If you can't find the life insurance policy of a recently deceased loved one, there are several ways to broaden your search.

Knowing there's a life insurance policy somewhere but not being able to find it can be a serious financial problem. If you can't make a claim for a life insurance payout, you could be stuck for years hoping that the life insurance company tries to find you.

Here are documents you can review, agencies and people you can contact, and services to find a lost life insurance policy.

Documents that can help you find a lost life insurance policy:

  • Insurance-related documents: Even if you can't find the life insurance policy, you might be able to find the name of the life insurance agent who sold the policy. You might even find a trail through the agent that sold an auto or home insurance policy. That agent may know which company sold it.
  • Life insurance applications: Finding one policy could be helpful in locating others, if the deceased had more than one policy. Applications are typically attached to the back of a policy and may list of other policies owned at the time of the application.
  • Bank statements: Look for any payments (automated withdrawals or checks) to life insurance companies.
  • Mail: Keep an eye out for life insurance statements or bills in the deceased person's mail. If it was billed annually and recently paid, you may have to wait up to a year for the next bill to arrive.

People and agencies who can help you find a lost life insurance policy:

  • Financial advisors: The person's accountants, investment advisors, attorneys or other financial professionals may know about the existence of life insurance policies.
  • Employer: Call the deceased person's employer to find out if they had a group life insurance policy through work. Note that group life insurance policies generally end on the last day of work. If the deceased person had left the job, it's unlikely there will be workplace life insurance.
  • Banks: There could be a policy copy in a safe deposit box at a bank. You'll need to be the estate executor to check the safe deposit box. You can also ask the bank if the deceased person purchased any life insurance policies through them.
  • Unclaimed Property Office: When a life insurance company's policyholder has died but they can't locate any beneficiaries, they will turn the money over to the state's unclaimed property office. A good place to start is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Services to find a lost life insurance policy:

  • MIB Group: For a $75 fee, the MIB Group offers a Policy Locator Service. More than 400 insurance companies use MIB Group to verify information in life insurance applications. MIB's database contains information on certain individual life insurance policies and goes back to Jan. 1, 1996. Policies older than that won't be in the database, nor will guaranteed issue life insurance policies or small policies ($100,000 and below).
  • The National Association of Insurance Commissioners: The NAIC offers a free Life Insurance Locator service. The NAIC will ask all participating companies to search their records, no matter what state the policy was purchased in.

Tips to avoid a lost life insurance policy

If you have a life insurance policy, it's important to let your beneficiaries know about it. You don't want to leave them searching for it -- and possibly being unable to find it and claim the money. Here are tips:

  • Tell your beneficiaries: You can save them months of searching by letting them know a policy exists. To start a claim they only need the name of the life insurance company.
  • Use the American Council of Life Insurers' My Personal Insurance Log: This tool can help keep track of life insurance, retirement savings plans and other finances. You can share this information with your family. "The only people who will see this information are consumers who complete the form and those they choose to share it with," says Whit Cornman, spokesperson for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), a trade group. He notes that the organization will not have access to the information.
  • Do not store a policy in a safe deposit box: The ACLI recommends that you do not store life insurance policies in a safe deposit box. In many states, the boxes are sealed upon death, which could delay payment if your beneficiaries are looking for the policy.