The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) has a free-of-charge search service to assist families in locating unclaimed benefits on life insurance policies. DFS forwards completed search applications to all New York State licensed life insurance companies and fraternal benefit societies. Upon receipt of a DFS search application, life insurance companies incorporated in the State of New York perform searches of their electronic records to identify a policy, contract or certificate on which the decedent was the insured or owner, regardless of where the life insurance contract or certificate was issued. Life insurance companies licensed in New York and incorporated in other states will only perform searches of policies, contracts and certificates delivered or issued for delivery in the State of New York.
The service is not available to any individual, company, organization or service that charges consumers a fee for making the request or locating lost life insurance policies or annuity contracts. Instead, DFS’ intent is to provide the cost-free service to immediate family members, which includes the decedent’s spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or closest living relative. DFS also makes the service available to the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate.
Individuals can access the service by going to the consumer tab on DFS’ website http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/lost_policy_find.htm. DFS calls the service the “Lost Policy Finder.” The service requires the date of birth, date of death, and last known address of the decedent for the application to be complete. Additionally, the requestor of the service needs to provide a death certificate.
To obtain a death certificate for a death that occurred in the State of New York, a requestor can visit the New York State Health Department to search and request the document. If the death occurred outside of the State of New York, then a requestor can contact the vital statistic office in the state or area where the death occurred. The following information is necessary when requesting the death certificate:
- Decedent’s full name and sex, date, place of death;
- Decedent’s relationship to the requestor;
- Purpose for which the document is needed;
- Requestor’s name and address, driver’s license number, and signature.
If an insurer identifies the existence of a life insurance policy or certificate, where the deceased was the insured, annuitant or owner, and the requestor is a beneficiary under the identified policy, contract or certificate, then the insurer will contact the requestor within 45 days after receiving the request from the DFS.
Insurers are unable to provide information if the requestor is not a beneficiary for an existing policy, contract, or certificate due to Federal and State privacy laws. The insurer will still contact the requestor and notify the requestor if that is the case. The insurer will then attempt to find and contact the beneficiary under the policy. DFS will contact the requestor, as well, after the search process, to notify the requestor whether a policy, contract, or certificate was identified.