A life insurance beneficiary is an individual or an entity nominated to receive the life insurance payout upon the death of the insured. This implies that the beneficiary will receive the death benefit irrespective of any will, probate courts, or family disputes. A policyholder can designate multiple beneficiaries and varying amounts of the death benefit for each.
A life insurance policy has two types of beneficiaries: primary and contingent. The primary beneficiary is the first entitled person to receive the death benefit, but on top of that, a policyholder identifies a secondary beneficiary in case the primary one passes or cannot receive the payment. If neither the primary nor the contingent beneficiary outlive the insured, the death benefit is legally payable to the policyholder’s estate.
Reasons Behind Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies
It’s essential for a policyholder to communicate end-of-life plans with their beneficiaries to avoid any confusion and wrongful claims. But, despite that, life insurance policies can often go unclaimed. Some of the reasons include:
- The beneficiaries not being able to get in touch with the insurance company
- The beneficiaries not being aware that they are a beneficiary of the policy
- The beneficiaries not being aware that there is a life insurance policy at all
- The insurance company no longer exists
- The insurance provider and the policyholder lost contact
- The insurance provider is aware that the policyholder has died
Finding Out If You Are a Beneficiary
If a policyholder in your family has died, and you’re one of their heirs, you have the right to know how to avail of the death benefit. If you were not warned beforehand by the policyholder, you’d have to investigate and contact the insurance provider to know how to proceed. Also, the challenge gets bigger when the life insurance companies don’t immediately learn about the policyholder’s death. When this occurs, as a potential beneficiary, you’re requried to notify the insurance company.
But if you don’t know about the insurance provider, here are some of the ways you can figure this out:
- Talk to family and friends to determine if the insured mentioned any beneficiary name.
- Contact the bank and look for financial records, such as bank statements for premium payments to a life insurance company.
- Check for information in their emails for communication or payment confirmations with a life insurance company
- Look through the deceased computer storage files or other digital storage, like Dropbox or hard drives
- Get in touch with the insured person’s financial advisors or lawyers
- Search for your state’s insurance commissioner or online research services available to find lost life insurance policies
- If nothing else works out, you can also contact a private investigator and search firm that specializes in locating unclaimed life insurance policies
If you succeed, get in touch with the insurer directly with the policy number. To claim a life insurance payout, you’ll need proof that you’re the named beneficiary (often a driver’s license number or Social Security number) and that the insured individual has passed away through a death certificate.
However, if the insurance company has gone out of business or has been acquired by another insurance company, you can still find out about the company’s policies in such circumstances through online resources.