Tips for finding a life insurance policy

Finding a life insurance policy may take some time, but the suggestions below will help your search.

Search personal papers and contacts

Knowing the insurance company's name will quickly end your search. but if you don't have that information, there are ways to track it down.

Your first step should be to look through your relative's canceled checks or go to the person's bank and request copies of old checks. Look for checks made out to life insurance companies or automatic payments withdrawn from their bank account. You can also review recent income tax returns for taxable withdrawals or dividends.

You can also check with a lawyer or accountant to see if that person can track down the insurance policy or insurance company in their records.

Check employer and group policies

Many people get life insurance through an employer. Check with the deceased’s former employer’s benefits coordinator to see if they bought into the company's group life insurance.

You should also reach out to the deceased’s associations, unions and professional organizations. Those groups also often provide life insurance for members.

Check with the Medical Information Bureau

Call the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). MIB maintains a database showing if insurers requested your relative's medical information. There is a policy locator service that searches over the past 20 years and locates applications for a fee.

The only people who can use MIB are an estate representative, a surviving spouse, a child when there's no spouse, or the closest living relative if there is no estate representative, spouse or child.

Contact insurance companies

You can reach out to insurance companies directly to find policies. Some insurers offer lost-policy finders on their websites.

If you conduct the search and provide basic information, the insurance company will contact you with the information if you were named a policy beneficiary. The insurance company will also contact you if you're not a beneficiary, but privacy laws restrict what the insurance company can tell you about the policy.

Check with the state

Some states will help you find lost policies. Like searching an insurer's site, a state will request basic information to verify the policy. You may need to include the date of birth, date of death, last known address, and a copy of the death certificate.

The states that will help you with your search include:

The state may only search for policies issued there. If the deceased person lived in another state previously, you should check there, too.

If the person died more than a year ago, another option is to check with the state's unclaimed property division. Life insurance companies forfeit life insurance proceeds to a state's unclaimed property division if they can't reach the beneficiary.

A good place to start to find unclaimed money is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, which provides links to unclaimed property divisions in each state.

If the insurance company wasn't notified of the death and still expected payment, it might have canceled because of missed payments. Keep that in mind as you're searching for the policy.

Lapsed policy non-forfeiture

Policies include non-forfeiture options for lapsed policies, and that can ensure you will be able to collect even if the insured’s death causes the policy to lapse.

If the policy lapses due to the insured's death, the beneficiary will collect the full death benefit. There is no time limit for collecting a 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.

Tracking down a missing life insurance policy can be a hassle, so telling your loved ones of any policy is important.