insurance

Messy finances unfair to heirs

Don Taylorq_v2.gifDear Dr. Don,
My dad passed away recently and I can't locate his life insurance policy. I am not even aware of the insurance company. What should I do?
-- Felicia Finder

a_v2.gifDear Felicia,
I'm sorry for your loss. This is a great reminder to readers to put their affairs in order so family members don't have to become amateur sleuths to try to piece together your financial affairs after you've gone.

Whether it's a low-tech solution like a notebook with account and policy listings, or a Web-based solution like Legacy Locker or We Remember, family members should be able to grieve instead of being aggrieved in chasing down a loved one's assets.

MIB, which also issues insurance consumer reports, has a policy-locator service that will search for a decedent at a cost of $75 per search. Its "Policy Locator" Web page has a link that allows you to download a brochure and form to request the search. I hope this service will do the trick for you.

If your father was still making policy premium payments prior to his death, the insurance company will try to contact him to find out about the missing premium payments. That letter will provide information about the policy and the provider.

Since your father recently passed, the following information isn't relevant to your case. However, for others in similar situations, it's important to know that life insurance policies are seldom found in searches of state unclaimed property sites. That's because insurance companies hold the funds until they have no reasonable expectation that the insured is living, and only then does the policy value get transferred from the company to the state as unclaimed property. This transfer typically takes place three years after the insurer knows the insured has died.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this Web site, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this Web site is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select one of these topics: "Financing a home," "Saving & Investing" or "Money." Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.

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