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If your loved one had a life insurance policy, the life insurance company should be contacted as soon as possible following their death to begin the claims and payout process. Below you will find information on how to begin the process as well as tips on how to find out whether there is a policy, and if so, who the beneficiary might be.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a contract between the policyholder and an insurance company—or provider—that, in exchange for premium payments the insurance company provides a lump-sum payment, known as a death benefit, to the insured’s beneficiaries upon the insured’s death.
Some individuals will name their own estate as a beneficiary of their life insurance so that the money can be used to pay for funeral and final expenses, thus alleviating the financial burden on their families of paying for a funeral. (PolicyGenius generates no-obligation quotes from insurance companies).
If the estate of the deceased is the beneficiary, the responsibility for filing a death claim will lie with the executor or personal representative of the estate. If you are the executor of the estate it is always a good idea to consult with a probate attorney or use a resource to guide you through the tasks and responsibilities of being an executor.
How do I file a life insurance claim?
Claiming a life insurance policy is fairly straightforward. Following the death of the insured, the beneficiary should contact the insurance company as soon as possible to begin the process. The claims representative will request various paperwork to process the claim. Such documents will include a certified copy of the death certificate along with a “statement of claim”, or “request of benefits”, signed by the beneficiary. These documents may be called the “claims forms”.
How long does it take to receive a benefit payment?
The payment of the claim is usually processed without much delay. Many states allow insurers 30 days to review the claim, at which point they can either pay it, deny it or ask for additional information. Most insurance companies pay within 30 to 60 days of the date of the claim.
The life insurance company may investigate their underwriting decision if the deceased died within the “contestability period”. The contestability period is a short window in which insurance companies can investigate and deny claims. In most states, the period is two years and one year in others. It begins as soon as a policy goes into effect.
By most state law the insurance company still needs to pay the death benefit if the information given by the deceased on their life insurance application was accurate.
How do I find out who the beneficiary is of a life insurance claim?
Life insurance benefits can only be paid once the designated beneficiary files a claim with the provider.
However, if the insured dies without telling the beneficiary that they are the beneficiary or where the policy can be found, the beneficiary may not be alerted by the life insurance company for a long time, if at all.
Several years ago, it was found that over 1 billion in life insurance benefits had not been claimed from life insurance companies. The reason for this is that insurance companies don’t always have accurate contact information for beneficiaries and they aren’t always notified when an insured has passed away. This is why you should always make sure your beneficiaries know the a policy exists and which company to contact in the event of your death.
If you suspect that the deceased had a life insurance policy, you may need to find it on your own. Begin by searching locations where important papers may be located. If there is a safe deposit box, you will need a court order to access it, unless you are the executor or personal representative of the estate.
You can search their email, hard drive or other digital storage if you have access. Remember to not shut down email accounts until after the estate is wound up as emails are usually the best way to find out about any insurance policies and outstanding bills that the deceased may have had.
If you still cannot find it, you should submit a claim through the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. You’ll need basic info about the deceased that you can get from the death certificate. It will search participating insurers to look for policies in the name of the deceased or the beneficiary. This can take up to 90 days but you’ll be contacted directly if you are the beneficiary, the executor or a legal representative authorized to receive information about the policy.
If a policy still cannot be found, but you are certain there was one, another place to look is through bank statements, which would show any policy payments as well as the name of the insurance company if payments were being made.
Finally, you can search the Insurance Information Institute website for help locating and identifying a life insurance policy of a deceased policyholder as well the state’s database for unclaimed property.
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.