If you've had a loved one die and are unsure whether they had life insurance, resources are available to help you. This article provides insights on searching for a life insurance policy for a deceased loved one and finding out if anyone has taken a life insurance policy on you.
Only those who are legally eligible can obtain information about a person's life insurance policies.
If you believe you may be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the NAIC and other resources can help you find out.
While no one can legally take out a life insurance policy on you as an adult without your permission, there are ways to find out your life insurance policies.
Life insurance ensures your loved ones are provided for during your death. But life insurance is only beneficial if your loved ones know how and where to claim the policy after your death.
Too often, policyholders fail to let their family members or beneficiaries know that a policy exists and how to access it in the case of their death. Even with today’s technology, the amount of unclaimed life insurance benefit payouts yearly is in the millions.
Life insurance policy: when it's invalid?
While life insurance companies are morally and contractually obligated to pay beneficiaries when their policyholder dies, there are times when insurance companies cannot deliver on the policy. For example:
- The insurance company wasn't informed of the insured’s death.
- The policyholder failed to update contact information with the insurance company.
- The insurance company cannot locate the policyholder’s beneficiaries.
- The beneficiaries are unaware they are listed on a life insurance policy.
For these reasons and more, it is best to contact the insurance company and file a claim, but you may not know how to find out if someone has life insurance after they die. Fortunately, there are ways to research whether someone had a life insurance policy and how to find life insurance policies on deceased parents, spouses, family members, or friends.
Access to life insurance policy information
Life insurance policy information is private, so it is not something anyone can legally obtain. Only a few individuals have access to this information:
- Next of kin, such as a spouse or child of the deceased
- A legal beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy
- An estate executor or trustee overseeing the distribution of the deceased person’s assets
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Unless you fall into these categories, you cannot find out the details of a decedent's life insurance policy.
How to find out if someone has life insurance
If you are the next of kin and unsure whether your loved one has life insurance, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Life Insurance Policy Locator Service (NAIC) may be able to help. To use the NAIC, you must request a search. The NAIC will contact participating companies to see if your loved one has a policy.
Another resource is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), which can help locate unclaimed property in each state. To search for a life insurance policy, click on the specific state’s treasury department from the NAUPA website.
A third resource is available, but it is not free. The MIB Policy Locator Service can be used by the decedent's estate executor, who then may be able to tell you about any life insurance policies. If no estate executor exists, the next of kin may submit a completed and notarized application and a money order or certified check for $75.
Finally, if your family member had insurance through the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to help. To use these resources, you must have certain documents and information available about the decedent and yourself. These may include the deceased individual’s full legal name, date of birth, social security number, date of death, and a copy of the death certificate. If the decedent had life insurance through the military, you may need military-related documents, such as discharge papers. You should also expect to provide your full legal name, a copy of a government-issued identification, your social security number, and proof of current and possibly past residences.
How to find out if you’re a beneficiary
If you are not the deceased’s next of kin, finding out if there is a life insurance policy can be a bit more complicated but not impossible. If you feel confident that a life insurance policy exists and you are listed as a beneficiary, there are ways to find out. You must provide proof of your identity and that the insured person is dead.
- Contact the insurance company. Ideally, you will know which insurance company has the policy, and they can tell you if you are a beneficiary.
- Contact the employer. The deceased may have had a policy through work. You may not know what insurance provider the policy was through, but their employer can potentially help point you in the right direction.
- Ask estate attorney or financial representative. Hopefully, the deceased had paperwork in order, and the person handling the estate can provide insight into any life insurance policies where you may be listed as a beneficiary.
- Ask close family and friends. Someone within the deceased’s social circle will know if there was a life insurance policy and who was listed as the beneficiary.
- File a claim with the NAIC. While they cannot tell you if the deceased individual had a life insurance policy, they can tell you if your name appears as the beneficiary for a policy owned by the person. If it does, they can provide more details about the policy.
How to file a life insurance claim
Once you’ve verified a life insurance policy and are listed as a beneficiary, contact the insurance company directly to file a claim. In many cases, your claim can be filed online.
