Life insurance companies have detailed processes laid out so that when the time comes, the benefits are paid in a timely and smooth manner. However, what happens when a benefit is not claimed by the policyholder when it is due or the insurance company is not able to trace the policy holder for some reason, like they have not been informed about the death of the life insured?
These are unclaimed benefits and they can be in the form of unclaimed maturity benefit, survival benefit, death claim proceeds, excess premium that has not been refunded or refund of amount that has not been deposited in the policy. Hence, any amount that has not been claimed for more than six months from the due date of settlement of the claim is referred to as unclaimed benefit.
There are a number of reasons why claim is not made:
The contact number and address of the policyholder might have changed and they have simply not informed the insurance company about these changes. Since the policies are often taken for years at a stretch, it is quite possible that the agent working on behalf of the policy holder is also not with the company and in such cases it becomes very difficult for the company to trace the policyholder.
In some cases, the policy holder does not have proper documents to make the claim. They often misplace the premium receipts or the other documents and fail to get a duplicate copy from the company. It becomes very difficult for the insurance company to release the money without proper documentation.
There are certain policy holders who opt for life insurance but fail to notify their family about the policy. Naturally, in case of the sudden death of the policy holder, the nominees have no way of knowing that there was a policy in the first place and they do not go forward with the claim.
Thankfully, the Insurance companies are taking some measures to reduce such unclaimed benefits:
- The IRDAI has instructed insurance companies to make any payment more than INR 10,000oly through Electronic Clearing Service or by NEFT, directly to the policyholder’s account. Hence, the insurance companies need to keep a record of the bank details of the policy holder for electronic transfer of funds.
- Pensions funds also result in unclaimed funds and many pension policies had funds that are insufficient to purchase the annuity. Following August 2018, policy holders are now allowed to completely withdraw their accumulated amount if it was not sufficient to buy the minimum annuity as per the annuity rules as this was one of the reason for unclaimed money.
In case you realize later that there was unclaimed benefit and you want to get access to it, there are some things that can be done:
The details are put on the website of the insurance company and you can access the details by putting in details like PAN number, name, date of birth, and policy number. The insurance companies update these information on a twice a year. In case it is revealed that the claim has not been made, one can approach the company with the KYC details, and policy document and any other additional document for identification that the company might need.
In case the amount is not claimed by the policyholder or the nominee, then, as part of the Finance Act 2015, the GOI has introduced the Senior Citizen’s Welfare Fund and all the insurance companies will have to transfer the claim amounts which have remained unclaimed for more than 10 years, into this account. The fund from here is used for the benefit of senior citizens.
As per the IRDAI rules, the policy holders or their beneficiaries will be eligible to make their claim up to 25 years from the date when it is transferred to the SCWF. However, if no such claim comes forward for the period of 25 years then the amount would go directly to the central government and no dues can be claimed after that.
Any such complication can be easily avoided if the policy holder updates the insurance company about the change in address and contact and they keep the family informed about the policy as well. After all, one pays substantial premium for a secure future and one should take adequate measures to ensure one can reap the benefits.