To claim life insurance benefits, the beneficiary needs to find the life insurance policy. If you are sure that your deceased parent, spouse or any close loved one left you some money in a life insurance policy and is now dead before telling you where they kept the policy, you should better get to work. The sooner you find the policy, the better it is.
It became a national issue almost a decade ago when it was discovered by insurance regulars that billions of dollars of unclaimed life insurance benefits from deceased policyholders sat in the coffers of many of America’s insurance companies. They were ordered to find and send payouts to those beneficiaries using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. Insurers are charged with searching for dead policyholders from social security records. The news headlines led to laws requiring life insurers to proactively make good on unclaimed death benefits. But frankly, the onus still falls on deceased policyholder’s heirs or survivors to find proof of coverage and to file claims to receive the money they are owed.
Our offices probably receive several calls a day from people inquiring about the existence of a life insurance policy after the death of a loved one. They become overnight sleuths trying to locate policies long ago stuffed away in a closet or a bank safe deposit box and struggle to make a claim for the death benefits they think they are owed. The facts are consistently the same: they can’t locate the actual policy, and they’re not even sure whether or not they were named as a beneficiary in the contract. The investigation begins.
This scenario plays itself out continually in our country. But at least the ones proactively tracking unclaimed insurance payouts are the lucky ones who even suspect there is a policy; many others remain in the dark. It is evidenced by the aforementioned insurance crisis of unclaimed death benefits. That is a lot of money to leave on the table, especially since that beloved family member probably paid a lot of money in premiums over the years with the intent of providing a payday for the people they loved. So, let’s begin with a bit of detective work to help you unravel the puzzle of whether you are owed any life insurance money.
Your detective work should start with a little conversation with the usual suspects. Those closest to the deceased might know if they ever talked about owning a life insurance policy. Aunts, uncles, siblings, and longtime friends are a good starting point. Their attorney, estate executor, money manager, banker, or other financial professionals would keep records on the deceased.
The best-case scenario to claim a death benefit is again in locating a will, a letter, or any document spelling out the distribution of assets in the estate of a deceased person. Search all the belongings of the deceased’s person including his closets, drawers, safe boxes, and nooks and corners of attic and basement. Also check for any storage bins, briefcases, file cabinets or binders. There is no shame in doing some serious digging all around the house if the person expired is your parent, spouse or someone very close.
If you can get access to his computer and emails, you may need to look at that too. Even online bank statements can tell you when premiums were drawn from the bank and for which insurance company. Tax returns can be of help too if the insurer had a policy with the cash-value component. In that case, look for any dividends been paid by the insurance company.
If you know that you are the beneficiary but you cannot find the life insurance policy of the person insured, then take help of the following free life insurance policy locator services. All you need is the basic information of the deceased person like his DOB, the reason of death etc which you can easily get from the death certificate.
This is required for proof of death and can be requested from the deceased’s funeral director or from the local government of the county where the policyholder died. The death certificate contains all the necessary information required by the insurance company.
Having the actual policy or policy number in hand is ideal, but just knowing the name of the carrier is sufficient for you to make a claim. Just be prepared to provide evidence of insured’ s death and that you are the beneficiary. The insurance company can then help you locate the policy with the insured’s social security number, DOB, and State where the policy was purchased.
After you do the legwork to locate all the information, remember that the insurance company won’t automatically send you a check. It is up to you to file a formal claim with the insurer.
Once you have submitted all the requirements to satisfy the claim, it’s only a matter of weeks to receive your life insurance payout. Did you know that you have options in how you to receive that money? It’s sort of like the lottery in which you can get that big check all at once, or space it out in incremental payments or even over your lifetime. There are several choices that are dependent on the type of policy you have, such as Joint and Survivorship policies but we’ll just list the most common settlement options here.
All of these payout options are dependent on your financial needs, age, health, lifestyle, and other factors for you to decide. You might want to consult a tax advisor to make sure you are making the wisest choice. Our goal is to steer you in the right direction to find any unclaimed death benefits so you can get what’s coming to you. We will be happy to cut down on your detective work, so follow the tips we provided to cash in on the money you might be owed. Happy sleuthing.