Your need for life insurance varies with your age and responsibilities. It is a very important part of financial planning. There are several reasons to purchase life insurance. You may need to replace income that would be lost with the death of a wage earner. You may want to make sure your dependents do not incur significant debt when you die. Life insurance may allow them to keep assets versus selling them to pay outstanding bills or taxes.
Consumers should consider the following factors when purchasing life insurance:
- Medical expenses previous to death, burial costs, and estate taxes;
- Support while remaining family members try to secure employment; and
- Continued monthly bills and expenses, daycare costs, college tuition, and retirement.
Tips on Buying Life Insurance
- Make sure you feel confident with your insurance agent and company.
- Decide how much you need, for how long, and what you can afford to pay.
- Learn what kinds of policies will provide what you need and pick the one that is best for you.
- Do not sign an application until you review it carefully to be sure the answers are complete and accurate.
- Do not buy life insurance unless you intend to stick with your plan. It may be very costly if you quit during the early years of the policy.
- When you buy a policy, make the check payable to the company, not the agent.
- View our Choosing Life Insurance information for more details.
- View our Ten Things You Should Know Before Purchasing Life Insurance
Information You Need
Before you start your search, collect necessary documents and information. An old copy of the policy will be most helpful. You’ll need some personal details of the insured individual including the full name (maiden name for a married individual), Social Security number and the state where the policy was purchased. To claim the benefit you’ll also need a copy of the death certificate.
To start, try to determine:
- Which insurance company issued the policy;
- Which agent or broker sold the policy; and
- Whether your loved one purchased the policy through an employer, union or association.
Find contact information for the company, agent/broker or employer with an online search. Talk with their customer service representatives or the human resources department of the employer to see if they can provide the policy number and information on how to report a claim.
If the insurance company that sold the policy has changed its name or merged with another company you can still locate that company using the SCDOI’s List of Insurers No Longer Licensed in South Carolina.
Where to Look
If your search does not turn up any information, try one of these strategies:
- Look in files, safety deposit boxes and other storage areas for any insurance-related documents.
- Search through address books or online contacts for any insurance listings (agent, company).
- Contact their attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, bankers, business associates or any other financial advisors.
- Applications for any life insurance policies, will likely list ALL life insurance policies belonging to your loved one.
- Check for cancelled checks or bank statements for automatic payments to insurance companies.
- Review income tax returns for the previous years to see if there are claims for interest earned on insurance policies.
- Talk with their auto or homeowners insurance agent. It’s possible this agent also wrote their life insurance policy.
If You Still Need Help, Try the NAIC’s Life Insurance Policy Locator Service
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free, secure, national service that allows you to search for a deceased person’s lost life insurance policies and/or annuities. You can access the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator here or by going to doi.sc.gov/lpsearch.
For more information, review the Life Insurance Policy Locator FAQs.
Check for Unclaimed Property
When insurance companies are unable to successfully locate a beneficiary to a life insurance policy within a specified period of time, they must remit the property to the state for safekeeping for the benefit of the rightful owner.
In South Carolina, the South Carolina Treasurer’s Office manages the state’s unclaimed property program, which annually returns more than $30 million in lost money and unclaimed property to citizens, businesses and organizations. This free service allows claimants to easily search the Treasurer’s website for money owed to them and process their claims online.
You can find links to other state unclaimed property programs on the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) website or conduct a free, multi-state search of unclaimed property programs through the NAUPA-sponsored search engine at MissingMoney.com.