Locating unclaimed life insurance policies is likely to become a bit easier in New York, as Governor Cuomo signed two signed identical bills (SB 6943 and AB 9845) into law. These bills address unclaimed life insurance and amend New York’s Insurance Law.
These bills are two-fold, defining requirements for insurers as well as establishing a State-run program that allows citizens to search online for unclaimed life insurance policies.
New York Lost Policy Finder Program
The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) has launched the Lost Policy Finder to assist requestors in locating unclaimed life insurance benefits. The lost policy finder is available online at www.NYPolicyFinder.com and via other means, including but not limited to the department’s toll free telephone number.
The superintendent will be required to assist requestors in using the program to locate unclaimed life insurance policies, including informing the requestor of what information an insurer may need to facilitate responding to the request. The new law includes specific rules and timeframes surrounding requests and responses to the lost policy finder. Insurers will also be required to establish procedures to electronically receive the lost policy finder application request form and make reports to the superintendent.
Reuniting Beneficiaries with Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies
In addition to the implementation of the Lost Policy Finder program, the laws also reaffirm the use of the Death Master File on a regular basis and proactive efforts to locate beneficiaries when benefits are due. Specifically, insurers will be required to use the Death Master File on at least a quarterly basis to perform a cross-check of every policy and account. The cross-checks shall be performed using the social security number, the name, and date of birth of the insured or account holder.
Upon receiving notification of the death of an insured or in the event of a match made by a DMF cross-check, an insurer shall search to determine whether the insurer has any other policies or accounts for the insured or account holder. Insurers must also notify any of their affiliates that may maintain records relating to policies, and require them to perform a similar search.
Insurers will also be required to establish procedures to reasonably confirm the death of an insured or account holder and begin to locate beneficiaries within ninety days after the identification of a potential match. If the insurer cannot locate beneficiaries within ninety days after the identification of a potential match, the insurer shall continue to search for beneficiaries until the benefits escheat to the state. Once the beneficiary has been located, insurers are required to provide to them the information necessary to make a claim. An annual report of the number of unclaimed life insurance policies where the beneficiary could not be located must also be submitted by insurers.
New York’s new law follows a long line of states passing Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits laws. New York, however, is the first to mandate that the State create and maintain an online Lost Policy Finder and that the life insurance companies support the State in its efforts.
It should be noted that the passage of these bills comes on the heels of emergency regulations addressing unclaimed life insurance adopted by Governor Cuomo earlier this year. The regulations which similarly called for quarterly cross checks of the Death Master File were only temporary, with a current expiration date of 2/6/13. In contrast, the law passed by SB 6943 and AB 9845, is the law of New York as of the effective date of 180 Days after December 17, 2012.