insurance

How to Track Down Insurance Policies

You might have to do some detective work to find a deceased family member's policy and collect benefits.

My father bought a life insurance policy when he and my mother were married in 1952. I believe he continued to pay the premiums throughout his life. He passed away last month, but I haven't been able to track down the policy. Do you know of any resources that might help?

Unfortunately, there isn't a national database of life insurance policies. But you can do some detective work that might help you track down more information about the policy. The steps can be time consuming, but they could really pay off if you are able to find a policy.

Start by looking through your father's financial records. Even if you can't find a policy, you might find some clues: Look through old bank books, canceled checks and tax records for the name of an insurance company. Your father's former employers, financial advisers, and auto and homeowners insurance agents and companies may also have some information.

The Insurance Information Institute also recommends contacting the state insurance department for the state where your father may have purchased the policy, where your father lived, or where the insurance company may be located. The Kiplinger.com insurance page has contact information for the insurance departments. You'll also find some more help at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Life Insurance Company Location System.

If you remember the name of an insurer, or even a piece of the name, you can find company contact information at the A.M. Best company and ratings search tool at the insurance page of Kiplinger.com. Also do a Google search for the company name. You may find some clues to its history, even if it has merged or gone out of business since your father bought his policy.

If you aren't able to track down the policy, the Insurance Information Institute also recommends checking with the unclaimed property office in the state where the policy may have been purchased (which is generally part of the state comptroller's or treasurer's office). If the insurer can't find the beneficiary, it must turn the death benefit over to the state's unclaimed property division.

For newer policies, it can also help to check the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) database, which is a database of all applications for individual life insurance that were processed during the past 12 years. The policy locator service costs $75 per search.

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