Billions of dollars are unclaimed across U.S. from life insurance policies

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By News Channel 4

OKLAHOMA CITY – State leaders are debating just how far insurance companies should have to go to track down beneficiaries of life insurance policies.

Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller says that 99 percent of life insurance policies across the country are claimed by beneficiaries.

But what happens when a beneficiary doesn’t know that a life insurance policy exists for their loved one?

Miller says there is about $1 billion of life insurance money in the United States that has not been claimed.

Insurance companies are only required to pay a beneficiary if a claim is filed.

“Historically, they will not pay a claim until someone files a claim,” said Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

Officials say insurance companies do not check to see if policy holders are still alive, so they rely on filed claims to determine which policies should be paid.

“The law sets out that a claim has to be made to us,” said Brenda Nation, with the American Council of Life Insurers.

However, Miller says the current law is unfair to those who never knew a policy existed for their loved one.

In fact, families can go years before they ever learn that they are owed money from a life insurance policy.

The Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office is doing its part to try and connect Oklahomans with their unclaimed property.

Employees at the treasurer’s office often find policies that are not claimed.

The office will alert the insurance company of the death and collect the funds related to the life insurance policy.

That money will then be held until the rightful owner is found.

Sherry Sanders’ credits the state treasurer’s office with helping her after her husband’s death in 2008.

Six years ago, Sanders’ husband, Donald, passed away.

Following his death, she struggled financially, not knowing that Donald had purchased a life insurance policy prior to his passing.

Earlier this month, Sanders learned about that insurance policy after being contacted by the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office.

“It helped my family out. It helped out my kids,” she said.

“We examined the insurance company, we found the money and we were able to find her,” said Treasurer Ken Miller.

Now, state lawmakers are looking at the possibility of requiring life insurance companies to do that same work; searching records to find clients who have passed away and looking for their beneficiaries.

Insurance officials say they would like to keep the money out of the state treasurer’s office.

It’s a move Miller says he would support, but only if the insurance companies are required to find those beneficiaries in a timely manner.

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