Have you ever gotten a life insurance policy from your employer and hastily written in your beneficiaries, only to forget to alert them? As it turns out, many people neglect to inform the people they love when they name them as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, both through employers and through private companies.

As the years pass by, the policy remains. The beneficiaries, though, are likely to move, change telephone numbers, and even change last names. This makes it difficult or impossible to track them down when their loved one passes away, meaning there is no way to distribute the life insurance payout to the deceased person’s chosen beneficiaries. Thus, there are millions of dollars of unpaid life insurance benefits waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners.

Unclaimed Life Insurance by the Numbers

According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports, 1 in 600 people is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy they know nothing about. The average benefit is $2,000 and, although life insurance companies do their due diligence in attempting to track down those who are owed benefits, they often come up short.

What to Do if You Think You Have an Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefit

If you think you have a relative or close friend who passed away and may have named you as beneficiary of their life insurance policy, here’s what you’ll need to begin your search:

  • The deceased friend or relative’s full legal name
  • Their past mailing addresses
  • Their Social Security Number, if possible

Once you’ve gathered the above information, you can begin your search. Here are five steps that may help you locate any unclaimed life insurance owed to you.

Step 1: Search for Policy Paperwork

If you search desk drawers or computer files and find a copy of a policy, your work is done. Use it to contact the life insurance company and inquire about your beneficiary status. Then, you can inquire about how to file a claim.

Step 2: Make Sure to Look in the Proper State

If you can’t find specific information about the insurance company, you’ll have to do some research about the companies offering policies in the state in which your loved one would have purchased it. Contacting the state insurance commission office is usually a good place to begin.

Step 3: Search for a Human Connection

Did your loved one work with a financial planner, insurance agent or accountant? If so, that person may be able to provide information about a possible insurance policy.

Step 4: Utilize a Missing Policy Locator

Unclaimed life insurance is so common that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. Anyone who believes they are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy can request to have insurance companies check their files.

Step 5: Search Unclaimed Asset Databases

If you need to go wider with your search, you can utilize the free resources provided by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). Their search tools will allow you to locate any type of unclaimed property, including life insurance benefits.

While it can take a bit of time and dedication to locate unclaimed life insurance benefits, many people are eventually successful in their searches. Follow the steps above to get started and remember to always alert your own life insurance beneficiaries so they’ll never find themselves searching for their own benefits in the future.

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