How to Find a Lost Life Insurance Policy


In the last year, The OmbudServices for Life and Health Insurance [OLHI] fielded 1,290 calls from people looking to recover a life insurance policy that had potentially been lost.

They are a national independent complaint resolution and information service for consumers of Canadian life and health insurance products and services, including life, disability, employee health benefits, travel, and insurance investment products such as annuities and segregated funds.

If you suspect that you or someone you know are potential beneficiaries of a lost life insurance policy, OLHI general manager Brigitte Kent recommends turning over every stone you can think of before approaching her organization.

“The first conversation that our counselors would have with the caller would be to go through a list of suggestions of where else to look,” she says.

The Questions You’ll Be Asked

  • Did you look in the deceased’s bank accounts to see if there’s any money coming out from a specific insurance company? (If there is, you should follow up with that company directly.)
  • Have you called the deceased’s employer?
  • Have you called any associations the deceased belonged to?

“We really ask the person representing the estate to really do their due diligence and look through their records,” says Kent. “Not because we want to discourage a search, but because, in a lot of cases, they’ll find stuff on their own.”

The Rules of the Game

Every insurance company in Canada is required to be a member of an ombudsman organization, and 99 per cent of the industry are members of OLHI. So if there really is a missing life insurance policy out there, OLHI’s members will find it. But there are rules to this game, and they include a very finite window within which a search can be conducted. A search will only be performed if the person in question has not been passed for over two years and has been passed for more than three months.

“If there’s something out there, chances are they are going to get a statement or they’re going to get a letter from the insurer saying, ‘We haven’t got your statement in the last three months,’ or something else will surface,” says Kent. “And if no insurance company has followed-up in the last two years, then chances are very good that there is nothing out there to be found.”

However, OLHI will still conduct a search after two years if the organization believes there are extenuating circumstances that make it likely a policy is still out there. Generally, though, these rules exist for one reason: to save the member insurance companies time. Insurance companies search for lost policies voluntarily — they are not forced to — so all of this prior due diligence ensures that OLHI does not accidentally send them on a wild goose chase.

“When we accept a search we send it to all our member companies,” says Kent. “Each of them will then individually search all of their records. Some of it’s easy to do, some of them do have databases that they’ve created over the years, but a lot of them are going back to their microfiche machines. So, it’s not necessarily a straightforward process. It’s not like there’s a giant list somewhere and they just type in a name, so we want to be careful in insuring that we do our due diligence before accepting to do a search. Our member companies trust us to do that and in most cases, people find things on their own anyway.”

The Hunt Begins

Once OLHI has been given reason to believe there are legitimate grounds to suspect a policy may be out there, an official search is launched. The caller will need to complete a form featuring basic information about the former policyholder, including:

  • Date of death
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social Insurance Number

“We need to gather enough data that will allow the insurance companies to do a reasonable search,” explains Kent. “Once a month, we send a list of suspected policyholders to all our member companies, they will each individually do their searches and if anything is found, they will just tell us, ‘We found something.’ That’s it. No other detail is sent to us because it’s really confidential. What the insurance company who found the policy will do is, they will contact the individual beneficiary. Sometimes it’s the person who made the call, but sometimes it’s not.”

The insurance company will take it from there. Basically, all OLHI does is make them aware of the situation at their end. If you don’t hear from the insurance company, this means there is no policy out there for you. OLHI will not call you, so unless the insurance company calls, you may never know the outcome of your original enquiry.

“The advice we give the consumer who made the request, if you haven’t heard in three months, you can be reasonably sure that there isn’t a policy out there.”

Keep in Mind…

There is a small hope that a policy may still be out there, as not every insurance company in Canada is a member of OLHI. Despite the fact that all companies have to be a member of a third-party dispute resolution organization, nowhere does it say that the organization must be OLHI. A list of the companies who belong to The OmbudServices for Life and Health Insurance can be found on their website.

Nevertheless, OLHI does have the biggest companies in the country under their auspices, and out of the 1,290 calls from 2011, 53 requests met the search criteria. Of those requests, 25 policies were found.

If you are about to conduct your own policy search, visit the information services section of the OLHI website for additional tips. Following that, call them at 416-777-9002 (in Toronto), 514-282-2088 (Montreal), or toll Free at either 1-888-295-8112 or 1-866-582-2088 in Quebec.

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  • Victoria
    May 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I’m curious as to how and why I should set up my life insurance in trust? As well, if it’s beneficial to do so then why do so few policy holders do it?

    • LSM Insurance
      May 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Hi Victoria,

      I’You would generally do this if the beneficiary is a minor. You can have multiple minor beneficiaries.