Questions/Tips Insurance

Life Insurance: Filing a Claim

(5/17/2012) The purpose of life insurance is to provide financial security and protection in case of a loved one's death. If the worst happens and a death occurs, obtaining the funds in an insurance policy is a necessary and potentially helpful process.

Filing a life insurance claim is similar to filing a claim for any other insurance policy. But there are a few key things to know specific to life insurance. Here's how to navigate the process with the least stress and maximize the funds received.

Call your broker or insurance professional as soon as appropriate. This person can help guide you through the process, provide the necessary forms, and act as a liaison with the insurance company. They can also guide you on what type of insurance the deceased had, and what benefits that entitles you to. If you don't have a designated contact, call the insurance company directly to inquire about procedures and paperwork. Alternatively, you can contact the deceased's employer to find the best contact for a policy. The employer can also advise on any additional policies and riders the holder had.

Most claims will require completed forms along with a copy of the death certificate. Additionally, collect any current mortgage or loan paperwork, credit card statements, and employee benefits information. These can serve as proof of property owned, and help clear up any discrepancies that may arise.

After filing a claim, you may receive funds in the method the policyholder selected. But you may also have a choice among the following options:

  • Lump sum - the most flexible, giving you all the funds available to cover funeral expenses and final debts. This is free of income taxes.
  • Interest income - allows the insurance company to hold the funds and pay interest on them for a specified period.
  • Scheduled payments - provides funds from the principal and interest on a predetermined schedule.
  • Life income - guarantees payments for life. The amount depends on the death benefit, your gender, and your age at the time of the insured's death.

After receiving the necessary paperwork, insurance companies will review your claim, confirm the policy is valid, and ensure you've met the requirements. If the company has any questions, big or small, they will contact you. Be prepared by keeping copies of all paperwork sent, including the death certificate. Answering questions fully and quickly will hasten the process of getting life insurance benefits.
While the death of a loved one is a painful experience, the protection provided by a life insurance policy can be a comfort. Filing a claim correctly and quickly can make the process a better one.

For additional reading:

American Council of Life Insurers - Publications and Resources:

How Beneficiaries Can Claim Life Insurance and Social Security Benefits:


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