Losing your car keys is frustrating, but losing an insurance policy or an inheritance can be financially devastating. Still, assets totaling millions of dollars go missing each year.
The Bible warns us about this. Proverbs 27:23-25 reads, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?” Today that means keeping track of our assets.
Life insurance policies are lost more often than you’d think. Survivors may not be aware that a policy even exists. Paperwork can be lost or accidently thrown out.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) says that each year, millions of dollars in insurance benefits go unclaimed. So how do you find out if you’re the beneficiary of a lost insurance policy?
The NAIC has a tool called the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service
. It lets you search nationwide for p olicies and annuities by inputting the names of deceased family members and friends.
You’ll first need a death certificate and some basic information, the deceased’s Social Security number, full legal name, date of birth and date of death.
If there’s a match, the insurance company holding the policy will contact you within 90 days, provided you’re a designated beneficiary or legal representative of the deceased.
In just five years, the Policy Locator Service has processed over 200,000 claims and matched a billion dollars in benefits to the folks who should get them.
Life insurance companies have access to databases that alert them when a policyholder dies. If you’re a designated beneficiary on a policy, but a company can’t find you, they’re required to turn those funds over to the unclaimed property office in the state where the deceased lived.
That office is generally located in the state’s treasury department. A quick online search may give you another way to search for lost insurance policies or other assets.
If you’re a policyholder, you can save your loved ones a lot of grief by taking preventive steps. Keep your beneficiary designations up to date and make sure the insurer has their latest contact information. Also, let the beneficiaries know they’re named in your policy and give them contact information for your insurer and agent.
And always keep the latest copy of your policy with your estate papers. Put it in a safe place, preferably a fireproof safe.
You can also find out if you have unclaimed money in your name. This could be almost any type of unclaimed funds, such as pension plans, retirement or bank accounts, IRS refunds and savings bonds. Other unclaimed assets could be uncashed checks, CDs, trust funds, utility deposits, stocks and bonds, wages and even the contents of safe deposit boxes.
You have two great resources for tracking down those assets. People move around a lot and it’s possible to have assets in several states. A good place to start is at MissingMoney.com
. It’s sponsored by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and allows you to search more than one state at a time. When there’s a match in any state, you’ll be given information and links to official websites where you can file a claim.
Unfortunately, not every state participates in MissingMoney.com. If you think you might have unclaimed funds in a state that’s stuck in the 90s, there’s a sister site called Unclaimed.org
that will pu t you in touch with non-participating state unclaimed property offices.
By some estimates, as much as $58 billion worth of assets is currently unclaimed. Some of it might be yours.
You can also listen the related podcast
on thi s topic.