Because it is the job of beneficiaries to notify the life insurance company of a policy owner’s death, it’s estimated more than one-quarter of all life insurance policy benefits go unclaimed. Family members often aren’t aware a policy exists, or don’t know how to track it down.
Heirs of deceased policyholders and annuity owners may be entitled to receive restitution arising from a recent government audit of twenty-one 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. Further, it was determined that in many cases underwriters continued collecting policy premiums by deducting payments from the cash value of the policies.
Insurance companies participating in a multi-billion dollar settlement with authorities include: AIG, Allianz, Aviva, Forethought, Genworth, Hartford, ING, John Hancock, Lincoln National, MetLife, Midland National, Nationwide, New York Life, Northwestern Mutual, Pacific Life, Prudential, Symetra, TIAA-CREF, TransAmerica and Western & Southern. These 21 companies write more than 50% of all the issued and active life insurance policies nationwide.
While the settlement mandates a more diligent effort be made to locate missing claimants, name changes after marriage or divorce, an unreported change of address or expired postal forwarding order after a move, and incomplete or illegible records complicate the task. Estimates are $2.4 billion dollars in death benefits owed beneficiaries and heirs of deceased policyholders goes unclaimed each year.
Note policyholders may also be entitled to an additional windfall. As a number of major mutual life insurance companies – including MetLife, John Hancock, Equitable and Prudential and others – have converted to stock ownership, millions of current and former policyholders and heirs are entitled to receive stock and cash, in addition to policy benefits. To determine if you are eligible, see: Life Insurance Demutualization Claims
Even if your insurance company no longer exists, payments of up to $300,000 are possible from state insurance guaranty associations.
If you have reason to believe a deceased family member had a policy with one or more of these or other companies and have not yet received payment, complete the form below to initiate a search.