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  • Writer's pictureBret Clapier

How quickly do life insurance companies pay out death claims?

If you are paying for a life insurance policy, your life insurance company will pay out the death benefit to the listed beneficiaries upon your death. This payout is extremely important to your family as it protects them from the burden of final expenses or the loss of income.

A report by Policygenius stated that in 2021 it takes between 14-60 days to receive the final death benefit payout. This window is, of course, an estimate and multiple factors can affect the time between death and the receipt of cash. In fact, each company has a different process of reporting deaths and filing claims and your situation will be unique. Here are a few general things to expect when filing a death claim and awaiting payment:

  1. Beneficiaries must verify their identity and file a death claim before receiving the cash.

  2. Life insurance providers should pay out the death benefit within two months of death claim filing.

  3. A decision on your benefit may be delayed (or even denied) due to policy lapses (missed payments, termination date, etc.), excluded causes of death (suicide, etc.) or fraud.

How soon should I expect a payout?

As we mentioned earlier, it all depends on the unique situation. You can expect the payout to be in your hands within about 60 days, but there are a number of factors to consider. These include (but are not limited to): when the claim was filed, processing of required documents, cause of death, state regulations around insurance payouts, and the cause of death.

In rare circumstances you may receive a death benefit without filing a claim due to certain state requirements for life insurance companies to periodically check their list of policyholders against Social Security Administration death records. This helps to ensure that benefits go unclaimed. However, don't bank on this in your situation. Take initiative and file the claim yourself to ensure that the payout comes as quickly as possible. You will be asked for identity verification to ensure that the payout is going to the correct beneficiary.

Did you know that over $1 billion (yes billion!) in death benefits go unpaid each year simply because policyholder's families are unaware of the benefits? With Alfred, you can ensure that your insurance policies are neatly organized and securely shared with your loved ones so that they get the most out of the preparation that you have put in. Fill out this form if you are interested in a 30-day free trial of our Alfred Pro Plan where you can organize both practical and legacy preserving information so that your loved ones can settle your affairs more simply.

Interested in a life insurance quote? Connect with our team here to find an appropriate plan for you. It's free and we'll help you understand a complex process.

Common reasons for claim denial?

In most cases, filing a claim is a simple process. Make sure that you have the paperwork on hand to verify the policyholder's death and prove that you are in fact the listed beneficiary.

Remember that each case is unique and delays or denials can occur because of the following:

  • Cause of death: If a policyholder dies doing something not covered by their policy, they will not receive a death benefit. Insurance companies will be sure to verify this.

  • Fraud: If the policyholder lied on their insurance application in any material way or there are questionable circumstances around their death, the insurer will likely initiate and investigation that may deny or decrease the payout. Remember to be completely honest and transparent when applying for life insurance.

  • Missing policy paperwork: Have a copy of the deceased’s policy on hand to file the claim. If you don’t know where to find it or other required documents, it will slow the claims process. Alfred's Pro and Practical plans provide a simple way to organize insurance policies, documentation, and beneficiary information so that your loved ones don't have to go searching. Sign up for a free 30-day trial here.

  • Policy lapse: If the deceased stopped paying their premiums and let their policy lapse, there won't be any death benefit because their coverage is no longer active.

  • Contestability period: A death in the first two years of a policy falls under contestability. This essentially means that the insurer can review an insurance application for fraud. This might delay a payout, but as long as the deceased was honest, you’ll receive the full death benefit.

How to file a life insurance claim

You can submit a claim (a) on your life insurance company’s website or (b) by calling the company directly. The insurer will let you know what documentation you need to provide in addition to the deceased’s name, date of birth, policy number, and cause of death.

Some common documents include:

  • Claim form or claims packet

  • Copy of the policy

  • Death certificate

  • Obituary or newspaper article regarding the death

  • Proof of your identity, such as a government-issued ID

How these are submitted depends on the provider. Some will accept them online, others may require the documents via mail.

How to find a policy of a deceased family member

Crazy as it sounds, policyholders don't always tell their loved ones that they’re the beneficiary on a policy or discuss where they can find policy documents. Alfred was designed to avoid situations like this. So if you are experiencing this pain now, be sure to use Alfred so that your family doesn't have to go through this again when you pass on.

If you believe you are the beneficiary of a policy but can't find paper work, try these tips:

  • Calling the insurance company or agent

  • Contacting the deceased’s financial or estate planning advisors

  • Contacting their employer

  • Looking through digital and physical storage

How are life insurance claims paid out?

To put it simply, the beneficiary decides. They will most likely choose between a check or an EFT (electronic funds transfer). They will also declare if they want the payment in a Lump Sum (a one-time, tax-free payment), an Annuity (installments over a set period that earn interest, but interest is taxable), or a Retained Asset Account (the insurance company keeps the money and pays a fixed rate of interest on the funds but beneficiaries can withdraw when desired). While the decision is up to the beneficiary, a Lump Sum payment is often the most simple since there are no tax implications.

Managing someone’s end-of-life affairs can be complex, we have built Alfred to make it simpler. Check out our plan options to see what is best for you.

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