Be prepared to provide policy information, proof of your identity, and proof of the insured’s death. You must provide a certified copy of the death certificate, which you can get from the funeral director. Insurance companies do not generally take photocopies. You also need to determine if you want to be paid in a lump sum or installments.
It usually takes one or two weeks to receive your payout. In some states, insurance companies have up to 30 days to accept or reject the payout.
What if no one files a life insurance claim?
Because local governments aren’t required to let insurance companies know every time someone dies, they generally don’t know a policyholder has died unless someone contacts them and submits a claim. However, many states require life insurance companies to frequently review the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, a master list of all social security recipients whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration, to check if any of their policyholders have died.
Once the insurer knows that their insured has passed away, they must make a reasonable effort to contact the policy’s beneficiaries. If no beneficiaries are located within a set amount of time, often years, and no one files a claim on the life insurance policy, the money is turned over to the state’s unclaimed property office. If you learn that you are a beneficiary after the policy benefit has been turned over to the state, you should contact the state’s unclaimed property office to determine your next steps.
How do I know if I have life insurance?
Searching for a loved one’s life insurance policy may have you thinking about your life insurance policies. While you may know precisely how much life insurance you have and what company it's through, you may also think, “I wonder how to find out if someone has taken life insurance out on me.”
No one can legally take a life insurance policy out on you unless they can show that your death would be a financial hardship for them. You and the policyholder must have a relationship, such as a spouse, parent, employer, or business partner. Even then, in most cases, people cannot take out a life insurance policy on you without your signed consent. The exception would be for minor children, and insurance companies have strict rules about this as well:
- Most insurance companies will only allow parents or legal guardians to take out life insurance on their children under 17.
- Other family members can only take out policies on children if they have written consent from the child’s parent or legal guardian.
- Children 15 and older usually have to sign any life insurance policy that is taken out on them.
There may be instances when there are policies on you that you are unaware of. Your parents may have taken out a policy on you when you were young or added a small policy at a reduced fee. Your spouse may have a life insurance policy through work and added a spousal rider policy on you without you remembering it.
While a life insurance policy cannot be legally taken out on you as an adult without your consent, it does happen, and it is illegal.
Whether your parent took a life insurance policy out on you as a child, if you believe you have an old policy from work but aren’t sure, or if you think someone took out a policy on you without your consent, it is essential to understand how to find out if someone has a life insurance policy on you. Again, one of the best ways to find out is to submit your request for an NAIC database search. Once you’ve provided proof of your identity, they can help search to see if you have any active life insurance policies.
Inform others of your life insurance policies
The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide financial protection for your loved ones if you die. However, life insurance does not benefit them if they cannot find your policy. That’s why it’s essential to let your loved ones know about any policies you have and where to locate them.
Policies can easily get misplaced. A smart option is to keep at least two copies of each policy. It's best to keep one at home and the other with a financial adviser or lawyer’s office. Let your loved ones know where to find them.
If you change your policy or will, write the dates on the printout so your family can see the most recent version. If you or your beneficiaries move, let your policyholder know so that it’s easier for them to locate them after you’re gone.
If you do not have life insurance, talk with a trusted insurance professional to determine your eligibility and your family’s needs. They can help you understand the different types of life insurance policies, how much coverage you need, and how to protect your loved ones after you’re gone.
How can I find out if someone has life insurance?
If you are the next of kin or believe you may be a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you can file a claim for free with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Life Insurance Policy Locator Service (NAIC). If you are not next of kin but believe you may be a beneficiary, they can search to see if you are listed as a beneficiary. If not, then they cannot legally provide you with more details.
Can someone take a life insurance policy out on me?
Unless you are a minor, no one can legally take a life insurance policy out on you without your consent. To take a life insurance policy out on you, they must also prove to that your death would cause them financial hardship.
How to I file a life insurance claim?
If you are the next of kin or a listed beneficiary, you need to contact the life insurance company. Be prepared to provide proof of your identity and proof of the policyholder's death.
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Learn How to Use the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator.
- MIB, Inc. MIB Policy Locator Service.
- U.S. Treasure Department. SSA’s Death Information.