States trumpeting effectiveness of Life Insurance Policy Locator tool

Since its launch in November 2016, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Life Insurance Policy Locator tool has been used by more than 40,000 people nationwide and has matched more than 8,200 beneficiaries with lost or misplaced life insurance policy or annuities worth more than $92 million.

Using the Life Insurance Policy Locator, consumer requests are encrypted and secured to maintain confidentiality. Participating insurers compare submitted requests with available policyholder information and report all matches to state insurance departments through the locator. Companies then contact beneficiaries or their authorized representatives. Insurance companies have 90 days to research inquiries.

“State insurance regulators identified the scattershot, intensely manual process of helping consumers search for lost life insurance policies,” Ted Nickel, NAIC president and Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner, told Financial Regulation News recently. “Working together with the NAIC we leveraged innovation and technology to develop a bespoke solution providing an easy way for consumers to access nearly all life insurers and search for lost life insurance policies. It’s been a positive partnership with the life insurers providing finality and peace of mind for consumers.”

According to Consumer Reports, an estimated $1 billion in benefits from life insurance policies are unclaimed.

A variety of states have released figures in recent weeks detailing how the policy locator tools have benefitted residents. Here’s a quick state-by-state summary, ranging from $11 million in proceeds in California to a mere $17,000 in Montana:

California: New state tool discovers $11 million worth of lost life insurance policies

The insurance policy locator tool has helped thousands of Californians receive more than $11 million in life insurance policy proceeds, according to the California Department of Insurance.

State officials said the Life Insurance Policy locator discovered lost or misplaced life insurance policies for 583 beneficiaries in the state. It was developed by the NAIC and the state’s insurance department in 2016.

“The Life Insurance Policy Locator was created to help beneficiaries search for lost life insurance policies and to ensure consumers receive money they are entitled to,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, in a statement. “This national tool has been an enormous success. I encourage everyone to use this tool to see if they are owed benefits.”

Georgia: Life Insurance Policy Locator finds $6.6 million for Georgia consumers

Hundreds of Georgia consumers have reaped the benefits of Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and the NAIC’s Life Insurance Policy Locator during the locator’s first year.

The free consumer tool has matched 589 Georgia beneficiaries with lost or misplaced life insurance policies or annuities returning $6,617,801.60 to those consumers.

“So far this year, hundreds of Georgians have been matched with lost or misplaced life insurance policies and annuities – totaling $6.6 million,” said Commissioner Hudgens. “The response from this application has been tremendous. I encourage everyone to log in to see if they have unclaimed money left to them from a deceased family member or loved one.”

Approximately 3,362 consumers have conducted searches for Georgia policies since the policy locator was launched in December 2016. The Life Insurance Policy Locator Service was created to help consumers locate benefits from life insurance policies and annuity contracts. Individuals who believe they are beneficiaries, executors or legal representatives of a deceased person may submit a search request form.

“There are many Georgians who don’t know where to begin when searching for a lost life insurance policy,” said Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence. “The life insurance policy locator streamlines and simplifies the process for consumers.”

Furthermore, since 2012, the Georgia Department of Insurance has entered into 25 multi-state regulatory actions that resulted in 9,770 Georgians receiving unclaimed life insurance benefit totaling $199,958,666.

North Dakota: ND Insurance Department recovers $5.5 million for life insurance beneficiaries

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread recently announced that his department has recovered more than $5.5 million for North Dakota life insurance beneficiaries who may have never found the money.

The department found the money by examining the 30 top life insurers’ use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, according to a Dec. 20 article in the Grand Forks Herald.

The file is a comprehensive list of people who have died in the U.S., but Godfread said the examinations found that most life insurance companies have unfairly used the list in the past to stop payments for dead annuity holders, but have not used the database to identify life insurance policyholders who have passed away to pay beneficiaries. Of the 30 company examinations, 28 resulted in settlements and changes to beneficiary search practices that prohibit companies from conducting the unfair searches.

“This is a huge victory for North Dakota consumers,” Godfread said in a news release. “Searching for and locating life insurance beneficiaries is a critical part of this business. The department is committed to working together with other states to continue investigating insurance companies’ use of the file because with the tools available to insurance companies today, there is no reason for them not to search for and locate policy beneficiaries.”

Two recent agreements were made with Aflac and State Farm after coordinated multistate examinations among state insurance departments in North Dakota, California, Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. North Dakota will receive approximately $15,000 from the agreements. Additionally, under the terms of the settlements, Aflac and State Farm will continue to implement a number of business reforms.

As a result of the 30 company investigations, state insurance regulators have paid $8.7 billion to life insurance beneficiaries nationwide. The North Dakota department has been part of 28 multistate settlements with insurance companies regarding life insurance practices and to date has received almost $2.6 million for North Dakota. Efforts continue to be focused on the examination of 10 remaining life insurers: Northwestern Mutual, Great West, Protective Life, American Equity, Principal Financial, Allstate, Western Southern, OneAmerica, Ohio National and American National.

In addition, since the NAIC’s Life Insurance Policy Locator application’s launch in 2016, six policies have been found in North Dakota with $254,000 claimed.

“There are many North Dakotans who don’t know they could be missing life insurance policies, or don’t know where to begin to locate them,” Godfread said in the release. “The Life Insurance Policy Locator tool on our website is critical in helping reconnect people with lost life insurance policies. This tool is simple to use and easy to access, I encourage everyone to check it out.”

Colorado: Life Insurance Policy Locator finds $1.3M in Colorado

In Colorado, the Division of Insurance (DOI) says that 757 inquiries have resulted in 134 responses that led to $1,311,109 making its way to beneficiaries since the Life Insurance Policy Locator tool was launched.

“This tool helps Coloradans get the insurance benefits their spouses, parents, grandparents and other loved ones have already paid for,” said Commissioner of Insurance Marguerite Salazar. “Regulators identified the mounting problem of lost policies and worked together in 2016 to design this resource to help consumers find money that is owed to them. I encourage everyone to log in to see if they are owed money.”

Tennessee: Lost policy service helps Tennesseans recover $1.6M in life insurance benefits

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) reminds Tennesseans of an online tool that as of July 2017 has returned over $1,679,721 in life insurance benefits to Tennesseans since last year.

Available since 2016, the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service helps consumers locate benefits from life insurance policies and annuity contracts.

“The death of a loved one is an emotionally draining time, and the last thing consumers want to do is track down an insurance policy that may have been purchased 20 years ago from a company that has since merged,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Michael Humphreys. “We are pleased that the policy search has helped Tennesseans. We encourage others to take advantage of this free service.”

In the eight-month period from November 4, 2016 to June 30, 2017, Tennessee had a total of 491 requests for lost policy searches and $1,679,721 in life insurance benefits was returned to beneficiaries through the program.

Indiana: Department of Insurance, NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator finds over $600,000 total claims

In Indiana, it was announced Dec. 24 that 144 beneficiaries have been matched with $609,591.72 total claims since the launch of the NAIC and the Indiana Department of Insurance’s (IDOI) Life Insurance Policy Locator last November.

“Regulators identified the mounting problem of lost policies and worked together to design this resource to help consumers find money that is owed to them,” said Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson. “We encourage Hoosiers to log in to see if they are owed money.”

Montana: 11 people matched with over $17,000

In Montana, State Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale reported at the end of November that 11 people have been matched with over $17,000 during the past year as a result of using the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator tool.

“The response from this project has been tremendous,” Rosendale said. “Many people invested in these policies to prepare for their final needs, or to provide security for loved ones. Others just wanted to leave a legacy. Those wishes should be honored, as the obligation has already been paid.”