When a loved one dies, there are many components involved in closing out the estate. With so much to do, it is possible that life insurance proceeds may be overlooked. The good news is that if you locate an old life insurance policy, you should be able to claim the life insurance benefits and distribute them according to the beneficiary designations on the policy. While there is no statue of limitations in claiming the assets, the sooner you locate the policy and collect, the easier the task will be.
Obtain an original copy of the death certificate from the Vital Records Department in your state or county. There may be a nominal fee for the original but copies are not accepted in life insurance claims.
Contact the insurance company that issued the policy. Provide the insurance copy with the death certificate and any documentation naming you as the executor of the estate. This may be a probate court order or trust. Confirm that the policy was paid up and in effect without any loans at the time of death. Request the names of the last listed beneficiaries.
Request the assets on behalf of the estate or help the beneficiaries prepare the documents to get their benefit.
Contact the state controller if the insurance company no longer has the funds held for the beneficiaries. The money hasn't disappeared. Insurance companies will only hold assets for a specified period of time. After a while, if there is no activity on the account (premium payments or the policy is beyond life expectancy), the funds will be turned over to the state's "unclaimed funds" department and held in trust for the beneficiaries indefinitely.
There are online services that help you search for life insurance policies of a loved one. Examples of these are MIB Solutions, Find Your Policy.com and Lost Life Insurance Finder Expert.