How to find the life insurance policy of a deceased person

To find out if someone has life insurance, try using a life insurance policy locator, searching through existing records, or asking their financial or legal advisor.

Amanda Shih author photoRebecca Shoenthal author photo

By

Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

&

Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Licensed Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked as a nonfiction book editor. She has a B.A. in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Updated June 11, 2021|4 min read

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When the owner of a life insurance policy dies, their beneficiaries are paid a death benefit by the insurance company. However, insurance companies aren’t always notified when a policyholder has died, and in many cases, the beneficiary will know about the insured’s death before the life insurance company does.

That’s why you should file a claim with the insurer as soon as possible in order to collect the death benefit.

But if the insured dies before telling you where to find a copy of their policy (or whether a policy exists), you may not have all the information you need to file a claim. That means the death benefit could join tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed life insurance funds. [1]

Whether you’re facing the recent death of a spouse, parent, business partner, or sibling, it can be daunting to know where to start. Learn how to find out if someone has life insurance and how to find the life insurance policy of someone who died.

Key Takeaways

  • If you don’t have a copy of the policy, check with the deceased’s financial and legal advisors or union representatives

  • Online tools, such as the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service, can help you track down a missing policy

  • Contact the deceased’s employer if their life insurance was part of an employer-sponsored group policy

How do you find out if someone has life insurance?

If you’re unsure whether someone had a life insurance policy at all, there are a few places you can look for confirmation:

  • Banking records: It’s likely the deceased was still paying for their policy before they died, in which case you might find withdrawals for premiums in their financial statements.

  • Employer: If the deceased was employed when they died, they might have had subsidized group life insurance. Their former employer should be able to help. 

  • Financial advisor or lawyer: Your loved one may have met with a professional to create a will or make other end-of-life plans. They should be aware of any existing coverage.

  • Member organizations: If your loved one was part of a union, veterans group, or other organization, the group may have provided life insurance options and may be able to inform you of an active policy.

  • Personal files: If the deceased kept important paperwork organized, you may be able to find policy paperwork or confirmation that they owned a policy in their files.

Whether you’re able to verify your loved one had a policy or not, searching for a copy of the insurance contract is a natural next step.

How to find a copy of a lost life insurance policy

It can take some digging, but the policy document will have all the information you need to file a life insurance claim, including:

  • Name and contact information of the insurer

  • Policy number

  • Name of beneficiary or beneficiaries

  • Death benefit amount

If you know you’re the beneficiary of a life insurance policy but don’t have a copy of it, there are a few ways to find a lost policy:

Contact the life insurance company

If you know which life insurance company issued the policy, contact it directly. The insurer should have the policy on file. Be prepared to prove that you are the beneficiary listed (usually with an ID such as your driver’s license number or SSN) and have the death certificate available to prove that the insured person is deceased.

The unclaimed life insurance database

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and some state insurance departments have created tools to help consumers search for lost life insurance policies.

  • Department of Insurance: Some states let you search for a policy through their DOI site. They also list department contact information if you want to talk to someone directly.

  • Life Insurance Policy Locator Service: Created by NAIC, this lookup tool asks for information like your address, relationship to the deceased, and the deceased’s Social Security number, then asks their partner insurers to search their records for matching policies. 

  • MissingMoney.com: A site endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) that aggregates state records of unclaimed funds.

  • NAUPA: NAUPA’s own search tool allows you to search for unclaimed money by state.

It may take some time to hear back—NAIC notes that it could take up to 90 business days for insurers to respond to a request—you’ll be contacted directly if you are a beneficiary or otherwise authorized to get information about the missing policy.

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Contact the deceased’s financial advisors

Anyone who advised the deceased on financial matters or helped them manage their estate — such as an accountant, attorney, financial planner, banker, or business partners — might be able to track down their insurance policy, or at least tell you which company they purchased the policy from.

Similarly, if the deceased person purchased home insurance or auto insurance through an insurance agent, it’s worth contacting them.

Search for the physical copy of the policy

Search all the deceased’s belongings, including secure safes and common storage areas in the person’s home, such as basements or attics. Check the deceased person’s mail to see if you can find any correspondence from their insurance company, like bills or statements.

Keep in mind that term life insurance policies can last as long as 30 years, and whole life insurance policies can last the entire lifetime of the insured. You may have to check back in files several years old to find policy information.

If the policyholder has stored the document in a safe deposit box at their bank, you’ll need to get a court order to prove that they have died and that you’re allowed to access the safe deposit box’s contents. The executor of the deceased’s estate should also be able to access the safe deposit box.

Search digital storage

If you have access to the deceased person’s computer or phone, you might be able to find the policy stored on the device’s hard drive, in their email, or in a cloud storage service.

Unfortunately, if the policy is on a drive or server that’s password-protected or encrypted, you’ll probably have a hard time getting to it. As with a safe deposit box, you might be able to get access by presenting the company that owns the server with a court order, but even in this case they might reject your request.

How to find out if you’re a beneficiary

It’s not uncommon for people to have no idea they’re the beneficiary of someone’s life insurance policy. Policy terms can last for decades, and beneficiary designations can change over the course of someone’s life. If a loved one died and you’re unsure who their beneficiaries were or if they even had a life insurance policy, it’s worth doing a thorough search to ensure you’re not leaving a policy unclaimed.

The death master file

If you’re lucky, the insurance company will let you know you’re a beneficiary themselves. Many insurers now regularly compare their records against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, which records deaths of Social Security number (SSN) holders that are reported to the SSA by funeral homes or loved ones. Several U.S. states use the Death Master File (DMF) to identify lost policies. If an insurer finds a policy that’s unclaimed, they’ll find addresses for any beneficiaries and mail them claim forms. It can take some time for insurers to complete this process, so it’s still best to conduct your own research in the meantime.

How to find a life insurance policy FAQ:

Is there a way to find out if someone had life insurance?

You can find out if someone had a policy by looking through their records, contacting their financial or legal advisors, or using online search tools.

Do life insurance companies contact beneficiaries after a death?

A policyholder’s insurer may eventually reach out if you’re named on an unclaimed policy, but it’s much faster if you file a claim yourself.

Are life insurance policies public record?

Life insurance policies are not usually public record, but they can be found on sites that aggregate records of unclaimed money in each state.

Who can claim a lost life insurance policy?

Only beneficiaries can claim the death benefit of a life insurance policy. If no beneficiaries are living, the proceeds go through probate.