If you have ever been unable to find the important papers of a loved one who died, you may have asked yourself that very question. As if you were not already grieving, there was the added pressure of wrapping up the affairs of your loved one. That process was made much more difficult when searching for important papers turned out to be an effort in futility.
Many of us do not keep good records, making it improbable or impossible for others to determine the nature and extent of our assets. Other times a family member or other relation goes in and takes insurance policies and other important documents. In my practice it is not uncommon for clients to report that someone entered the deceased person's home and took all of the important papers.
If that happens, an interested person, such as a beneficiary, can ask the court to force the turnover of the will. Further, an executor or administrator of an estate can drag someone into court to request turnover of property that belonged to the deceased person. However, the executor or administrator may not know what the decedent owned, and the person who took the documents may not admit to having possession of them.
The good news is that free help is available. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. Start the process by going to www.naic.org and clicking on the Consumers tab at the top of the page. After an online form is completed, NAIC will ask participating companies to search their records for life insurance policies or annuities in the name of the deceased person. If any companies respond to NAIC, those companies will be asked to respond to the requestor. To receive a reply from a participating company, the requestor must be a beneficiary or a person otherwise entitled to such information, like an estate administrator or executor.
The bad news is that not all companies that handle insurance policies or annuities are registered to participate in this programs. Don't let the bad news stop you. Many companies are registered, and there is a good chance that you will find the information you seek.