MetLife and other major insurance companies are being questioned by 35 states on their claim settlement practices as part of an investigation to determine whether the companies delayed payment to beneficiaries and withheld unclaimed property from states.

A few years ago, several states hired an auditing firm to identify unclaimed life insurance property that the states could seize as abandoned property. Soon after, it was discovered that insurers have been using the Social Security Adminstration's death master list to stop payments on annuity policies since the 1980s — but they may not be using the list to notify beneficiaries when they're owed a death benefit.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, unpaid life insurance benefits nationwide exceed $1 billion.

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