How to Find a Deceased Parent’s Life Insurance Policy

Updated

Locating the life insurance policy of a deceased parent can be a daunting task. Whether they were organized or disorganized, if they didn’t tell you where it was before they passed away, you could be in for quite a search.

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You’re going to face a real challenge if they placed it somewhere you’d never suspect. It can take precious time to find a missing policy, and time can be of the essence, especially if you’re responsible for funeral costs.

In this article, we’ll look at exactly how you can conduct a comprehensive search, and we’ll give you some practical advice on how to find the life insurance policy of a deceased parent.

What Documents or Information Will You Need to Search For a Deceased Parent’s Life Insurance Policy?

If luck is on your side, you might have a good idea who the insurer is for your parent’s life insurance policy. If that’s the case, there are a few pieces of information that will help you with your search:

  • The name of the life insurance company that issued the policy
  • The policy number (which you can get from any correspondence from the insurer, including annual statements) 
  • Names of the policy’s beneficiary or beneficiaries
  • The face amount (death benefit) of the policy

If you believe the policy is in a safe deposit box, you’ll need to get a court order stating that your parent is in fact deceased. Without it, the financial institution can’t let you view the box’s contents. 

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Steps For Finding the Life Insurance Policy of a Deceased Parent

It’s easier to find something if you go about it systematically. If you’ve searched high and low through your parent’s home and come up empty, here are some steps you can take to locate the missing life insurance policy.

  • Look for insurance-related documents. Conduct a thorough search through storage areas, filing cabinets, bank safe deposit boxes, address books, and correspondence from the deceased’s insurance agent.
  • Contact financial advisors. Investment advisors, accountants, attorneys, insurance agents, and other financial service professionals might be able to give you information about the life insurance policy.
  • Review life insurance applications from other policies they owned. Many people own more than one life insurance policy. Attached to each policy you should find the application, which should include the names of any other life insurance policies your arent owned. This can provide you with valuable clues about the different life insurance companies that you can contact to see if your parent had a life insurance policy with them.
  • Contact previous employers. It’s possible that your parent’s employer provided group life insurance. All employers are required to maintain records concerning their past group policies and employees who participated in the plan. Even if their records aren’t very detailed, you’ll still get the insurance company's name, and you can take it from there.
  • Check bank statements. Were there any checks written to life insurance companies? How about automatic deductions made by an insurer every month for premium payments? There’s a good possibility that your loved one kept bank records, and you can find out from those records who your parent was doing business with when it came to insurance.
  • Check the mail. For the first year following your parent’s death, look for any correspondence from the insurance company, like dividend or premium notices. 
  • Review income tax returns. Look over your parent’s tax returns from the past couple of years. They may have received interest income from a permanent life insurance policy or deducted interest charges they paid on policy loans.
  • Contact state insurance departments. Twenty-nine states offer free search services to people looking for lost insurance policies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) utilizes a program called the Life Insurance Company Location System (LICLS) to help people find the names of state insurance department officials who can possibly help identify life insurance companies that may have issued a policy on a parent.
  • Check with the state’s Unclaimed Property Office. Life insurance companies periodically match death records with policyholder records to see if any of their policyholders have passed away and had beneficiaries that never contacted the insurer. 

If the insurer can’t locate the beneficiaries, they turn the death benefit over to the state as “unclaimed property.” If you know the state where the policy was purchased, contact that state’s comptroller department and check if the state has any unclaimed money from policies belonging to your parent. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators is a great place to start.

  • Contact a private search firm. There are several private companies that will, for a fee, help you with your search for a missing life insurance policy. They will painstakingly contact dozens of insurance companies on your behalf to see if your parent was insured there.
  • Search the MIB database. There isn’t a central database of insurance policy-related documents, but there is a database of applications processed by insurers since January 1, 1966. You have to pay a fee for a search, and at least 25% of searches don’t turn up anything. To learn more, go to the MIB’s Consumer Protection Page.
  • Wait for a call. If none of the other steps help you locate the missing policy, you may need to wait patiently to be contacted by the life insurance company (if you’re the beneficiary) when they do one of their periodic searches for beneficiaries.

Organizing and Storing Your Life Insurance Records

If you’ve been searching for a deceased parent’s life insurance policy, you know how time-consuming and frustrating it can be. The last thing you probably want to happen is for your beneficiaries to go through the same thing and not be able to submit a claim on your life insurance.

To prevent this from happening, keep copies of your life insurance records in two separate locations. This reduces the chance that they’ll be lost or damaged from a flood, fire, etc. 

For each individual life insurance policy you own, be sure you can answer the following questions (and keep a record of your answers):

  • What is the name of the company that issued the life insurance policy?
  • Where is their home office located?
  • Are they a subsidiary of a non-U.S. company?
  • What is the policy number?
  • What is the date that the policy was issued?
  • What is the death benefit amount?
  • What is the contact information (name, address, phone number) of the agent who sold the policy?
  • Is it a term life policy or a permanent policy (whole life, universal life, etc.)?
  • Where is the original life insurance policy kept?

If you have life insurance as an employee benefit where you work, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who sponsors the plan (name of employer or group)?
  • Who should I contact if I need to file a claim?
  • What is my certificate number (similar to a policy number on a non-group or individual life insurance plan)?
  • What date did my coverage start?
  • What is the death benefit amount?

There are also other types of financial products (disability insurance, workers comp, annuities, pensions, etc.) that have death benefits as part of the policy. Keep all documentation pertaining to any of these programs in a secure location, and know this information about the base product and the life insurance benefit):

  • What is the type of base policy that includes the death benefit?
  • When was the policy issued?
  • Which life insurance company issued the policy?
  • Where are they located?
  • What is the policy number?
  • What is the dollar amount of the death benefit?
  • Who sold me this policy?
  • What is their address and phone number?
  • Where is the original policy kept, and does someone I trust know that location?
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Where Should You Keep the Information?

Now that you’ve assembled this information, where can you keep it when someone needs to find it? You’ll need to tell someone where the policy is. 

For safety, keep the original document at your home and a copy off-site in a location like a safe deposit box, or with a financial or legal advisor (CFP, CPA, attorney) who will produce the document if needed. You want to know there’s a copy available to your survivors in case the original is ever damaged by fire, flood, etc.

For an extra measure of caution, write the date of the last time the information was updated. This will be important so that, if the information on the original policy and the copy doesn’t match up it will be easy to determine which policy is current. 

Organization Is the Key

Following the steps listed above should help you locate a missing insurance policy after a parent dies. If your parent is still alive, it’s a good idea to get together with them and help them get organized. That way, you can prevent the policy from going missing, and you can make sure you won’t have to hunt for those documents when they pass away.

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