Keep track of your family’s life insurance policy

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People shouldn’t feel they have to resort to opening a “Go Fund Me” account when unfortunate circumstances happen in their lives.

“That’s what life insurance is for,” said Kelly Dues, operations manager at Peabody Insurance Agency in Fenton. “There is so much responsibility placed on our loved ones when we pass; life insurance is a way to make sure that at least the financial burden is lessened.”

About 59 percent, or 192 million Americans, have some type of life insurance, according to USA Today financial columnist Susan Tompor. So the odds are fairly good that a loved one might have a policy, even if you’re not aware of it. Life insurance is one example of paperwork that sometimes “goes missing” decades after its original purchase.

“Often people will buy life insurance at a young age, at a time when plans that have a paid-up option make sense,” Dues said. “As a result, policies could be long destroyed or lost and there would not be a trail of bills to follow to find them. State and national search resources can help family members find policies they never even knew existed.”

Missing life insurance policies are a common problem. According to Tompor, it has been estimated that at least $10 billion in life insurance policies nationwide have gone unclaimed or unpaid.

It is up to the beneficiaries of life insurance policies to file a claim following a death. But how do you file a claim if you don’t know if there’s a policy?

That’s where search resources can be very helpful, Dues said.

Reach out to the Michigan Missing Life Policy Search Service through Michigan.gov or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners through its own Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. See www.naic.org; click on “Consumers.”

Also, look for paperwork in lock boxes or safety deposit boxes, searching for a paper trail that might uncover a lost or little-known insurance policy. Look at bank statements or old canceled checks, tax returns or premium or dividend notices in the mail. You might also check with former employers of the deceased.

Make sure you do have a life insurance policy for your own family and that you keep up with changing life circumstances that might affect your beneficiary.

“Marriage, death, loss in trust in an original beneficiary are all reasons to update your policy,” Dues said.

She also added that one of the hardest things about being an insurance agent is telling a family member that there is no life insurance for the family member who just passed away. “In my 32-year career, this has happened too often. Parents or children burdened with funeral expenses; spouses just plain burdened. It’s a horrible feeling.”

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