Liz Weston: Here’s how to get information on old life insurance policies

Dear Liz: What advice can you provide to people when they stumble on old life insurance policies that may never have been cashed in?

Answer: My siblings and I have personal experience with this after coming across two policies in our late father’s papers. We learned one policy had indeed been cashed in, but the second — purchased in the 1930s, with a face value of $5,000 — was still in effect.

You typically can use a search engine to determine if the insurer is still in business or if it has changed its name or merged with another company. (Not surprisingly, the insurer that issued the 1930s policy had been involved in several mergers in the intervening decades, but it took just seconds for us to find the current incarnation.) If you’re having trouble tracking down the company, contact the insurance regulator in the state where the insurer was originally located.

Once you have the current insurer name and contact information, you can call and ask if the policy is still in force. If the policy has value, the insurer can instruct you how to make a claim.

Dear Liz: I am a divorced man receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on the earnings record of my ex, who has died. I am 63. Can I get married and continue to receive benefits?

Answer: Yes. People receiving survivors benefits can remarry at age 60 or later without losing their benefits.

Survivors benefits are based on the earnings record of a spouse or ex-spouse who has died. That’s different from spousal benefits and divorced spousal benefits, which are based on the earnings record of someone who is still alive. People receiving divorced spousal benefits can’t remarry without losing those benefits.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance

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