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Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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A life insurance policy is the best way to ensure your loved ones are financially secure in the event of an untimely death.

Too often, possibly a result of poor communication or simple absent-mindedness, beneficiaries of life insurance policies are unaware of their right to money from an existing, in-force, life insurance policy.

While statistics vary, there may be over $1,000,000,000 (a billion!) worth of unclaimed life insurance benefits out there…waiting for someone to show up and claim it.

Please note; it is the beneficiary’s responsibility to locate unclaimed benefits. As with any other personal financial matters, the information is often times confidential.

As a result, insurance companies likely won’t be knocking down doors to find someone to write an, often times, large check to.

How Do I Determine If I am A Beneficiary to A Life Insurance Policy?

Well, as with locating any money you are owed by a company, it isn’t terribly easy, but may be more than worth the effort if you are the least bit sure you might be a beneficiary of a policy.

Here are some of the steps you can take to complete your investigation:

1. Check with your State Office for Unclaimed Property (or the state in which the deceased lived). This is the office of government who keeps track of this sort of thing (and any other unclaimed property for that matter).

2. If you have access, you should look through the deceased’s personal financial statements and records, either paper or electronic if possible.

If a life insurance policy is in-force, there will likely be a record of monthly or quarterly insurance premium payments.

Contact any companies you believe may have been receiving premium payments to determine if a policy was active at the time of the passing.

3. Does the deceased employ an accountant or attorney? If yes, establish contact with the person or company to see if a life insurance policy existed.

4. Contact the deceased’s employer, who may have had an individual or group life insurance policy in effect at the time of passing.

5. If you have exhausted all options above or simply don’t have the time to do the research, but are confident there may be an unclaimed benefit, you may seek to hire a private investigator to do some research for you.

You need to get your ducks in a row prior to contacting your State Department of Unclaimed Property.

They are going to require you have a death certificate for the deceased and a notarized application to conduct any search for benefits.

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