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Ask the Experts

Reclaiming a Lost or Missing Life Insurance Policy

There is no database that tracks policies

— Masterfile

Q. My father passed away recently. I thought he had life insurance, but I couldn't find a policy among his belongings. Is there a database of life insurance policyholders where I can check?

A. There is no agency or database that tracks life insurance policies sold in the United States. Unfortunately, beneficiaries can't make a claim without knowing at the very least the name of the company that issued the policy. This is why it's important for policyholders to disclose to beneficiaries where they keep their insurance paperwork — in a filing cabinet at home, in a bank's safe deposit box or elsewhere.

If you haven't done so already, look over your father's checkbook register or account statements to see whether payments were made to a life insurance company in the last year or more. If he banked online, check his electronic records for payments.

In most cases, insurance companies find out that clients have died when they're contacted by a relative. Otherwise, when premium payments stop arriving, insurers send letters of inquiry to the client's home address. The arrival of such a letter would be another tip-off to the company's name.

It's also possible that money from a life insurance policy could end up in the unclaimed property fund of the state in which your father lived. To look, go online to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and click on your father's state in the map. That will take you to instructions on how to locate missing funds.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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