Have you ever wondered if you were entitled to the benefits from a deceased relative's life insurance policy or do you remember a great uncle telling you that you would be entitled to benefits from his life insurance policy?
If a loved one owned a life insurance policy at their death and you are a named beneficiary, chances are you are entitled to receive a benefit. But what happens if you are uncertain if you were named the beneficiary, are unable to locate the policy, or are uncertain if the policy even still exists? Many life insurance policies go unclaimed for just these reasons.
It may take some digging and some detective work but the following tips may help you find that lost life insurance policy; and, if you are not the executor or executrix of the deceased's estate, obviously you will need to enlist this person's help.
Check storage areas.
Check safety deposit boxes, strong boxes, filing cabinets and other storage places to see if a copy of the insurance policy was left there.
Search for any life insurance-related payments.
Look for any insurance-related payments in bank statements, bankbooks, checkbooks, or credit card statements that could provide you with insight about insurance premium payments and the insurance company they were paid to.
Search through the mail.
Look through the deceased's mail for old insurance premium bills and insurance policy notices that may have come through the mail in the last few years.
Review the deceased's income tax returns.
Review the deceased's income tax return for any interest income and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies. Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on insurance policy loans.
Information about other life insurance policies.
If you come across any other life insurance policy the deceased may have had, even if it was no longer in effect, ask the insurer for a copy of the application form. Typically, life insurance applicants need to disclose details about any other life insurance policies in place at the time of their application.
Contact anyone with information about the deceased's finances.
Try to get in contact with current and prior financial advisors and agents or companies that might know about the life insurance policy of the deceased (like lawyers, accountants, investment advisors, insurance brokers and credit card companies). Sometimes policies are stored in their files.
Find out if the deceased was part of a group life insurance plan.
Contact previous employers, alumni groups, professional associations or automobile associations to see if the policyholder had group insurance. They may have continued with their life insurance under this policy or purchased additional/supplemental life insurance benefits through their group policy.
OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance.
If you are unable to locate the life insurance policy using the steps listed above, you can contact the OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI). The OLHI is an independent service that assists consumers with concerns about life and health insurance products, and its participating companies represent the majority of life insurance companies doing business in Canada.
OLHI will require specific, relevant information about the deceased and then will send this information to all of its member companies. If any member company has a policy still in effect, they will contact you directly. The OLHI has 2 basic requirements before undertaking a policy search: (1) There must be a reasonable basis to believe that a policy does exist and (2) Specific factual information about the deceased is available.
After all that searching, if you still cannot find the life insurance policy...
If all that searching and digging doesn't help you to find your policy, there are companies that can help you locate the lost policy. They act as "insurance policy locators". These companies are online registries and reminder services developed to ensure that named life insurance beneficiaries actually get the life insurance benefits for which they are entitled to receive. Keep in mind however, these services are not likely to be free of charge.
It could also be useful to send letters to some of the main life insurance companies, asking them if the deceased had a life insurance policy with them.
Learning from past mistakes
To avoid the hassle you are going through to locate a lost life insurance policy, ensure your loved ones can easily find your policy when the time comes, read the Kanetix article, "Help your loved ones by planning ahead" for tips.
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