- By utilizing information from bank, tax and insurance records, you can track down old policies.
- You can leverage insurers’ and states’ detailed records of unclaimed property in your search.
- Free tools exist to help you find old policies and other unclaimed property.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ 2022 annual report, states returned over $4 billion worth of unclaimed property to individuals and their families between July 2021 and June 2022. It is common for both physical property and financial assets to become lost due to neglect, bookkeeping errors, incapacity or death.
Understanding how to utilize some of the best resources and strategies can help you discover your own unclaimed annuities and life insurance policies.
Ways To Locate an Annuity
To unravel a good mystery, you must begin with the available clues. In the case of locating old or unclaimed assets such as an annuity, it’s best to start with any records you have of the original policy. This may include statements, premium payment confirmations, sales literature, terms and conditions paperwork or any form of electronic or physical communication.
The name of the insurance company that issued the policy and the policy number or account number will be the most effective means of identifying the account, even if it is no longer held by the original company.
Search With the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) serves as the regulatory support organization for the insurance industry. Membership in the NAIC comprises insurance regulators from all 50 states, with the aim of creating a fair marketplace for both companies and consumers.
To assist consumers in understanding, shopping for and locating insurance policies, the NAIC provides a range of resources. The Life Insurance Policy Locator Service allows users to access and search for collective records overseen by the NAIC. Prior to conducting a search, users must complete the sign-up page, which requires your name and email address, as well as the creation of a password. This process enables the NAIC and participating companies to contact you directly.
Check Your Bank Records
Your bank account records may provide insight regarding policy details. Finding the payment date and the company to which the policy premium was paid will give you a starting point for further research. Even if the policy was sold through an insurance agency and not directly through the carrier, the transaction record will be tied to a policy account number and sales agent.
In the case of the policy belonging to a deceased person, the executor or estate representative should work with the bank, credit union, insurer or agency. Be aware that the companies involved will request certain identifying documents, such as the letter of appointment and the death certificate, before sharing otherwise private information.
Call Current and Past Employers
Many people may have held insurance policies, annuities or pensions through a current or former employer as a part of their benefits package. The further back the employment, the harder it may be to track down these benefits, as many employers cycle through benefits providers or employ third-party benefits administrators to organize packages.
If the owner of the policy was employed at the time of death, the human resources department will have recent records of the coverage and can coordinate policy details with the relevant service providers.
For former employment benefits or policies, there may be limits on retention. Many employers only offer life insurance during active employment. For annuities or pensions that are part of retirement income plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s or deferred compensation, the rules and structures of those plans may be customized to the employer and the custodian company managing them.
When benefit providers switch, employers may relocate the company benefits of both former and current employees. Although your records may refer to the company that managed the benefits at the time of employment, it is possible that management has changed multiple times over the years.
Contact the Insurer Directly
Once you know which insurance company issued the policy you’re tracking down, contact their customer service team to learn the necessary steps to claim the benefits. Insurance companies, like all financial institutions, protect the personal information of policyholders. The insurance company may require specific documentation or proof of ownership before discussing any details, including whether a policy exists.
When speaking with an insurance company, honestly explaining your situation is crucial. Misrepresenting facts or pretending to be the owner will only make the process more challenging.
If you are the owner but no longer have relevant information, such as the policy number, security codes or establishment date, explain that to the representative. Ask how you can securely access the policy. Representatives can guide you on what information or documentation you need to reestablish access.
If you’re not the owner, explain your relationship to the owner and the reason for your inquiry. Most companies have specific teams trained to help beneficiaries inherit or claim their benefits. They can provide a case worker to be your point of contact for this process.
If you’re unable to glean the necessary information or are stonewalled in your search, contact your state’s insurance department. The NAIC website offers a directory of all state information through its State Insurance Departments directory.
Online Policy Search Tools
- Nationwide Online Policy Search
- Lincoln Financial Group Lost Policy Inquiry
- New York Life Lost Policy Form
- Life Insurance Policy Locator Service
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators
Use Your Tax Returns
The IRS collects a wealth of knowledge from every taxpayer each year, and while that may be an annoyance at the time, the financial records can be useful when searching for missing accounts. Depending on the type and ownership structure, an annuity may show up in a few places on your taxes.
Tax Forms To Check
Reports of distributions from qualified retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, pensions and annuities, are issued on a 1099-R by each company that pays out a distribution, including the amount, tax withholding and source filed on your taxes.
Any payments made from an annuity, whether qualified or non-qualified, will be reported on a 1099-R by the company that made the payments. Any portion of your payment that represents growth or pre-tax will be taxable as ordinary income. The portion of payments that represent cost-basis or post-tax will still be reported on the 1099-R but left off the taxable portion of the tax form. The payor and policy number are normally included with the form.
Reports the interest and investment income earned during a given tax year. It is a standard addendum to Form 1040, the individual income tax return.
If your annuity generates interest, dividends or investment income from underlying fixed or variable investments, it must be reported on Schedule B with the name of the payor. However, since most annuities are tax-deferred while in force, it is unlikely that any reportable income would be generated that is not already reported as earned income on a 1099-R.
Reports business income for sole proprietors or single-member LLCs, and it is a standard addendum to Form 1040, the individual income tax return.
Contributions to annuities or other policies that were part of a self-employed retirement or benefit plan would be reported as part of your Schedule C business expenses. These reported contributions would provide insight into any contributions made for yourself or your employees.
Abandoned or unclaimed property, including financial assets, will be transferred into the ownership of the state government if the original owner cannot be located or contacted, making it deemed abandoned. Rules differ by property type within each state, but typically one to five years must pass before the property will be subject to escheatment. Understanding your state’s rules will help you begin your search.
If you think that your lost policy may have been claimed by the state, using the tools or services for unclaimed property will likely provide better results than searching by individual insurance issuer. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and MissingMoney.com each offer free search tools that cover the United States, Canada and some territories.
There are also many paid services that offer to find lost property on behalf of you or a relative, but costs can vary depending on the services and depth of research. If you need additional help, these can be useful, but they shouldn’t be the first step in your search. Before paying for a search service or responding to a stranger who offers to find your unclaimed property, utilize the free tools available to you.
Finding an old insurance policy or annuity isn’t necessarily a wild hunt. There are several resources available to help consumers locate them.
FAQs About Finding an Old Annuity
The best first step is to connect with the original insurance issuer to uncover any details about the policy. If you do not know the insurance issuer, searching for the company or policy using the tools available from the NAIC’s Life Insurance Policy Locator Service or the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators will cast the widest net.
Depending on your state’s rules, an unclaimed annuity may be transferred into the ownership of the state after one to five years of failed contact with the original owner. This process is called escheatment.
An annuity is governed by a contract between the issuer and the original owner who funded it. Most annuities are designed to last a lifetime and end when the owner or owner’s spouse dies. In some cases, there may be leftover money for heirs, but without proper beneficiary documentation, this money may not be claimed to liquidate the annuity.