Mom said she had life insurance but I can’t find it. Where can I look?


Q. When my mother was still alive, she said she had a life insurance policy for me. Now that she’s passed, I can’t find it or any evidence of payments in her checking account. How can I find out if she really had a policy?
— Beneficiary

A. Condolences to you and your family.

It can be an arduous task to sift through paperwork to find a life insurance policy, let alone any other documentation you might need to settle her estate.

Unfortunately, without the name of the insurance company or the physical policy, phone calls and combing through your mother’s documents is what must be done to find if she had a policy, said Betty Thomas, a chartered financial consultant and certified financial planner with Peapack Private Wealth Management in New Providence.

She said you should start by reviewing your mother’s personal papers for an insurance policy or certificate. If a life insurance policy or certificate is located, contact the life insurance company, even if it appears that the policy may not be in force.

If she had any other insurance coverage such as automobile, homeowner or a renter’s insurance policy, contact the issuing company to determine if there might be an affiliate company authorized to write life insurance, she said.

Next, review the contacts listed in her address and telephone books or email accounts for names of insurance companies and/or insurance agents, Thomas said. Also, contact any attorneys, accountants, investment professionals, other family members or close personal friends to determine if she discussed life insurance with them.

Then, contact her last place of employment or her prior employers to determine if there was insurance issued, whether individual or group, she said.

“Note that usually group life insurance purchased through an employer plan, the employer, rather than the life insurance company, may maintain the life insurance records related to individual employees,” Thomas said. “Therefore, it is important to check with her employer(s) even if the life insurance company says it has no record of life insurance coverage.”

You said you checked her checking account, but you should again review financial records for payment of life insurance premiums.

“Since premiums may be paid at various intervals — annually, quarterly, monthly — review records for several years prior to death,” she said. “Also, since life insurance premiums are generally paid by check or bank-account deductions or transfers — canceled checks, bank statements, credit card statements and other payment records should be reviewed.”

Then contact the bank or banks where your mother had accounts to determine if she maintained a safe deposit box or had purchased a life insurance policy through a representative at the bank, Thomas said.

You can also review the mail for a period of at least one year after death for premium notices, annual reports, privacy notices or other communications from an insurance company or agent, Thomas said.

“Review the income tax returns for the several years prior to death to determine if any interest income or interest expense associated with an insurance company was reported,” Thomas said. “Interest may be paid by an insurance company on some life insurance policies and may be charged by an insurance company on policy loans.”

There are also some free services online available that could assist in your search.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) was created to assist state insurance regulators in setting standards and regulations for best practices for the insurance industry, Thomas said. The organization offers a free Life Policy Locator Tool which may help you find out if your mother had a life insurance policy. You will need your mother’s legal name (first and last name), social security number, date of birth, and date of death.

Also, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) helps locate unclaimed property in every state. You can use the site to link to the New Jersey site for unclaimed property or use to link to the New Jersey site directly, Thomas said.

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This story was originally published on Aug. 27, 2022. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.