Here are some quick tips. For more specifics and links, please see our brand-new "how to find an old life insurance policy" web page.
- Try to track down as much information as possible. You'll presumably know the name of the policyholder (any name changes?), and it also helps to know the state or states that the person lived in.
- Ideally, you'll be able to locate a copy of the policy itself, which will have a number on it. But sometimes there's a wrinkle: the insurance company or its name may have changed, especially for older policies. That can be a challenge, but your state's insurance department can probably help you track down the current company information. If you live in Washington state -- we're the state insurance regulator there -- feel free to call us at 1-800-562-6900 and talk to our consumer advocacy staff.
- If you can't find the policy, try going through the person's financial records, looking for payments made to an insurer. Also, look through old mail: the company may have sent periodic statements or billing reminders. It's also worth checking with the person's auto- or homeowners insurers, since people sometimes buy life insurance from the same company.
- You could opt to pay a search company to run a check for the person's name through industry databases or send queries to a large number of insurers.
- If a policy goes unclaimed for a long time, insurers are supposed to turn the money over to state-run unclaimed property programs. They hold the money, often forever, in case someone files a claim. You can easily run the person's name through these free, state-run online search sites. Washington state's is at http://ucp.dor.wa.gov, and you can easily find other state's unclaimed property programs at www.unclaimed.org.
- One other important tip: Many life insurance policies automatically end at a certain age.