Lots of people have old life insurance policies that get lost. Who gets the money? No one. The insurance company keeps it. (Actually I think they are supposed to escheat but how do they know the insured is dead if no claim is made? And wouldn't it be kind of scurvy to know the insured was dead and not do anything about it?)
I am reminded of what an agent told me when I bought my first policy. I asked him a question about mortality and claims. He said "mortality is not the same as claims experience. Lots of insured people die and no one ever claims the death benefit on their policy."
Here is a great resource for executors and estate attorneys: Policy Locator Service.
MIB Solutions, Inc. maintains a database aimed at fraud detection services for North American carriers to use in underwriting life insurance applications. The Policy Locator Service matches the name to applications. You can then check the companies applied to and determine whether or not a policy was issued and is still in force. Unfortunately, MIB only has 13 years worth of data, but this is still valuable information and will become more valuable as time goes on.
Click here for their downloadable brochure and application. The cost is $75 per search.