Life Insurance Beneficiaries Often Aren’t Prepared for the Worst, Association Finds

A new survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners finds that many consumers don't know whether they are life insurance beneficiaries—which means they never collect benefits a loved one intended for them.

People buy life insurance hoping that their beneficiaries never have to access the benefits. But when the worst happens and beneficiaries need to receive those funds after the death of a loved one, many have no idea what to do. And that means that millions of dollars in benefits go unclaimed every year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

According to a new survey from NAIC, just 39 percent of baby boomers, 30 percent of millennials, and 22 percent of Generation Z individuals felt prepared for being life insurance beneficiaries.

Many respondents didn’t even know if they had been named as a beneficiary by someone else: Just 21 percent of Gen Zers and 20 percent of millennials said they were aware. Many also didn’t know where to look for such a policy or even which insurance company backed the policy.

“There is a life insurance preparation gap, and it’s not the buyer who’s unprepared—it’s the beneficiary,” NAIC President Ray Farmer said in a news release. “There’s clearly a need for better communication between policyholders and beneficiaries, especially when that beneficiary is younger and less familiar with the process.”

To help close the preparation gap, NAIC offers a free online Life Insurance Policy Locator Service to connect consumers with insurers after a loved one’s death. A user may submit a request with information listed on a death certificate. The service contacts participating insurance companies to determine whether  the person held a policy and to facilitate the exchange of information with beneficiaries. NAIC says the tool has assisted in recovering more than $765 million in policy benefits since 2016.

For a beneficiary seeking to claim life insurance benefits, “knowing you’re the beneficiary is just the start. Information about the policy and coverage is important,” said Farmer, who is director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance. “It’s helpful to think of it in three parts: who, what and where. Who is the carrier? What is the benefit amount? Where is the policy stored? Having this basic information will save time and help to ensure the benefits are paid.”

(iiievgeniy/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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