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Tips for Locating Your Life Insurance Company

Before we can research the insurance company you are looking for, we need certain basic information.  The name of the insurance company is critical so the more accurate the name you provide, the greater the likelihood the insurer currently holding the policy will be identified.

If you are only able to provide a partial name, we recommend that you first conduct another search of the papers or any other materials you have available regarding the policy.  While other information may allow us to track an insurer (such as the address or state where an insurer was based, or an approximate date of when it was doing business), the more accurate the insurer’s name the greater the likelihood of our locating it.

Below are some helpful hints to guide you (once an insurer is located, we will provide you with further advice on how to file a claim on the policy):

What to Look for In the Life Insurance Policy

If you have a policy (or a portion of it), examine the document carefully for any further clues as to the full name of the company or its home address and date of issuance.  Remember, a policy number is helpful when it is time to confirm the status of an outstanding policy.

If the name of the company is not legible or is missing, finding a full or partial address that lists the state where the policyholder or the company was based can help us narrow down the list of potential insurers.

In addition, every policy should identify:

  • the name of the policyholder;
  • the date of the policyholder’s birth;
  • the date the policy was issued;
  • the name of the beneficiary of the policy; and
  • the type of life insurance (see the definitions on our Key Facts page).

Each of these pieces of information can help identify the original insurer and its present name or acquirer.  The name and date of birth can help you assemble a personal history (see “Developing a History” below), as can the identity of the beneficiary (ies) (which may have been changed, for example, as a family grows). The date the policy was issued will indicate that an insurer was actually selling policies in the state at the time the policy was issued.  Finally, the type of life insurance policy will help you determine if the search is worth pursuing.  For example, a term policy that expired ten years prior to the date of death is unlikely to provide any benefit.

Where to Look if You Cannot Find the Policy

If you know a policy exists, but are unable to locate a hard copy of the contract because it has been lost or misplaced, look for other paperwork that may help you confirm the name of the insurer (this may involve a search of a recently deceased relative’s records). There are several types of records to examine:

  • Review old bills, checkbooks and cashed checks to find any premium payments made to insurance companies to get the insurer’s name and dates premiums were paid;
  • Examine the policyholder’s bank records and tax return to see if any insurance policy dividends were reported. 
  • Check personal address books and telephone contact lists for insurance agents or companies;
  • Contact any insurance agents the policyholder did business with to verify what coverage existed and with what insurer;
  • Contact the benefits department of prior employers and union offices to see if there were any employer-sponsored or union life insurance plans;
  • Speak with any individuals (financial advisors, relatives) the policyholder might have discussed life planning with; and
  • Examine the policyholder’s bank records and tax return to see if any insurance policy dividends were reported. 

Developing a History of the Policyholder

One way to investigate a lost policy is to build a short history of the policyholder’s life.  First, compile a list of the policyholder’s past addresses and a timeline showing each change of residence.  A policy may have been written in a different state or jurisdiction than where the policyholder resides.  By using the past address of the policyholder, it may be possible to identify those insurers doing business in that state for the approximate date the policy was written and narrow down the list of possible insurers currently holding the policy obligation.

The original name of the policyholder may be important if the policyholder changed their name during their life (e.g., after marriage).

Determining the name of the beneficiary in the policy may also help establish a timeline and thus the state where the policy was issued.  For example, if you know that two children of the policyholder were named as the beneficiaries (and the policyholder had four children), the policy may have been issued after the birth of the second child, but before the third.

Where to Seek Other Help

Insurance is regulated at the state level, by state insurance commissioners.  Your state department of insurance can be found on the internet here: http://www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm.  Staff members at your state insurance department might remember additional details about insurers that did or are doing business in your jurisdiction in prior years and which insurers changed their names, were acquired or went out of business.  However, we have found that little systematic information was available by this means, hence the creation of findmyinsurer.org.

If locating or identifying a policy proves difficult, you may also contact us at info@findmyinsurer.com for assistance or to discuss what further services we might be able to provide.

Other Ways to Identify Insurers and/or Claim Money Owed

ABANDONED PROPERTY: For policies on people older than 100 years (according to the current date), be aware that the proceeds of the policy might have been transferred to a state abandoned property fund.  State laws generally require that three years after an insured would have reached age 100 (called the “limiting age”), he or she is deemed deceased and the policy funds are transferred to the state abandoned property fund.

If you are searching for a policy and the current age of the policyholder would be greater than 100, you should conduct a search of the abandoned property fund in the state where the policyholder last resided (or the state where the insurer last had the policyholder’s address).  Abandoned property funds are required to return these monies when claimed by the rightful owners (i.e. beneficiaries).

Thirty-nine states have a joint website where visitors can search the abandoned property files of all the participating states at once.  This search engine can be found at http://www.missingmoney.org.  Otherwise, you can find the relevant state’s abandoned property fund by clicking here:

DIVIDENDS AND DEMUTUALIZATION COMPENSATION: Many large mutual insurers have demutualized (converted from policyholder ownership to stockholder ownership) within the last decade and in the process distributed money to its then-existing policyholders.  If the company was unable to locate a policyholder (many large insurers had hundreds of thousands of “lost” policyholders), these demutualization funds may have been retained by the company or transferred to state abandoned property funds.

Several states changed their laws to require all demutualization payments be transferred into their state abandoned property funds within three years of the demutualization if the policyholders had not been located within that time.  As a result, over $3 billion dollars are being held for the rightful owners who merely need to claim them.  You may be able to locate the holder of the policy by conducting a name search in the abandoned property fund.  If you find unclaimed demutualization funds, you will be able to determine the name of the insurance company that held the policy (which may still be in force) and file a death claim if appropriate, or reestablish contact with the insurer.



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