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Action: Tips for finding status of old insurance policies

Tracking down the status of old insurance policies

Q: My mother passed away more than 11 years ago in Palm Springs, Calif. I was recently looking through her papers and came across several receipts for payments to a major insurance company. Some of them go back to 1962. Most have the original policy numbers.

I don't have the policies themselves, but I'm the only child and I'm listed as the beneficiary on one of them.

I'd like to discover the status of these old insurance policies and whether I can make a claim on them. Is there a third party I can contact to research them?

Tom Mills

A: There are no national or statewide databases of all life insurance policies that you can consult, but there are other resources.

Since the policies were not among her assets at the time her estate was disbursed, it's possible she cashed them out herself.

If the insurance company is still in business, call it directly and ask if it can research the policy numbers you have.

If not, here are a couple of suggestions from the Insurance Information Institute, a trade organization.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a "Life Insurance Company Location System" to help you find state insurance department personnel who might help identify companies that might have written life insurance on someone who has passed away. Visit the NAIC's Life Insurance Company Location System at (note the "s" in the https portion of this URL).

Contact the California Unclaimed Property Division (since that's where she lived when she died) at or phone toll-free 1-800-992-4647.

In addition to matured or terminated insurance policies, you may find bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, certificates of deposit and more.

For more tips on tracking down insurance policies, go to

Sale doesn't void contract

Q: When my business opened in 2003, we had a contract with BFI for waste service. In 2004, BFI was purchased by Waste Services of Florida Inc. and service continued.

However WSI's "fuel adjustment fee" has gone from $14 to $60 per month. I found another company that offers the same service at a good rate, without the fuel fee.

I called WSI to remove its trash bin but it refused because it says I have a contract. The only contract I had was with BFI and I can't find anything in it about a transfer of contract if the company was sold.

Terry Browne

A: You may not have read far enough, because the contract is binding ". . . on the part of BFI and Customer, and their respective heirs, successors and assigns . . ."

WSI's Alicia Hazelton said she has offered to match the rate quoted to you by the other company for monthly service, with no fuel fee.

Your five-year contract term, which renewed automatically in March, remains in effect.

Action: Tips for finding status of old insurance policies 09/06/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 6, 2008 4:31am]
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