► Missing or Unclaimed Life Insurance Policy Unclaimed Benefits Search
By statute, assets become abandoned after the original owners or rightful heirs fail to 'communicate an interest' in them. With life insurance, this occurs when you neglect to timely claim policy benefits after death of the insured. Current estimates are $7.4 billion in unclaimed payouts.
Each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico maintains an office of unclaimed funds, where dormant and forgotten assets are held in trust until owners or heirs come forth to make a claim. Which government trustee takes custody of the money depends on the owner's address or record.
The length of time that must pass before an asset is considered legally abandoned - the dormancy period - is set by law and varies by state. Most statutes are based on guidelines promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, the latest version of which was proffered in 2016.
Uniform Unclaimed Property Act of 2016 -- Presumption of Abandonment of Life Insurance or Annuity
For a Matured Life Insurance Policy: An amount owed by an insurance company on a life insurance policy or annuity that has matured or terminated is presumed abandoned if unclaimed by the apparent owner three years after the obligation to pay arose.
For a Non-Matured Life Insurance Policy: If a policy or contract for which an amount is owed on proof of death has not matured by proof of the death of the insured, it is presumed abandoned three years after the earlier of: (a) the the date the insurance company had knowledge of the death of the insured or (b) the insured has attained - or would have attained if living - the terminal age on the mortality table [typically 115 years].
Insurers are deemed to have knowledge of death when they receive a death certificate or court order; verify a match in the Social Security Death Master File; or when they're notified by an executor, beneficiary, relative of the insured or other legal representative.
Note: Heirs and beneficiaries should not assume that because a life insurance company is no longer in business that policy benefits are gone forever. Over the years hundreds of life insurance companies have changed name or merged with others, and policies are still valid.
Note: The National Conference of Insurance Legislators has promulgated it's own guidelines on dormant and unclaimed life insurance policy benefits: NCOIL Model Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act
► Life Insurance Legal Settlement:
Heirs of deceased policyholders may be entitled to receive restitution arising from a recent government audit of major life insurance companies that revealed insurers failed to pay death benefits to beneficiaries even in cases where they knew, or should have known, the policy holder was deceased. It was also found that in many cases underwriters continued collecting policy premiums by deducting payments from the cash value of the policies, until all equity was depleted.
Insurance companies participating in the settlement include: AIG, Allianz, Aviva, Axa, Forethought, Genworth, Guardian, Hartford, ING, Jackson National, John Hancock, Lincoln National, MetLife, Midland National, Nationwide, MONY, New York Life, Northwestern Mutual, Pacific Life, Penn Mutual, Prudential, Standard, Symetra, Sun Life, TIAA-CREF, Transamerica, Western & Southern.
► Life Insurance Demutualization Compensation
Demutualization is the process of converting a mutual life insurance company is owned by policyholders into a publicly traded stock company owned by shareholders, pursuant to a plan of conversion approved by policyholders and government regulators.
Policyholders, beneficiaries and heirs continue to be entitled to receive policy benefits due, but in addition receive stock and cash in exchange for their ownership interest. The windfall arising from demutualization can be substantial - often tens of thousands of dollars - but millions of missing policyholders and heirs have not made claims.
Many of the nation's largest life insurers have demutualized, including: American Mutual Life / Amerus, Anthem WellPoint, Central Life Assurance, Equitable / Axa, General American Life, Indianapolis Life, John Hancock Life, ManuLife / Manufacturers Life, MetLife / Metropolitan Life, MONY / Mutual of NY, Mutual Service Life, Nationwide / Allied Mutual, Northwestern / ReliaStar, Phoenix Home Life, Principal Mutual Life, Provident Mutual Life, Prudential Life, Standard Insurance, State Mutual / Allmerica, Sun Life / Clarica and Unum Mutual / Unum.
► Find out what happened to a life insurance company no longer in business
Family members should not assume that because a life insurance company is no longer in business that policy benefits are gone forever. Over the years hundreds of life insurance companies have changed name or merged with others, and policies are still valid. Even if the insurance company failed, state guaranty associations pay policy benefits - typically up to $300,000 - from a reserve fund paid for by assessments on underwriters.