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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

QHow can I find out if my relative had life insurance?

A

Unfortunately, there's no clearinghouse of information on life insurance policies.  You will have to do some legwork to determine if a policy existed.  Here are some suggestions on how to discover if your late relative had a life insurance policy:

  • Contact other family members (i.e., spouse, siblings or children) who may have been privy to your relative's finances. Perhaps they will know if he or she had insurance and from whom it was purchased.
  • Ask your relative's lawyer, banker or accountant. If he or she had these professionals, one should know if a life insurance policy was purchased.
  • Go through canceled checks or contact your deceased relative's bank for copies of old checks. If he or she wrote checks to pay premiums, the insurer's name should be listed on the checks.
  • Check old credit card statements. Your relative may have paid premiums by credit card.
  • Check probate court records. If the estate has gone through or is in probate court, a life insurance policy could show up as an asset.
  • Contact the relative's employer to see if your relative had group life insurance.
  • Look for your relative’s home insurance policy or car insurance card, then track the agent: He may have sold your relative a life insurance policy or at least know from whom it may have been purchased.
  • If your relative bought life insurance within the last seven years, there might be a trail of the companies to which he/she applied. The MIB maintains a database of information contained in life, health and disability applications. Record searches can be requested through the MIB and cost $75.
  • Check with your state’s insurance regulator.  A number of states now offer online life insurance policy locators. 

If there is a policy and it’s not found, and the life insurer doesn’t contact the beneficiaries to alert them to the policy, it can go unclaimed. This is unfortunate for all involved, as a policy was paid for that no one benefited from in the end. 

There is no question about it, it’s important for the owner of a policy to inform others of their life insurance policy – including details of who the policy is with and where the paperwork is located -- so the rightful beneficiaries can claim upon the insured’s death.

For more, read how to find missing life insurance policies.

Last updated: Aug. 11, 2016