ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York is requiring life insurance companies to send $665 million to beneficiaries nationwide, many of whom didn’t know they were named in the policies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the investigation and a measure he signed into law last year requires insurance companies to try to find beneficiaries, rather than wait for recipients to file claims.

Many of the beneficiaries didn’t know they were named as recipients by relatives or friends and so would have likely never filed a claim.

Cuomo said Tuesday that more than 89,000 New Yorkers have been found so far in the state’s investigation of companies based in New York.

The probe turned up more than 18,000 New Yorkers who will now get $206 million in life insurance payouts.

“It is only fair for families and individuals who lost loved ones to receive the life insurance benefits to which they are entitled,” Cuomo said. “Life insurers are now responsible for proactively identifying policyholder deaths and are making good faith efforts to find people so hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed benefits can be paid.”

State Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said most of the beneficiaries of these “lost policies” were from middle class, working families. No state-by-state breakdown of recipients was available.

The state and insurance companies have developed a “lost policy finder” system on the state Financial Services Department website at .

Consumers can apply for a search for lost or misplaced life insurance policies and annuity contracts on the deceased. Companies would then begin paying benefits that are due.

The difference in the new system and the state law is that these unclaimed funds won’t go to state government, but to beneficiaries, according to the Cuomo administration.

The 2011 New York law requires life insurance companies to regularly search their records to identify a policyholder when he or she dies and to locate beneficiaries.

(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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