Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars in life insurance proceeds go unclaimed because the beneficiaries simply don’t know that the policies exist. If you suspect that your deceased parent, spouse or other relative may have had a policy naming you as a beneficiary but you are not sure how to find it, here are some strategies and resources that can help you search, assuming that you have access to these sources of information…

Personal records: If the person died recently, start by checking his/her will and estate papers and then searching for a policy in drawers, files and a safe-deposit box if one exists. Also look for records of premium payments or bills from an insurer. Ask the deceased person’s former insurance agent, financial planner, employer and/or accountant whether there were any life insurance policies. And review the deceased’s recent income tax returns looking for interest income or interest expense for a life insurance policy—some insurance policies include investment accounts.

If you suspect that an insurer underwrote a policy, contact the insurer’s claims office and ask—in most cases, the insurer will tell you without requiring proof of your relationship to the deceased.

Policy-locator service: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), an insurance regulatory support organization, recently created a national policy-locator service. If you request a free search at Locator.NAIC.org, the NAIC asks its 463 member insurance companies to search records for any life insurance policies in the name of the deceased. If any are found, the insurer will contact you within 90 days and request information about your affiliation with the deceased before giving you pertinent information about the policy.

Unclaimed property: If your deceased relative died more than two years ago, his insurance benefit may have already been turned over to the unclaimed property office in the state where the policy was purchased. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website (Unclaimed.org) has links to all state programs that will allow you to do a free search for such benefits online.

Claiming benefits: Once you have found a policy, contact the insurance company to ask what information it needs to process your claim.

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