If a loved one passed away untimely, you may be grieving and not be able to focus on your financial affairs. Many people who lost a family member go through a difficult time of readjustment and do not deal with life insurance issues immediately.
In this article, our lawyers explain what beneficiaries should do and what documents they should prepare to file a life insurance claim after death. If you are a beneficiary yourself and need help with this process, do not hesitate to contact our life insurance attorneys at (888) 510-2212.
How to Claim a Life Insurance Policy
In most cases, claiming life insurance benefits is quite straightforward and simple once you know what you need to do.
Here are the steps you should follow to promptly collect life insurance proceeds in case of death:
1. Obtain Copies of the Death Certificate
In order to file a claim for the proceeds of a life insurance policy, a certified copy of the insured’s death certificate is required. A death certificate is a necessary document that serves as proof of death. It may be obtained through the funeral home or the vital records department.
If the insured is missing but has not been declared dead, the insurance company may require a court order showing that the insured is presumed dead.
2. Contact the Life Insurance Company
Notifying the insurance company as soon as possible after a loved one’s death may expedite getting your life insurance claim paid. If you know the name of the agent who sold the policy to the policyholder, he/she may help getting through to the claims department. With employer provided life insurance coverage, contacting the human resources/benefits department at the decedent’s place of work will help start the life insurance claim process.
3. Gather the Documents
The following is a checklist with the documents you need to file a life insurance claim:
- Death certificate and all supporting documents. Proof of death is necessary when filing a life insurance claim. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate, a police report, a toxicology report, an autopsy report, a coroner’s report, a medical examiner’s report, and in some cases, medical records.
- Original Policy. If you can find the original life insurance policy, you can see the details (payment amount, beneficiary, insurance company contact information, etc.) of the claim before filing it. You can still file a claim if you do not have the original policy.
- Completed Claim forms. Claim forms are documents sent to you from the insurance company. They ask you to provide detailed information about the insured person and your information. You can select how you would like to receive your life insurance death benefit on the claim form.
Claiming Life Insurance Benefits After Death
If you want to get the life insurance claim process started as soon as possible, it is helpful to find out the details of the policy and the answers to the following questions:
- What type is the life insurance policy? Is it a term, whole or universal policy?
- Was the policy still in force at the time of death? When a life insurance policy lapses, the policy is no longer active and the insurer is no longer legally obligated to pay the life insurance death benefits. Since some policies are wrongfully lapsed by insurance companies, speak to a life insurance lawyer if you have been informed that the policy has lapsed.
- Who are the beneficiaries? You need to know if you are the beneficiary on the policy or if you are entitled to collect as the next of kin if no beneficiary was selected. If you find a copy of the policy, you can see whether you are named as a beneficiary. Confirming your status as a beneficiary on a policy may be easy if you know which company the policy is with. Contacting the insurance company with this question is the first step. Read about your rights as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy.
- What company is the policy with? If an insured had group life insurance coverage through work, human resources personnel may help locate the policy details. If an insured purchased a policy independently from a life insurance company, it may be helpful to examine bank statements to see where the premium payments were made.
- How much will the company pay? Verifying the amount of the policy is important, especially when there is no copy of the original policy or when you are dealing with employer-provided coverage.
How Is a Life Insurance Claim Paid?
Once a life insurance claim is submitted, you must determine how the proceeds will be distributed. Here are the payment options available:
- Lump sum – you receive the entire death benefit in a single amount.
- Life income option – you receive a guaranteed income for life.
- Interest income – the insurance company holds the proceeds and pays out the benefit on a set schedule rather than all at once and continues payments until all proceeds and interest are exhausted.
- Annuity Options with Life Contingency – payments continue for as long as the beneficiary lives and the amounts paid may end at the time of death or continue for a guaranteed period to a survivor.
Read more about life insurance death benefit payment options.
Once a claim is filed and all the necessary documents are submitted, the insurance company needs to make the final determination on the claim within 30 days. If more than two months have passed since you submitted all the documents and you have not collected the benefits, the claim is considered delayed. Fortunately, insurance companies are encouraged to pay out quickly if they want to avoid interest charges on unpaid benefits.
How Long Do You Have to File a Claim?
Every life insurance policy has a time period during which the beneficiary can file a claim. If you miss that time period, your claim for benefits may be denied. However, there are many scenarios when you can still recover those denied benefits. An experienced life insurance attorney will help you recover denied benefits even if you missed the deadline to file a claim.
Read more about how long do you have to submit a claim for proceeds.
Can a Life Insurance Claim Be Denied or Delayed?
After a person dies and a beneficiary files a life insurance claim, the claim can be denied or delayed, even though they submitted all necessary documents. In many cases, insurance companies keep their promise and pay the benefits. Often, however, insurance companies use various reasons for why beneficiaries cannot collect the life insurance proceeds.
Below is a list of the most common reasons why and when life insurance companies will not pay beneficiaries:
- Policy lapse – one of the primary reasons insurance companies use to deny a life insurance claim is policy lapse, which occurs when premium payments are not received on the due date or during the grace period.
- Misrepresentation – since life insurance covers the probability of a person dying, the policyholder is expected to provide correct medical information for the insurance company to evaluate the risk involved and establish the premium. Material misrepresentation refers to any omission, concealment of facts, or incorrect statement on the application that would have caused the insurer to deny coverage.
- Contestability period – If an insured dies within the first two years from the policy issue date, the insurance company has the right to contest the policy. This period where the insurance company can review the coverage for any false claims or misrepresentations is known as the contestability period.
- The death was due to suicide – If a life insurance policy contains a suicide clause, the insurer may refuse to pay the claim if the insured committed suicide.
- The death was a murder – Another situation that can lead to a life insurance claim denial is when the insured died as a result of homicide. The insurance company will require a statement about the circumstances surrounding the insured’s death to make sure the beneficiary is not a suspect. If the beneficiary is a suspect, the insurer will delay paying the claim.
- Life insurance exclusions – Insurance companies include exclusions, clauses in the policy that outline which deaths are excluded from coverage. Exclusions are used to protect insurers from risk, giving them the right to refuse payment for certain deaths. Find out more about life insurance exclusions in ADD policies.
You can read more about these and other scenarios in our article about the reasons why a life insurance claim is denied or delayed.
What to Do if Your Life Insurance Claim for Death Benefits Was Denied
Even though the above reasons are valid, there might be extenuating circumstances surrounding the death that might make it invalid. This is why, if you received a denial letter it is best to consult with an attorney to determine whether the company was right in denying the death benefit or if you are still entitled to receive the payout.
Many clients whose claims were denied have questioned whether the reason for denial is valid or legal. This is why it is important to contact an experienced life insurance attorney who will review the facts of your case, give you clear legal advice and explain to you how to file a life insurance claim.
Our life insurance attorneys have successfully handled cases involving all of the above reasons and more. If you find yourself in one of the situations described or you simply need advice, a free consultation to help you assess your case will always be available to you at our law firm. Call us at (888) 510-2212 to consult with one of our lawyers.