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6 Steps to Uncovering a Life Insurance Policy

How To Find Out if Someone Has Life Insurance

If you recently lost a loved one and want to find out details of their life insurance policy — or whether they had a policy in the first place — follow these strategies:

  1. Gather Necessary Information
  2. Review Documentation
  3. Contact Their Insurance Company and Employer
  4. Review Bank Statements
  5. Utilize Online Tools and Resources
  6. Hire an Investigator

Not just anyone is entitled to life insurance policy information. You only have the right to request this information if you are the deceased person’s next of kin (such as their spouse or child), a beneficiary on the policy, or the person overseeing the distribution of assets.

Reasons To Find Out if Someone Has a Life Insurance Policy

When a life insurance policyholder passes away, their policy pays out a death benefit to its beneficiaries. However, policyholders do not always inform their loved ones when they name them as beneficiaries, which can lead to unclaimed death benefits that are eventually returned to the state.

Privacy laws can make it difficult to find someone else’s lost life insurance policy, so if you want to know about a living person’s policy, the best way to find out is by asking them directly. Otherwise, you can take the following steps to determine whether a loved one who passed away had life insurance.

1. Gather Necessary Information

Ensure you have the necessary information before kicking off your search. Needed items will likely include the following: 

  • Your loved one’s legal name, including their maiden name, if applicable
  • Their Social Security number
  • Their death certificate
  • Their most recent address (and previous addresses)
  • Proof of your identity, such as a government-issued driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of your relationship to your loved one, such as a marriage certificate or executor’s testament

2. Review Documentation

If your loved one did not speak with you directly about a life insurance policy, they may have left evidence of one in their personal belongings. If you can get into their home, sift through their paperwork to see what you can find.

The following documents may clue you into whether your loved one had life insurance:

  • Official communications: This can include Business cards of accountants, financial advisors, insurance agents, or lawyers. A copy of the policy may also be uncovered. 
  • Bank statements: These may display payments to insurance companies, leading you to the correct financial institution. 
  • Planners: Address books or other personal notebooks may contain account information.
  • Bills: Bills and other pieces of mail may include necessary financial information. 

3. Contact Their Insurance Company and Employer

If you know which insurance company your loved one used — either because they told you or because the previous steps provided evidence — your next step is to contact the company.

An agent should be able to tell you whether you’re a beneficiary; if so, you will have to submit the following pieces of evidence:

  • Proof of your identity
  • Proof of your loved one’s death
  • Materials that indicate the relationship between you and your loved one 

Once these items are submitted, you can initiate a benefit claim.

Alternatively, you may reach out to those involved with your loved one’s finances, such as their employer, attorney, accountant, or financial advisor. These contacts may have useful information to aid in your search.

4. Reach Out To Their Bank

If you cannot find the information you need in your loved one’s home or by reaching out to their contacts, you might have luck in their safe deposit box. These may be more difficult to access, however, depending on your state.

To access a safe deposit box, come prepared with proof of your identity, your loved one’s death certificate, and evidence of your relation to your loved one. In some cases, you may need a key to the deposit box.

Canceled checks and bank statements could also be of help in case your loved one made payments to an insurance company. You will have to present the bank with identifying information in order to access any materials beyond what you can find in your loved one’s documents.

5. Utilize Online Tools and Resources

If you’re hitting a wall in your search, the internet is your friend. Several online resources provide free search tools to help you locate unclaimed benefits if they exist. Try these tools:

6. Hire an Investigator

If you’ve exhausted all of your options and still cannot find a definitive answer about whether your loved one had life insurance, consider hiring a private search company or investigator. Some search companies even specialize in insurance and can contact insurers directly to find out about any hidden or unknown policies or assets.

Seasoned private investigators and search companies know how to navigate public records to find relevant documents, and they often have exclusive access to databases and other useful resources that can provide pertinent information on whether you have any unclaimed benefits.

Next Steps After Locating a Policy

Once you find the policy you’re looking for, your next steps depend on whether or not you are named a beneficiary. If you’re not a beneficiary and you believe you should have been one, you can contest the policy.

If You’re the Beneficiary…

If you discover that you are a beneficiary of a loved one’s life insurance policy, here’s how to claim your benefit:

  1. Get in touch with the insurance company. Processes for filing a claim vary, so ask about the steps you should take to file a claim with the company managing your loved one’s policy.
  2. Gather the necessary documentation. This may include certified copies of your loved one’s death certificate since many life insurance companies do not accept unofficial copies.
  3. Submit your claim via the forms the insurance company provides. In most cases, you can do this online or over the phone. 
  4. Decide how you want to collect your benefit. In many cases, you can choose whether to claim it in a lump sum or in payments over time.

If You’re Contesting the Beneficiary…

If you are not named as a beneficiary on the life insurance policy but believe you’re entitled to a benefit, you can contest the policy. Only a court can overturn a policy’s named beneficiaries, however, so this can be a difficult route. Here’s what it involves:

  1. File a lawsuit through the probate court handling the policyholder’s estate to challenge the beneficiary.
  2. Gather evidence supporting your argument for contesting the policy’s beneficiary. You or your attorney may have to present this evidence in court.
  3. Prepare for negotiations in court.
  4. If you cannot settle the issue during negotiations, prepare for the probate court to make a decision about the contested beneficiary.

Make Sure Your Loved Ones Know About Your Policy

A life insurance policy is important for protecting your loved ones after you pass away, especially if you are the primary earner in your household. Your policy’s benefit helps ensure your family’s financial security.

Once you get a policy and name your beneficiaries, however, it’s critical to let them know so they can avoid any complications in the future.

You can ensure your beneficiaries know about your life insurance company; you might even give them the name of your agent and information about where you keep important insurance documents.

Moreover, ensure you provide as much information as you can about your beneficiaries to your insurance company. Keep your beneficiaries up to date as well.

Putting It Together

If your loved one passes away and you are not sure if they had a life insurance policy, you can find out by contacting their life insurance company, their agent, or their employer. If you still cannot find the information you need, consider looking through your loved one’s important documents or checking their safe deposit box if you have access to it.

You can also use online search tools to find whether your loved one had life insurance, but ensure you can provide proof of your identity and your relationship to the policyholder. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If a life insurance policy’s benefit is not claimed within a set number of years, the benefit funds are turned over to the state. Each state has its own regulations on how long a policy can go unclaimed before it’s turned over; three years is a common standard.

Most of the resources that allow you to search for someone’s life insurance policy require you to provide evidence of their death, such as a death certificate. If you need to find out whether a living person has a life insurance policy, the most surefire way to do so is by asking them.

Yes. If you fail to provide the evidence required to prove your relationship to the policyholder, their life insurance company may refuse to share policy information with you. Expect to present proof of your identity and your relationship to the policyholder, as well as the policyholder’s legal name, Social Security number, death certificate, and most recent address.

Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

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Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

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