Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The first way to check the value of the old life insurance policy is to find a copy of the policy or locate the policy number. You may be amazed at the worth of old life insurance policies, even if the premiums have not been paid for a while. Don’t worry if you cannot find the policy; other methods to discover its value are described below.

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If you can locate the policy that may give you an estimate for the cash value on the policy, as well as its surrender value. This is what you will receive if you cash the policy in. The name of the company that sold the policy will also be located on the policy, or on some other document.

When you contact the company, you can ask if the policy is still active—if the premiums were paid on time. If the policy is still in force, the agent can give you the exact cash value of the policy.

They will also be able to give you an in-force illustration of the policy, which is a computer generated picture of the current value of the policy, as well as what future cash values of the policy may be. With all of this information, you will be able to decide whether to cash the policy out or to maintain the premiums.

Sometimes, however, policies may still be in force even if the premiums have been neglected for years. Not only may a policy still be in force, but whole life policies may also have built up cash values. If you have a whole life insurance policy that seems to have lapsed you can still purchase what is called a reduced paid up policy.

This is how it works. You buy a permanent life insurance policy (a whole or universal life insurance policy) and, after several years of paying on time, you miss several payments for whatever reason. Maybe you lose your job and are unable to make the premiums for several months. Once you get back on your feet, you may think about that life insurance policy you had, and wonder if it is still in force.

Whole life insurance is different from term life insurance in that, if you miss a few payments with your whole life insurance, your policy does not automatically lapse. This is because whole life insurance policies have non-forfeiture values, such as dividends and cash values, that keep them from lapsing. Instead of lapsing, the policies enter into a reduced paid up insurance period, which means that you have a policy, but it is reduced. The cash values stay the same, and still accumulate interest. They may earn dividends, but that is not a guarantee.

So, even if an old policy has not been paid in a long time, it can still be worth quite a bit. Also, some companies allow you to reinstate a whole life insurance policy if it has been less than five years since the policy went into non-forfeiture zone. If the policy was a term life insurance policy, however, then it is probalbe that the policy is worth nothing, if the premiums were not paid.

The first place to start, then, when you’re trying to figure out how much you have in old insurance policies is to locate those policies! You may find some that you had forgotten all about.

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What do I do if I can’t find the paperwork for my old life insurance policy?

If you can’t find the actual policy, you will need to do a little leg work. Or mouse work. If you have a hard time figuring out where the policies were held, you might need to make use of one of several tools available to you that may help you locate the policy. There is FindYourPolicy, which allows people to store their basic policy information—their names, their insurance company, the names and E-mail addresses of their beneficiaries. This could also be useful if you are worried about how your heirs may locate your policies.

There are also databases that insurance companies feed into that keep track of who has applied for what kind of insurance and where. Companies use these databases primarily to help determine if people are lying on their applications, but individuals can request a record search for $75. The record will not give you specific information, but will provide you with a paper trail that may be able to lead somewhere. There are several other resources like this out there for you.

In short, do not throw away old policies. You could be sitting on gold mines, small or large—and even if they are not gold mines, they could still be useful and worth something. Do not throw away anything until you can locate the agency or company that sold the policy. If you do misplace those documents then access the online resources and national registries mentioned above to track down those old life insurance policies.

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