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How to find lost insurance policies for free in the UK?

Much like retirement, pensions, and funeral arrangements, life insurance is something many people will put to the back of their minds as something to think about at a later date. However, if you’ve reached a certain point in your life when living expenses, mortgage payments, dependents and other responsibilities are a lot greater than what they once were, it might be prudent to consider making plans for the future, including purchasing life insurance.

Life insurance pays out a financial sum upon your death, meaning your dependents and loved ones who might otherwise be left with associated costs and bills will have some peace of mind. This is why many people in the UK look to life insurance to take care of their loved ones after they are gone.

Over five billion pounds of protection claims such as term life insurance and whole of life insurance were distributed to UK policyholders last year, with over 200,000 claimants paid. Life insurance has a 99% payout rate, so you can be rest assured that if a claim is made, it will almost certainly be paid out. However, what these numbers miss are the vast numbers of claims not paid out because the claim isn’t made in the first place.

An estimated two billion pounds of unclaimed life insurance is out there in the UK, waiting for collection but with no clear path to beneficiaries. This is because for many who purchase life insurance, they might fail to tell their beneficiaries about its existence, or forget that they’ve purchased it without putting it on their will. Indeed it might just be one of a litany of assets that got lost in the mix or perhaps disregarded as just “another scrap of paper” and subsequently discarded.

So, if you’ve had a relative or loved one recently pass away with no sign of a life policy, it might be so reasonable to look into this further. The potential benefit could far outweigh the time and effort involved, so with that in mind, how would one go about finding a lost life insurance policy?

The Life Insurer Provider or Policyholder’s Solicitors

In the first instance, an insurance company, having found out a policyholder has passed away and on confirming the life insurance payout is now due, would look to make every effort to contact the policyholder’s noted beneficiaries. Usually this is straightforward with up to date records and clear documentation.

However, because life insurance policies are taken out over a long period, this is not always possible. Sometimes they can be valid for more than 50 years. People move, they misplace documents, insurers purchase other insurers and in so doing your policy too. A multitude of changes could happen, so it might be that the insurer is not able to track down their claimant. The Insurance company will do their best to track them down but there will only be so much they can do. Not just that, but the insurer might not even know a policyholder has passed away if nobody has told them. Usually this might be up to the policyholder’s next of kin, but if the existence of the life insurance policy is not known then this could clearly be a challenge.

If the insurance company was not aware of a life policyholder passing, then perhaps the policyholder’s solicitor might know further details. If they have been dealing with their other assets, there’s a good chance this life policy was listed as a benefit to the policyholder’s estate too, together with details on how the claim should be paid.

Unclaimed Assets Register

Life insurance industries in some other countries have put together a central database so that if a question arises around a relative’s potential life insurance policy, you will be able to query said database. This however does not exist in the UK. Instead, the first port of call if you were in the UK would be to consult the Unclaimed Assets Register. This is a service provided by Experian to help UK residents find any lost assets and reach out to insurance providers. In order to use this, one would set up an online account, make a search (at the cost of £25 per search). You will be able to rerun saved searches at any time without extra cost, and the database is continually updated. The UAR also contains assets other than life insurance: money, antiques, property and more. So, it is possible you could find more than just life insurance.

Association of Friendly Mutuals

Mutuals and Friendly Societies (insurance companies owned by their customers) offered many savings products and low premium life insurance policies several decades ago. Since then, many of these companies have changed ownership and merged with others. With these mergers, life policies are transferred to the new insurance company. If you’re having trouble locating which company is now responsible for the payment of a life policy claim, the Association of Friendly Mutuals keeps a comprehensive database on how Mutuals and Friendly Societies have merged or who their policies have been transferred to.

Private Search Service

If you know that a life insurance policy exists, you might take the task to a Private Search Service. These companies are experts in locating lost assets such as this, and will usually work on commission, only charging upon delivery of the misplaced policy.

Contact previous employers

Sometimes life insurance policies are given as a workplace benefit from a previous employer. Their human resources department will have extensive records of this, and should be able to help if reached out to.

Bank statements

Life insurance policies can be paid monthly or annually. Obviously some people might have more than one bank account, but it might be useful to go through old bank statements to see if recurring charges in the name of particular insurance providers keep cropping up. If that's the case, then a financial service of some sort was being provided. At this point, get in touch with that insurance provider: upon explanation of your situation, they should be able to help further.

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