So it seems like the way life insurance is supposed to work for a deceased person is that the beneficiary is supposed to somehow inform the insurance company of the insureds death (presumably by providing a copy of the death certificate). But what if you - as the beneficiary - didn't know that the dead person was insured by a particular company. Does that company just get to keep the money that the insured had paid? And what happens if a payment is missed on the life insurance policy after the insured died but before the beneficiary was paid.. does that mean that the policy is just canceled and the money lost forever?

Related to this... what if you're a beneficiary but don't know that you are? I don't imagine there's a good way to find out?

2 Answers 2


If the person has prepared ("put your affairs in order") then they will have a will and an executor. And this executor will have a list of the life insurance policies and will contact the companies to arrange payouts to the beneficiaries. It's not really the beneficiary's job to do that. If the person hasn't made a list of their policies, but has a will and an executor, then the executor can try things like looking at recently paid bills (you're sending $100 a month to "Friendly Life Insurance Company"? Bet it's a life insurance policy) or paperwork that is in the person's home or their safety deposit boxes. Even if you don't have the key to those boxes, a copy of the will and the death certificate will get the box drilled out for you. If you don't know what bank they might have SD boxes at, again your paperwork will get the manager to find out for you if there is a box at that particular branch, so a day spent visiting branches can be fruitful. (Something I know from personal experience with someone whose affairs were nowhere near in order.)

Generally you find out you're a beneficiary of a will because the executor tells you. I suppose it's possible that a person might name you beneficiary of their life insurance without telling you or anyone else, and without writing a will, but it's pretty unlikely. If you're worried, I suggest you encourage your parents, grandparents, and other likely namers of you to write up some paperwork and keep it somewhere family is likely to find it. (Not hidden inside a book on a bookcase or in the back of the wool cupboard.)


The issue of unclaimed life insurance policies is a hot topic right now. Your questions are exactly the reason why.

For a long time unclaimed life insurance policies have been a boon to life insurance companies but the states are cracking down. There is a lot of new legislation that requires the companies to make a diligent effort to find the rightful beneficiary. In some states if the beneficiary can't be found the proceeds wind up in the states abandoned assets fund.

The death benefit is payable if the policy was in force on the date of death. Since no premium is actually due after the insured dies it doesn't matter if the policy lapses after the insured dies.

You're correct that there is no one place to go to find out if you are the beneficiary of an unclaimed life insurance policy. Our agency has a resource page which gives you tactics to follow in order to do a search. See How To Find Lost Or Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies.

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    quote from the page. That way if the page disappears the key information is still available in the answer. Commented May 24, 2015 at 10:54

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