Finding Policies for Deceased Kin
My uncle died during hurricane Katrina because he didn't evacuate. I need to know if there is a database that will allow me to know what insurance was on his house. Since his death, the contents of his house were under water and the family has been unable to find records due to the devastation. Where do I begin to look?
This is a very difficult situation. Unfortunately, I don't have any easy answer for you. Whatever you do will require some painstaking footwork on your part – and it sounds as if the financial records that your uncle may have kept will be in terrible shape. However, here are the basics to finding a "lost" insurance policy:
- Go through cancelled checks or contact your uncle's bank for copies of old checks. Look to see to whom checks were made out. You just may find an insurance company.
- Ask those who may have known about the insured's financial situation. Try your uncle's lawyer, banker or accountant. Also try his auto or home insurance agent. Any of these professionals may know where your uncle went for life insurance.
- Was your uncle recently employed? If so, contact his most recent past employer. An employer may know of possible group insurance. Your uncle may have also purchased supplemental insurance through work.
Keep in mind that there is no national database of insurance policies.
If your uncle had life insurance, there is one option that may get you the death benefit. If a company knows that an insured died and cannot find the beneficiary, it must turn the full death benefit over to the state comptroller's department within three to five years of the death. The money is transferred to the state where the insured bought the policy, so if it was purchased outside of your uncle's current state of residence, you'd have to look there. The money is considered "unclaimed property" and gets lumped in with dormant bank accounts and uncollected rent deposits. The comptroller's department does maintain a database that lists the names and addresses of lost beneficiaries for these instances.