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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

My father-in-law just died. He had told the family he had life insurance on the house. But we cannot find any of the paperwork. Is there a way for us to find out?

It sounds like he had mortgage protection insurance, a special policy designed to protect a family if a breadwinner dies and there's a mortgage to be paid.

These policies are purchased typically when someone buys a home or within the first few years of buying a home. The type of death benefit depends on the policy.

Years ago, most mortgage insurance policies were designed to pay the outstanding balance left on the mortgage. But most of today's policies pay out the full amount of the original mortgage, no matter how much the policyholder owed. The beneficiary on the policy can use the money for any purpose, including paying off the mortgage in a lump sum, making car payments, or putting the money in a savings account.

The policies are similar to term life because they cover a certain number of years and beneficiaries can use the death benefit any way they choose.

One advantage to buying a mortgage protection insurance policy is it may be less expensive than a conventional term life policy, and the applicant may not be required to undergo a medical exam.

Mortgage protection insurance is often sold through lenders, so if you can't find any related paperwork, your best bet is to call the mortgage lender.

For more, see mortgage protection insurance can save a house, and more.

Last updated: Mar. 31, 2011