Theo Thimou, Clark.com
Thanks to the efforts of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), families who are left scrambling to find life insurance policy paperwork after the loss of a loved one now have an easier way to go about the process.
Free life insurance locator service
Losing a life insurance policy is a common thing. After you’ve checked the closet, the dresser, the shoebox and the safe… where in the world could it be?
The Life Insurance Policy Locator Service now allows you to run a nationwide search for any insurance policies or annuities that may be out there in the name of the deceased. You have to be the designated beneficiary or legal representative of the deceased to use this service.
Before this tool came along, several states offered free locator services. They included Alabama, California, Kansas, Louisiana,Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Vermont. But this is the first effort to put together a national database.
As a general rule, you’ll need the deceased’s full name (including maiden name for a married individual) and Social Security number just to do a search through these sites. Then to actually claim a policy’s benefits, you’ll need a copy of the death certificate.
It can take up to 90 days for an insurance company to respond to your request for information.
If you run into any problems, your best bet is to contact your state insurance department and ask about the process you need to go through. That’s because even though this free tool from the NAIC is national in scope, insurance is regulated at the state level.
Of course, there is another way to go about this process. Insurers subscribe to databases that tell them when policyholders die. If they can’t track down the beneficiaries on a policy, they must turn any benefits over to the state unclaimed property office.
The period after which an insurer has to surrender unclaimed benefits to the state varies by state. But if you think this could be the case in your situation, Clark has long given out advice on how to track down unclaimed money and property that could be in your name.
An ounce of prevention can help avoid a lost policy
To avoid the hassle of making your beneficiaries search for your policy after death, the NAIC recommends the following:
- Update your beneficiary information. Make sure your company and agent have current contact details for all listed beneficiaries.
- Alert your beneficiaries of the policy. Provide them with the name of your agent and the name of the company that wrote the policy.
- Make sure a current copy of your policy is with your will or estate paperwork in a safe place where your family or beneficiaries will know to look for it and will have access.
- Consider asking your insurance company for an annual policy statement if one isn’t provided.