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It’s unfortunately a scenario that is all too common. Your client unexpectedly loses her father and remembers that he had purchased a life insurance policy a number of years ago. But she can’t find it. Her father never told her the name of the insurer. He was old-school preferring to conduct business transactions by paper, so she knew there would not be any electronic records. She comes to you asking if there is anything you can do to help her locate the policy.

Each year, millions of dollars in life insurance benefits go unclaimed by beneficiaries who can’t find their loved ones’ policies or didn’t even know they existed.

As life insurance agents, your clients turn to you for advice. While most of your guidance revolves around coverage options and policy questions, when your client is dealing with the painful experience of losing a loved one, many reach out to their agents with questions about submitting claims on policies they don’t have.

In an ideal scenario your client knows the name of the company that issued the policy or the agent or broker that sold it. But sometimes this information is hard to find — especially if the person passes unexpectedly without their affairs in order. In other scenarios, the policies were purchased long ago and the agent or company has changed.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a tool that can help you assist your client in their time of need. The Life Insurance Policy Locator tool was developed in 2016, and since that time, has helped consumers claim more than $765 million in benefits. It’s free to use, available online and gives everyone in the United States access to insurer databases making it easier to find policies and annuities.

Here are three things your client should know about the Life Insurance Policy Locator:

  1. All of the policy information is consolidated—there’s no need to reach out to companies one-by-one as part of the search: The Life Insurance Policy Locator eliminates the need to contact multiple companies or multiple agents to find a policy. The tool conducts a search of all participating life insurance and annuity companies regardless of the prior state of residency of the deceased or your clients’ current state of residency.
  2. They can still do a search, even if they don’t have much information to start: To complete the form, your client just needs a certified death certificate. Bank statements and identification cards can also be helpful.
  3. If there is a policy, they will receive a response in 90 days or less: If a company has relevant information for your client, it will respond directly to the requester. At that time, your client might be required to provide additional information to the life insurance company such as notarized death certificate and documentation of their legal authority to request or obtain information about the deceased. If no life insurance companies have relevant information, your client will not be contacted.

Preparing your clients now, so their beneficiaries are not searching later.

Searching for a lost life insurance policy can be a daunting task. While the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator tool can help, it’s important to talk with your clients about the best ways to prepare their beneficiaries. There are many best practices that can help ensure their families are prepared to claim any life insurance benefits that are due.

First, advise them to check their policy once a year to make sure the contact information for the listed beneficiaries is correct. Make sure your clients let their beneficiaries know that the policy exists. Tell them to provide each recipient with your name and the name of the life insurance company that wrote the policy.

Finally advise them to place a current copy of their policy with their will or estate paperwork in a safe place where the family and beneficiaries will be able to easily find and have access to it.

The passing of a loved one is stressful. Lost insurance documents should not add to the stress. NAIC’s Life Insurance Policy Locator tool can help ease the burden of finding a misplaced life insurance policy, allowing beneficiaries to search companies across states with one submission.

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Ray Farmer (Credit: Farmer)Ray Farmer is the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and director of South Carolina Department of Insurance. He previously served as the vice president for the American Insurance Association.