind of nightmarish situation is more common than many people might think. Unfortunately, you won't find a national database of every life insurance policy that's been issued in the United States. But you can take some steps to unearth clues about the missing life insurance policy.

First of all, rest assured no one can steal the life insurance money from you if you are named the beneficiary on the policy. Life insurance companies make sure the checks are made out to the right people.

If you can't lay your hands on a copy of the policy, try to find out the name of the company that issued it. Ask your dad's financial adviser, if he had one. Go through your father's old bank statements and other financial papers if you can access them. Look for checks or credit card payments made to life insurance companies. If your review of his records doesn't turn up anything, consider hiring a forensic accountant to investigate.

Contact your dad's auto or home insurance agent. People often use the same company for all their insurance needs, so it's possible your dad purchased the life insurance policy through one of those agents.

You can check with MIB Group's policy locator service, but be aware that its database stretches back only to 1996, and it does not track all types of life insurance.

FindYourPolicy.com provides a service that lets people store their policy information so beneficiaries can find it. Policyholders can register the name of their life insurance company for free along with their full name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security number. The names of beneficiaries and the amount of life insurance are not included, but the name of the life insurance company gives you a place to call to ask about the policy. There is a fee for searching the database.

For more, see What to do if your family holds a life insurance policy hostage.

Last updated: Dec. 19, 2011
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