How to collect on a life insurance policy when the named beneficiary cannot be found?

UPDATED: Jan 8, 2011

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How to collect on a life insurance policy when the named beneficiary cannot be found?

My husband passed away and on his life insurance his sister was named beneficiary. We were going to have it changed because we cannot find his sister and we have looked many times. How do I go about having it changed over to me so that I can pay for his funeral costs?

Asked on January 8, 2011 under Insurance Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Unfortunately you can not change the designation of beneficiary form at this point in time.  Only your husband could have done so and he is no longer around.  If the beneficiary of the policy can not be found then the policy will have a clause that states what happens to the money in this type of event.  Is there a secondary beneficiary actually named (also called a contingent beneficiary)?  If not then most likely the policy states that the life insurance proceeds will go to the estate of the individual.  So you need to contact the life insurance company and see what they need to prove that you can not find your sister-in-law.  Then you are going to have to open an estate for your husband (a probate and have a personal representative appointed which could be you).  The personal representative of the estate can then pay off the debts including the funeral bill.  If your husband's estate is small then see if there is a simplified way to do this through a small estate proceeding or affidavit if permitted.  The clerks at the probate court can not give legal advice but they are usually very helpful.  Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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