For the past several months, CBS News has been investigating a series of settlements in which 25 of the nation’s biggest life insurance companies have agreed to pay more than $7.5 billion in back-death benefits.
On top of that, there are 35 insurance companies that have not settled and remain under investigation. Combined, those 35 insurance companies might owe up to $3 billion in additional unclaimed benefits to beneficiaries.
These settlements are a result of insurance companies not informing beneficiaries of a life insurance policy, instead keeping money for themselves, terminating policies for non-payment, or cutting off annuities or retirement payments. And this practice isn’t new — evidence found by the taskforce investigating these cases shows that it has been going on since the 60s.
So what can families do to see if they qualify for these settlements? Here are a few ways to find out if you’re owed any money:
- If you know what company your loved one had a policy with, check there first. The 25 companies that have come forward so far to pay settlements include:
- Forethought (Global Atlantic)
- Gerber Life Insurance Company
- Jackson National Life Insurance Company
- John Hancock
- Lincoln Financial Group
- Midland National Life Insurance Company
- New York Life
- Northwestern Mutual
- Pacific Life
- Sun Life Financial
- The Hartford
- Voya Financial
- Western & Southern Financial Group
- If you don’t know if you are a beneficiary for any policies, you can search your name on the national unclaimed property database, which is an official clearinghouse used by state governments to report unclaimed property such as life insurance policies.
- Check your loved one’s medical records for any mention of a life insurance policy.
- Ask other family members if they were aware of a life insurance policy taken out by your loved one.
- Ask your loved one’s neighbors if they were ever visited by a door-to-door insurance salesperson — this might be the same company your loved one had a policy with.
- If you have located a policy for which you are a beneficiary but are being denied payment, consider seeking legal action by hiring an insurance attorney.
If you do discover that you are owed money, you must file a claim with the company that the policy belongs to. Consult the company directly to find out what information is needed from you to get started with the process.
While this situation is largely the fault of insurance companies not alerting beneficiaries of policy benefits, this situation highlights the importance of communicating with your family members. If you haven’t already done so, here are a few things you should consider telling your loved ones:
- Whether or not you are an organ or whole-body donor.
- To what extent you want life-saving medical care or resuscitation.
- What kind of funeral arrangements you want upon your death.
- The care you want for any children you have who are under the age of 18 or who are mentally or physically disabled.
- Where to find and how to access your last will and testament.
- Where to find and how to access your life insurance policy.
Though it can be uncomfortable discussing these things with the people you love, it’s important if you want to ensure that your loved ones’ and your wishes are fulfilled.