Estates & Wills & Trusts

Simplifying the search for a deceased’s life insurance policy

By Ian Hull

Beneficiary designations for life insurance policies can be an integral part of one’s estate plan. As designated policy proceeds typically pass outside of an estate, and are not subject to costly probate fees, policyholders often use these designations as a strategic method to transfer assets upon their death.

When a policyholder dies, a common challenge is determining where and what policies were held by the deceased. Records of insurance policies are often lost or misplaced by the time of a party’s death. This poses a problem for potential beneficiaries who are attempting to ascertain their entitlement under such policies.

Fortunately, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) offers a valuable service to assist with locating missing policies of a deceased. With the submission and approval of an online application, OLHI will administer requests for a policy search to its extensive member base of Canadian Life and Health Insurance Companies. OLHI’s members account for 99 per cent of the life and health insurance industry in Canada. Notably, if a policy was either granted by a non-member company or was purchased outside of Canada, the policy will not be found by OLHI’s search. OLHI is also the only organization in Canada to offer this service.

OLHI outlines four requirements that must be satisfied before they will conduct a search:

  1. More than three months, but less than two years, must have passed since the policyholder's death;
  2. The applying party must already have searched for the policy themselves;
  3. The applying party must have evidence that a policy exists; and
  4. OLHI must find that it is reasonable to conduct the search.

OLHI provides an extensive list of suggestions for how to search for a policy or evidence proving a policy’s existence. An applying party is encouraged to:

  • Explore the deceased’s storage places, such as safety deposit boxes and filing cabinets;
  • Examine the deceased’s papers for policies, statements or notices from an insurance company;
  • Review the deceased’s financial records for evidence of any premium payments or purchases of life or travel insurance;
  • Contact the deceased’s insurance agent, lawyer, account, and/or other advisor;
  • Contact the deceased’s employer or former employer, or any professional associations of which the deceased was a member; and
  • If the deceased received group disability benefits, contact the provider to determine if life insurance was included as a benefit.

Once requirements one to three (listed above) have been satisfied, an applying party may submit a two-step, online application form located at OLHI’s website. In addition to asking for the applicant’s basic contact information and the first and last name of the deceased, the form requires the applicant to summarize their evidence in support of the insurance policy’s existence.

If OLHI determines that a search is reasonable after reviewing the submitted application, they will send a search request to all OLHI insurance company members. An insurance company will only contact an applicant if they locate the deceased’s policy. While any interested party can apply for a search request, companies can provide information on a policy exclusively to the deceased’s executor, lawyer, beneficiary or heir.

For more information on searching for a policy of a deceased, visit OLHI’s website and submit an application.

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