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When you purchase life insurance, you receive a policy contract laying out the premium, benefits, conditions and the beneficiary who would receive the death benefit. This is an important document that should be carefully filed away for future use.
Of course, as time goes by, it's possible to misplace the paperwork. If you're in this situation and worried about what to do, here's guidance on how to help find lost life insurance, both for yourself and for someone else.
What Happens With a Lost Life Insurance Policy?
Losing the life insurance policy itself will not impact your coverage. The agreement stays in effect so long as you keep paying the scheduled premiums. The insurance company has a copy of the policy and is legally bound to follow those terms; you don't need to show your contract as proof.
However, not having the policy can make managing the insurance a little more complicated. First, you won't have a reference point for the policy details, so it's harder to confirm information, and you might forget about some of the benefits.
Second, a lost life insurance policy could make it more stressful for your beneficiaries to collect the death benefit. Without your contract handy, they may have trouble figuring out what life insurance you had, which increases the risk they may not collect. This happens all too often, as millions of dollars of life insurance benefits go unclaimed each year.
Accordingly, if you've lost your life insurance contract, it could be a good move to track down another copy for yourself and your beneficiaries.
How Can You Find Your Lost Life Insurance Policy?
Your life insurance company's customer service department can send you your policy information if you put in a request. They can typically look up your policy using your name, Social Security number and contact information.
In some cases, you may be able to look up your policy on their website. If that's not an option, the insurer will likely need to print another copy and send it to you by mail. So, keep in mind that this could take several days or weeks, depending on their turnaround time.
Once you have another copy of your policy, put it in a place that's safe and accessible by your beneficiaries, such as a safe deposit box. Let them know you have life insurance and where they can find the paperwork. You could also provide them with the insurance company's name and your policy number, so they have another way to look up you insurance in the event you unexpectedly pass away.
How to Find Lost Life Insurance for Someone Else
Finding a life insurance policy purchased by another person who passed away can take a bit more research, especially if you don't have the policy information on hand. If you know which life insurance company they worked with, you can contact the company's claims department to file a death benefit claim by sending over the deceased's death certificate. If you need a copy of the policy, contact the company for their procedures on how to obtain one.
If you don't know what insurance company the deceased worked with, search through their financial documents to see if there are any clues. Check for premium invoices, other letters from insurance companies or even past bank statements which may have evidence of payments for life insurance. If you have their tax returns, you could also see if they received any income from a permanent life insurance policy's cash value.
Additionally, you could contact the deceased's former employer to see if they had any work life insurance. If the individual worked with a financial advisor, accountant or other financial professional, you can also reach out to them to see if they know of anything or have any advice around how to find lost life insurance for their former client.
Resources That Can Help
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners provides a lost life insurance policy locator tool that searches for existing policies under the deceased's name. Your state's insurance commissioner's office could also have something similar.
The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) offers a search tool to find whether the deceased applied for any policies in the past. However, this database just shows applications, not actual coverage. It's possible the deceased applied and never took out a policy, but this information lets you know which insurance companies to contact.
If it's been several months or years since the deceased passed away, the insurer may have already tried finding a beneficiary to issue the death benefit to, and if they were unable to find anyone, they could have sent the money to a state government unclaimed money fund. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website and MissingMoney.com are two effective ways to search through state records of unclaimed property.
As you can see, it takes a lot more work to find a lost policy after the insurance policyholder passes away. That's why if you or your loved ones have life insurance, it's wise to ensure you all know the key policy details as well as where to find the contracts.