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Am I the Beneficiary of a Deceased Loved One’s Life Insurance?

June 30, 2020

lost life insurance utica nyAfter a loved one passes away, clients come to us wondering if there were any life insurance policies. The answer is easy if we wrote the policy. Thing is, people often purchase more than one policy from a number of different sources.

They may have lived elsewhere and bought some life insurance early in their careers. After changing jobs they may have purchased their company insurance. The problem is, life insurance is (hopefully) a long term purchase. People forget in which dusty old drawer they kept those old policies. So how do their descendants know whether there is life insurance on their deceased loved one?

There is a way to find out. In New York State it’s called the Lost Policy Finder. It’s a free service that helps families locate unclaimed benefits from life insurance and annuity contracts.

But do you really need the service? There are things you can do to find insurance policies you suspect your family member had.

  • The first people to ask would be the insurance agent of the deceased. Call the car, home, and business agent to see if they have record of any life insurance policies.
  • Review the deceased personal papers. You don’t have to find an actual policy to claim benefits as a beneficiary. A certificate of insurance would work. Even an invoice that indicates the company and policy number is enough to initiate a claim.
  • Go through the checkbook of the deceased to note all insurance payments. Or the payment records in bank statements, cancelled checks, and credit card statements.
  • See if there is a safe deposit box at the deceased’s bank. We don’t recommend that people place their insurance policies in a safe deposit box. That’s because of the red tape in getting access. But people still do it.
  • You can also be alert to the deceased’s mail and check it for a year to see if any premium notices or annual reports arrive.
  • If interest was paid on a life insurance policy it may show on the deceased tax returns. Take a look at several years of returns to see if that is the case.
  • Contact the deceased’s employer and/or credit union to see if they issued any life insurance policies. Also associations they belonged to.

If you can’t find any evidence of a policy, there is the alternative we mentioned above, the Lost Policy Finder. We went to the New York State Department of Financial Services to find out more.

After having exhausted all attempts listed above, you can submit a request online. You may file the request if you’re an executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. Or if you are an immediate family member.

You’ll need some basic information such as the deceased’s name, date of birth, and last known address. Your request will then be forwarded to all New York licensed life insurance companies and fraternal benefit societies. (Note: New York licensed insurers incorporated or organized in a state other than New York will only perform searches of their records of contracts delivered or issued for delivery in the state of New York.)

There’s much more at the link above on how you will be notified and beneficiary information. But the upshot really is: If you have life insurance policies on yourself, inform you family about them! Let them know where they are and have them easily accessible. That will save them much hassle if anything happens to you.

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here. In Westchester County call Zak Scalzo at 914.246.0315 or email at zaks@szwinsurance.com.