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Life Insurance and Unclaimed Property

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What You Need to Know

  • Beneficiaries of life insurance policies have to claim the benefits.
  • You should help clients keep track of the policies that are out there.
  • You should also encourage clients to communicate well with their policy beneficiaries.

Let’s face it: no one wants to think about dying.

But everyone wants to provide security for their loved ones, making life insurance a popular recommendation from financial advisors and insurance agents to round out a customer’s financial planning portfolio.

In fact, the Insurance Information Institute indicates that in 2020, 54% of all people in the United States were covered by some type of life insurance.

With life insurers paying out billions in benefits and claims annually, a significant portion of these funds go unclaimed.

So, what happens when those claims go uncashed, if the insurer cannot locate the beneficiary or the insurer never receives notice of the policyholder’s death? In each of these cases, unclaimed property law applies to the life insurance benefits and, if a life insurance policy or benefits go unclaimed, it could be subject to escheatment to the states.

What is unclaimed property?

Unclaimed property is any financial asset that has been abandoned, lost or unclaimed by the rightful owner for a predetermined period of time.

Each state has laws that require holders of these unclaimed assets to perform efforts aimed at reconnecting with the rightful owner.

If the owner cannot be located, state law requires that the value of the property be reported and paid to the state of the rightful owner’s last known address.

Life insurers are not allowed to keep unclaimed life insurance policies or benefits indefinitely in their possession.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners and state insurance regulators have set up a Life Insurance Policy Locator Service, but

This is why it is important to stay in touch with any company holding your financial assets.

Reduce unclaimed property risk for life insurance.

There are a few key things an agent or advisor can do to minimize the possibility of their clients’ life insurance policy or benefits becoming unclaimed property:

  1. Remind your clients to log into their insurance accounts every year to check the status, balances and contact information and ensure it is up to date.
  2. Encourage policyholders to communicate with their beneficiaries to let them know that they will be entitled to benefits upon their death. Policyholders should provide all beneficiaries with the name and contact information of their life insurance company and financial advisor or insurance agent. This will allow for timely reporting of a death and proper filing of a claim.
  3. Document and provide detailed identification information about beneficiaries so they can easily be located and that their identities can be easily verified.
  4. Update contact information or address changes on life insurance policies as needed. This can include but not be limited to email addresses, phone numbers, physical mailing addresses, and name changes.
  5. Check with policyholders annually to update any beneficiary contact information changes on life insurance policies. Life insurance company names can change. Companies can be acquired or sold.
  6. Share historical records of the company with your clients, along with any documentation on company acquisitions or name changes. This makes it easier for a potential beneficiary to locate a company to make a claim.

Your clients hold these financial assets as part of their investment strategy.

Don’t let them become unclaimed property.

It is easy to keep them from falling into a dormant or abandoned status with a little follow up and annual maintenance.

Kristine Butterbaugh (Photo: Sovos)Kristine Butterbaugh is a solution principal at Sovos. She monitors emerging markets in unclaimed property and insurance regulatory reporting and serves on two subcommittees at the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization.




(Image: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock)


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