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

Dear Liz: What advice can you give people when they come across old life insurance policies that may never have been cashed in?

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

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

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

Dear Liz: I am a divorced man receiving Social Security survivor benefits based on the earnings record of my ex, who is deceased. I am 63 years old. Can I get married and still get benefits?

Reply: Yes. People receiving survivor benefits can remarry at age 60 or older without losing their benefits.

Survivor benefits are based on the earnings record of a deceased spouse or former spouse. That is different from spousal benefits and divorced spousal benefits, which are based on the earnings record of someone who is still living. People receiving divorced spousal benefits cannot remarry without losing those benefits.

Liz Weston, a Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions can be sent to 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.

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