Uh-oh! You're the beneficiary of a relative who just died, but their policy is nowhere to be found! What do you do? Well, don't panic, because if you find it in the near future, you may still be able to claim the death benefit. Here's what to do if a life insurance policy is missing:
Naming a beneficiary
If you are making someone your beneficiary, here are a couple of things you will want to do:
Different kinds of policies
Lapsed Policy Non-forfeiture Options
If the policy lapses due to the death of the insured, the beneficiary will collect the full death benefit. Also, there is no time limit on when the beneficiary can collect the death benefit. The only requirement is that the death certificate is presented to the life insurance company to verify the insured's death. If the beneficiary never comes forward, then no one receives the money.
If the policyholder dies and the insurance company isn't informed, the policy will lapse. In this case, the life insurance company will send letters informing the insured that payment was not received and their policy may lapse if this continues. If there is still no response, the insurance company may initiate a search, but if no answer is found, the policy will automatically lapse due to delinquency of payment.
Unclaimed death benefits: are they gone forever?
If a beneficiary doesn't collect death benefits, and the life insurance company can't find the beneficiary after a few years, the money is transferred back to the state where the life insurance policy was originally purchased. The full amount must be turned over to the state comptroller department within three to five years of the insured death. There, it is put into a bank account and considered "unclaimed property."
A database with the names and addresses of lost beneficiaries is located at the state comptroller's office, and many times, they try to find the beneficiaries to distribute the death benefits to. Depending on your state, you may be able to go online, look in the paper for any unclaimed death benefits, or call the state comptroller or treasurer for information.
It should be noted that if the life insurance company doesn't know the insured has died, they are not required to turn the money over to the state. If the state doesn't have a death benefits law in place, then the money will remain at the insurance company and they can continue to search for the beneficiary. Also, it is very rare for money to be turned over to the state, because most insurance companies have their own search techniques to find beneficiaries.
Insurance.com is a national online auto insurance agency, not a life insurance agency. We do not have information about specific life insurance policies, nor can we personally assist in locating a policy. If you choose to consult a service that will search for a policy for you, be sure they are reputable before you provide personal information or payment. If you have any questions or comments about this article, let us know, but please do not send personal information, such as your address, policy number, or social security number.
Originally posted September 20, 2004.