What Life Insurance Does the Decedent Have?

cropped-LI benes

After someone dies, there are numerous post-death logistics to settle the decedent’s estate. Funerals and other final expenses can be costly. One main priority after someone dies is finding out what life insurance policies, if any, the decedent had. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to locating a life insurance policy, there are various methods to start the search.

It’s important to remember that life insurance policy benefits belong to the beneficiary (if they are living), not the decedent’s estate. A decedent may have a policy with a beneficiary named as a friend, a business associate, or anyone. The proceeds of a policy go directly to the beneficiary named on the policy. If the person named on the policy is deceased, then the proceeds typically go to the decedent’s estate.

Get Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate is required to claim benefits or request information about a policy. If someone believes they are the beneficiary of a policy, a death certificate is required to show proof to the insurance company and any other relevant parties that the policyholder has died. Death certificates can be ordered from the decedent’s funeral home or on the state government website in the state where the decedent died. Read our article on how to get a death certificate.

Speak with Family Members and Friends

While it’s unlikely that they’ll have policy specifics on hand, they may at least know whether policies exist.

Search Through Personal Belongings

Go through any places where essential documents may have been stored, such as a desk, filing cabinet, or safe deposit box. While reviewing their personal items, keep an eye out for old bills and mail, which may contain policy information. If possible, search through the decedent’s emails and use the search function to find “insurance” or specific common insurance company names the decedent may have used.

Contact Former Employers

Contact the decedent’s former employers. If the decedent had life insurance included as part of their employment benefits package, their employers can identify which life insurance company the policy was purchased through.

Search Online

Go to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which performs a free search for active policies with basic information provided about the decedent. Results are only returned if the search finds policies. This process takes 60 days or more. If the search does not find policies, they do not respond. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators may include life insurance policies. Check for any unclaimed property while looking for life insurance policies. Unlike insurance policies, unclaimed property without a named beneficiary owned by the decedent is part of the estate.

Contact the Office of the State Insurance Commissioner

Contact the office of the decedent’s State Insurance Commissioner The State Insurance Commissioner office contacts all of the licensed agencies within that state to determine any active contracts. If an active contract is found, the agencies contact the authorized party or beneficiary.


Life insurance is an important resource for beneficiaries as well as decedent’s estates. The decedent may have had policies that are so old that the beneficiaries have died, making the claim process more difficult and time-consuming. Some employer-sponsored life insurance policies have automatic enrollment which the decedent may have had no knowledge of the benefit. The time it takes to exhaustively find these policies is usually worth the effort.

EstateGrid simplifies post-death logistics. Sign up today.

Kubloss, Inc. (dba EstateGrid) has placed the information on this website as a service to the general public. It is not intended as legal, financial, or health advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of a qualified professional. It is provided as is without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non‐infringement.