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How to find and claim life insurance

After the passing of a loved one, dealing with finances can feel like a challenge, and life insurance is no exception. On the other hand, a payout from a loved one’s life insurance policy can offer some stability during this time. Here are a few important things to understand about finding and claiming life insurance policies as well as navigating inherited annuities.

How to find out if someone had a life insurance policy

To check for a life insurance policy, begin by contacting your loved one’s employer, as many people get life insurance coverage through work. 
You could also use these resources to look for insurance policies:1
  • A financial or tax advisor. They may know if there are existing policies. 
  • Bank or credit card records. Financial records may show payments made to an insurance company. 
  • Income tax returns. Tax records may show interest income from an insurance policy. 
  • Life insurance policy locator. Many states have a centralized life insurance policy search service. See Learn how to use the NAIC Life Insurance Policy Locator for more information.

How to claim life insurance benefits

Generally, life insurance policies don’t go through probate, so beneficiaries can often contact the insurance company directly. Proceeds are not subject to income tax, although depending on the size of the decedent's estate, estate taxes may apply.

To claim life insurance benefits, report the death to the insurance company. The company will then send a form, an online link, or other instructions to file and submit a claim. They’ll usually require a certified copy of the death certificate. If there are multiple beneficiaries, each person will need to submit claims separately.2

The process for an insurance claim varies, and timelines for getting a payout can range from days to weeks after submission.2

Inheriting an annuity

Annuities are insurance contracts that make regular payments to the owner—either immediately or at a certain point in the future. Some annuities cannot be inherited, and payments will stop when the owner dies. However, some annuities can pass to a designated beneficiary, or there may be special provisions for transferring ownership to a spouse.

Annuities with a named beneficiary and that can be inherited usually don’t have to go through probate. Contact the company for ownership transfer instructions.

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1. "12 Steps for Locating a Lost Life Insurance Policy," Insurance Information Institute, 2. Aubrey Cohen, “How to Make a Life Insurance Claim,” NerdWallet, February 15, 2023,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.