Finding out if a Life Insurance policy exists?
March 4, 2015 10:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I find out if a Life Insurance policy exists? My Dad passed away last week after a short illness, and I'm in Milwaukee taking care of his affairs, cleaning out his apartment, etc. It was so sudden that we never got a chance to discuss specifics like if he had a will (he doesn't), etc. This is in the State of Wisconsin, city/county of Milwaukee.

I do remember though, a couple of years ago, that he called me to tell me that he had Life Insurance. But when he called, it was really early in the morning, and I didn't make a note of it. I also haven't been able to find any documentation about any life insurance in his apartment.

I have his full legal name, address, and Social Security Number. Is there a way to try to research it? He did recently get laid off from a job last December, so if it was associated with that, it may be gone. However, he also has an account at a local Credit Union. Those are the only two places that I can think of that he'd have a policy for.

I'm also hiring an Estate Lawyer, as he also doesn't have a will, thus it's going into Probate. They may also be able to help.
posted by spinifex23 to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently they might be registered with the state?
posted by nickggully at 10:46 PM on March 4, 2015

My condolences about your dad. Please be gentle with yourself.

I'd start with contacting the insurance agent your father used for his auto and/or home insurance. It's possible he used one local agent for multiple policies. (It should be easier to find out about his car insurance, for example -- there may have been a card in his wallet.) Even if he didn't, he might have mentioned the policy to the agent, or the agent may have referred him to a different agent for handling life insurance.

Do you have access to his online bank account, his credit card statements or his checkbook register? Did he use Mint or a similar financial dashboard? If you have access, that might be an easier way to search online by key words or expense categories.

Can you find your father's tax returns from prior years? Because life insurance companies may pay interest on the accumulated value of some policies, there could be a record.

I know you said he was laid off, but the HR department at his former job would know if he'd held a policy through them; it might have been portable if he agreed to pay the premiums. Was he in a union? If so, check there to see if they have a benefits arrangement.

Are you sure your father didn't have a safe deposit box?

If you find that all of your other attempts at locating information are a bust, or if you are in a hurry, there's a policy locator service via the Medical Information Bureau, MIB. I thought I recalled the price being $100, but this page says only $75. (The MIB keeps a database of insurers and others who require individual medical records; he'd have had to provide some kind of medical info to get the policy.)

Finally, this won't help right away, but life insurance companies send annual statements, so at some point, you should receive notification in his mail.

On a related note, be sure to ask the funeral home to procure *lots* of copies of the death certificate for you. You'll need them for everything from canceling his cell phone service and utilities to filing various documents with the court, and many parties won't accept a fax or scan. I've worked with clients where we've thought we were done, only to need to send another few up to two years later.

You should also periodically check NAUPA or a similar unclaimed property agency for any state in which he lived.

Again, I'm so sorry about your father.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:47 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

My sympathies to you; my father died suddenly last fall so I have some idea what you are dealing with. He was fairly well organized and had a will but I spent a lot of time hunting around his things looking for financial stuff. (Old tax returns in the bottom of the linen closet!).

Save any piece of paper you come across that might be a clue for financial stuff, including old tax returns. The Wrong Kind of Cheese has some good advice about talking to various people and places like insurance agents, HR from the former job, a union if he was in one. If he was a member of a professional organization or other organization like AARP, they often offer insurance. If he was the alumnus of a college that is another possibility. I get offers of various kinds of insurance fairly regularly through my old college. Check old tax returns, and if he had someone do his taxes for him, also talk to that person because they may know. Was he a veteran? My father had life insurance through the Department of Veteran's Affairs. He would also be entitled to burial in a Veteran's Cemetery.

Fortunately for me, my father operated on paper most of the time. Check book stubs, bank account statements, and credit card records all documented transactions that I needed to keep as clues for various things, including for deductions for his final tax income tax return (if you can't find the paper, they should be keeping stuff electronically now, so you or the lawyer will be able to get copies, once you/they have papers in hand giving you the right to do that legally). Also, various things, like renewals for insurance, showed up in Dad's mail, which I had directed to me, so that helped me figure some things out.

It's good you are getting an estate lawyer to help since there is no will. Keep in mind that some places won't talk to you all about financial stuff, or won't talk about specifics, until you/lawyer have papers to show that you are legally entitled to manage the estate.

Good advice to get multiple copies of the death certificate, and make sure you have his social security number and other details (I had to dredge up my grandmother/his mother's maiden name for some security thing or other ... she died years ago so it took me a minute). You have notified Social Security about his death I hope? If not you need to do that. I got a good scan of my father's death certificate (it's long, so I had to do some fiddling to get that) and certain other important papers. I found some places would accept the scans, or would accept a scan to get things started, while I then sent them the paper form in the mail. Some places also were willing to take a good notarized xerox of certain papers.

By and large, with a few notable exceptions, I found people very kind and helpful. In one case, I got a medical bill, and they offered (unsolicited) to forgive the remaining balance due that insurance would not pay, because my father had died (I just had to send a copy of his death certificate to them.) It never occurred to me that a business would do that!
posted by gudrun at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks all. I'm keeping any papers that I find, and am making an initial talk with the Estate Lawyer on Monday when she comes back from vacation.

The funeral home supposedly let Social Security know of the death, but I can call tomorrow as well. Luckily, he always made the boneheaded move of carrying around his Social Security card in his wallet; now that I have his wallet, I have his SSN.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:03 PM on March 5, 2015

I found the life insurance policy!!


By examining his credit union account monthly statement closely. There, it was being automatically deducted. So, I called the insurance company to inform them of the death. It turns out that I was not named as the sole beneficiary; his old roommate was. But, his roommate also died 7 years ago. Thus, the life insurance policy reverts back to my Dad's estate, if I understand this correctly. It's a small policy, but it'll pay for things like a cremation and his back bills.

And this is why I hired an Estate Lawyer. Thank you all!
posted by spinifex23 at 8:24 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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