How Long Can Beneficiaries Wait Before Claiming A Life Insurance Policy After Death? A Guide To Life Insurance Claims
Written By Cameron McDowell
Sep 14, 2021
8 mins read
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How Long Can Beneficiaries Wait Before Claiming A Life Insurance Policy After Death?
If your loved one has life insurance, that policy will pay out upon their passing. However, due to the stress of having to arrange their funeral and other family affairs, you may not find the time to make a life insurance claim immediately. Because of this, you may wonder whether there’s a time limit to insurance claims.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the essential information about life insurance claims! We’ll discuss how long you have to make a claim on a loved one’s policy, what you need to do to start the process, as well as share tips on how to make the process easier.
Filing A Life Insurance Policy Claim
First, you need to know if you are eligible for the payout in the first place. If the insured person had a whole life insurance policy, you can get the benefit as long as they stayed on top of their premiums. If the insured person had term life insurance, you have to check if they passed away during the coverage period.
After the policyholder’s passing, the policy’s beneficiary needs to file a death claim to get the policy’s death benefit. To do so, you need to do the following steps.
Finding The Deceased Person’s Policy
To make a claim, a beneficiary needs to have the deceased’s insurance documents. If you haven’t been told where their insurance documents are located, you can search wherever they keep important files. If you can’t find a physical copy of it, you can also try looking for it on their computers.
If you can’t find the policy, you can try to contact the life insurance company about this problem. Using the deceased's name and Social Security information, the company can help you find their life insurance policy number and documents.
In case you don’t know which insurance company the deceased used, you can contact the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). They have a service that helps beneficiaries locate life insurance policies by contacting their partner insurers. However, this search method may take up to three months.
Gathering Required Documents
After you have a copy of the deceased’s policy, you should also make sure that you have the relevant documents ready. One of the most important documents you need is the death certificate, which is usually obtained through the state health department. Funeral homes may also offer assistance in filing death certificates.
As part of the claims process, you also need to provide proof of your own identity and the deceased’s Social Security documents. As a supplemental document, you can also provide the deceased’s obituary if available.
Submitting The Policy Claim
Most life insurance companies allow beneficiaries to fill a claim form on their website. If the life insurance company doesn’t provide an online claims form, you may be asked to download a paper claims form to send by mail. Once you’ve sent in the form alongside the required documents, then the life insurance company can start processing your request.
How Long After Death Do You Have To Collect Life Insurance?
You don’t need to worry about losing out on the deceased’s insurance payout if you were too busy with funeral arrangements to file a claim. Generally, there are no time limits to request life insurance death benefits, and you can make the claim anytime you’re ready. As long as the deceased’s policy was active when they passed away, the life insurance company can’t dismiss claims made by beneficiaries without a reason.
Insurance companies are also required by state laws to pay their beneficiaries promptly. As long as the documents are all in order, beneficiaries can expect to receive the insurance payout within 60 days.
Even if you don’t know that the deceased has an insurance policy, life insurers may find out about their passing through the Social Security Administration database. After they verify that you’re listed as a beneficiary, they’ll reach out to you about starting the claims process.
However, even if you can collect your loved one’s insurance anytime, it might be a good idea to make a claim as soon as you can. The sooner you file it, the sooner you’ll receive your loved one’s life insurance benefits to help your family.
Receiving Insurance Death Benefits As A Beneficiary
Typically, a beneficiary will be offered two main ways to receive the deceased’s life insurance benefits.
This is the most common option to receive insurance benefits. If a beneficiary receives the payout in a lump sum, the life insurance company will send all the money at once.
If you file a claim promptly, this money can help you pay for your loved one’s funeral and pay off any debts they may need to pay. Another benefit of receiving a lump sum is that this payment is not subject to tax.
You can also choose how the payout is delivered in the claims form. Usually, life insurance companies offer the option of receiving it via direct deposit or a check.
If you want to let your insurance benefits grow, you can opt to receive it as an annuity. If you put the payout in an annuity, it’ll be invested and you’ll receive the money – along with the returns – as annual payments from a predetermined date in the future.
While beneficiaries may receive more money in the end with an annuity, they’ll still receive less than a lump sum if they die before receiving all the payments.
Reasons Your Policy Claim May Be Denied Or Delayed
Even if beneficiaries submit your claims request immediately after the policy owner’s passing, they may not receive the benefits immediately. Here are some reasons why a life insurance policy might take longer to pay out.
The Policyholder Dies During The Contestability Period
Most insurance policies feature a contestability period that typically lasts two years from the start of its coverage. If a policy owner dies during this period, the insurer will likely investigate their passing more closely for any signs of fraud or misrepresentation. If the insurer finds that the deceased lied about their information on the application, their beneficiary may be denied the life insurance benefits.
This contestability period often also features a suicide clause, which denies the beneficiary any payment if the policyholder commits suicide within 24 months of the policy’s activation.
The Policyholder Dies From Homicide
If the deceased’s cause of death was listed as murder, the life insurance company will reach out to the authorities assigned to the case. To make sure that no beneficiaries are involved in this murder, the life insurance company will hold the payment until the authorities can prove your innocence.
If there are charges leveled against you, the insurance company will similarly withhold payment until those charges are dropped or you are acquitted of the crime. If you’re cleared of all suspicion, the insurance will pay out as normal.
The Life Insurance Company Did Not Receive Complete Documents
The beneficiary not sending in all relevant documents is a common problem that may cause payout delays. Before submitting your claims form, it’s recommended that you have a checklist of what documents are needed and make sure everything is sent along with the form.
The Life Insurance Company Has A Backlog
While most life insurance companies have an entire department specializing in claims, there may be delays due to the sheer volume of claims they receive from beneficiaries. When the claims department is overwhelmed, your form may take several days longer to process.
However, if the life insurance company takes a suspiciously long time and you believe that they’re intentionally withholding payment, you should contact your state insurance department.
Tips To Make Sure Your Claims Are Paid Promptly
To ensure that your claims are processed properly in a timely manner, here are three steps that you should take.
Have All The Documents Ready
It’s recommended to gather your family’s important documents such as insurance policies, identification documents, and Social Security information together for easy access. This way, you don’t have to search again when they’re needed for a life insurance claims process or other purposes.
Prepare Multiple Copies Of The Death Certificate
The life insurance company needs to see a copy of the death certificate to ensure that your loved one has passed away. Not only that, but the certificate can also be used to close bank accounts, inform government agencies, and more.
Many organizations take the original copy of the document for their purposes. To solve this problem, you can ask for multiple copies of it from the state health department.
Contact The Insurance Company As Soon As Possible
Even if insurers are required to pay out insurance claims as soon as they can, there may still be delays in your processing. While you may be too busy processing your loved one’s final arrangements to gather the needed paperwork, you should at least notify the insurance carrier as soon as the insured dies. Once they’ve been notified, they can send you a claims form that you can fill as soon as your loved one’s funeral arrangements are finished.
Work With An Independent Life Insurance Agent
Life insurance agents don’t just help you buy insurance – they help you through every step, including claims. If the deceased bought their insurance through an independent insurance agent, they can help you through the claims process. Their expertise may also help you expedite the process by ensuring that everything is in order.
Due to the stress of losing a loved one, you may not have time to start the process of claiming their insurance. Fortunately, you can claim a life insurance policy at any time. In fact, insurers are encouraged to pay out insurance policies immediately. To ensure that your loved one’s insurance pays out promptly, you should make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and contact the insurer as quickly as you can.
If you’re looking to claim a loved one’s insurance payout, Wesley LLC is here to help! Our team of financial professionals can help ensure that your insurance claims are paid promptly. Contact us today for more information!