Joe Gant just came into a little extra cash, and it only took 25 years for him to get his hands on it. A previously unclaimed – and entirely unexpected – payment from a life insurance company came his way via the sharp-eyed efforts of a friend.
His mom, Doris, passed away 25 years ago, but it was just last year when a friend spotted Gant’s name on the Illinois iCash website. Doris, an accountant, left Joe some savings, a paid-off home and an estate. After the funeral, Gant found the “books” Doris left behind in immaculate order – or so Gant thought.
But there was one hidden element to the story, and it was a missing piece common in many estate settlements.
The Georgia Insurance Commissioner says there are millions of dollars in unclaimed insurance benefits waiting to be claimed, and now their office has an app to help find the beneficiaries. The new Lost Life Insurance Policy service will help Georgians search to find out if they’re owed unclaimed benefits.
This sort of app is also available nationally as the NAIC has recently launched their new Life Insurance Policy Locator as part of the total effort by state insurance regulators aimed at reducing the number of unclaimed life insurance benefits. The national consumer group says in just six months, their policy locator delivered 1,800 beneficiaries lost or misplaced proceeds from life insurance policies or annuities. The discovery of the lost benefits means more than $17 million was returned to consumers, as of April 1, 2017.
“(These tools are) connecting consumers with lost, unknown or unclaimed benefits. Strong results in our first few months of this project show just how important locators are to consumers. We expect these numbers to grow as more consumers learn about them,” says NAIC President and Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel.
The NAIC says their role in handling requests via their (national) tool is to make information available for insurers to use as a research aid. As a request is received, the NAIC asks participating companies to search their records to determine whether they have a life insurance policy or annuity contract in the name of the deceased and calls on participating companies that have policy information to respond to the requester, but only if the requester is the designated beneficiary or is authorized to receive information.
Georgia Deputy State insurance commissioner Jay Florence said many life insurance policies go unclaimed because the policyholder moves and fails to notify the insurance company, or the beneficiary doesn’t know the policy exists.
“Our application went live in December,” said Florence. “And since then we’ve had about 130 people that have collected about $745,000 total in life insurance benefits.”
Florence says their new app, in much the same way as the system worked in Illinois for Joe Gant, makes the process of searching for unclaimed life insurance policies easier by providing a centralized service for assistance.
In Illinois, that app is known as iCASH, and it’s an unclaimed property database which includes records for millions of Illinoisans in line for some $2.5 billion.
Treasurer Michael Frerichs says other methods of contacting those in line for payouts are often met with skepticism as people are worried about identity theft. According to Frerichs, methods which include publishing notices in newspapers, letters to the last known addresses and phone calls can sometimes raise red flags with consumers.
He adds that while most of the claims are for smaller amounts, his office they once reclaimed $8 million to a single recipient.
While insurance companies are under no obligation to contact beneficiaries, they do have an interest in letting loved ones know they have unclaimed funds – it’s just good customer service and public relations.