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Timeline It Takes To Receive A Life Insurance Payout

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What steps do you need to take to get a life insurance death benefit payout?

How long will it take to receive the death benefit money?

The weeks after a family member or loved one’s death is often a painful and overwhelming time. There’s a lot to handle, from processing grief to making final arrangements.

Knowing a life insurance payout is coming can be a huge financial help during this stressful time. It won’t replace the person who’s just passed away, but it will at least alleviate financial worries. 

However, claiming a life insurance benefit and waiting for the payout can feel like another overwhelming task. It’s helpful to know exactly how to make a claim and how long it will take to receive the death benefit proceeds.

The average life insurance claim generally takes between 10 days and 30 days to payout, but there can be delays. Being prepared can make the process feel a lot easier and save you from unnecessary added stress.

That’s why our guide contains everything you need to know about filing a life insurance claim. Read on for more about the process, timeline, possible delays, and other important information you’ll need if you’re ever making an insurance claim.

How To File A Life Insurance Claim

If you are the beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy for a person who has recently passed away, there are a few things you will need to have readily available when starting the death benefit claims process.

Contact the life insurance company – The first step to starting a death claim is to notify the insurance provider the insured has passed away. Every company will have a claims department that will asset you.

Most companies will even have the option to start the claim process online but may ask that you send additional information by mail. Other companies will require you to call the claims department directly so they can obtain some information over the phone, stop any automatic premium debits, and then mail or email a claims packet out that will need to be completed by the individual handling the death claim request.

We recommend that it is always best to call the company directly so that you’re able to ask any questions and learn about the claims process, the documents that are needed, and how long it will take to receive the death benefit payout after the claims department has received and reviewed the claims packet.

Have the life insurance policy number – When you call the insurance company to file a death claim, they will ask for the policyholder’s policy number. If you don’t have the number, the insurance company can search their database with some information on the deceased insured.

Gather the information you need to file a claim – Once you receive the claim packet, you’ll need to submit some information along with your claim. This always includes:

  • Name of the insured
  • Date of birth of the insured
  • Social security number of the insured
  • Date of death
  • Cause of death
  • Funeral home name and phone number

Depending on the company, you might need to submit additional information such as proof of your identity or more information about the death, such as an obituary. An insurance company representative will help you determine what to send in if you’re not certain.

Get a copy of the death certificate – You’ll need a death certificate to file any life insurance claim. This certificate needs to be an original certified copy. You can often get a certified death certificate from the funeral home where services were held or from the mortuary.

You can also obtain copies from your county or state’s vital records office. Although you’ll only need one copy for the insurance claim, it’s a good idea to get several copies at this time. That way, you’ll have them on hand for any other end-of-life records and affairs.

Submit your claim – You can submit the claim once you have all the needed information. The insurance company will contact you and let you know if there is any further information they need to process your claim.

Filing a claim when you don't know the company

Hopefully, you’ll have the company’s name that held the policy for your family member or loved one. That said, don’t panic if you’re the beneficiary of a policy but don’t know the company. You can still file a claim, but it will take a few extra steps.

Contact the Human Resources Department of the deceased’s most recent employer – If the deceased person was working when they passed away, their former employer is a good place to start your policy search. You can contact the HR Department and ask if a policy exists. They’ll be able to provide you with the policy information so you can report death and file a claim.

Search personal records and files – Many people keep information about insurance policies inside drawers, folders, or file cabinets. This might include the information you need to file a life insurance claim. If you have access to bank and credit card records, you can also search those to see if you can find a life insurance premium payment that should also contain the life insurance company’s name.

Check with any lawyers, financial planners, life insurance brokers, or other professionals the deceased used – If they used any lawyers, accountants, financial planners, or other professionals, call them. Notify them that they have passed and that you are trying to determine if they had a life insurance policy.

They might have a copy of the policy on file or at least be able to tell you which company it’s with. Suppose you can locate the actual life insurance broker that sold the coverage. In that case, they should have all the information on the coverage and assist you in submitting the insurance company’s death claim.

Use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Life Insurance Policy Locator Service – You can use this service to search for a life insurance policy for a deceased family member or close relationship. It can take as long as 90 days to hear back, however, so if you can find the policy another way, you should.

You can follow the same steps to filing a life insurance claim outlined above once you locate the policy to file a claim.

Deciding how to receive the life insurance payout

You’ll be asked to select a payout plan when you fill out an insurance claim form. The options available to you will depend on the company and the policy. Generally, you’ll be able to choose to:

  • Receive a one-time lump payment of the entire amount.
  • An interest-bearing account set up through the life insurance provider that allows for withdraws without any monthly fees.
  • An annuity that can create a lifetime income stream and accumulate cash growth through interest.

It’s important to make sure you understand your payment options to pick what makes the most sense in your scenario.

For example, some people want the security of receiving the entire amount right away, while others would prefer to receive it monthly as income replacement.

If you’re looking to receive monthly payments, consider whether it makes sense to receive money for a set number of years or whether you want payments guaranteed for the rest of your life.

Not all policies offer all options, and you may be limited to a single lumpsum payment which is most common with the majority of all life insurance providers.

How Long It Takes To Receive A Life Insurance Payout

The time it takes to receive the benefit payout will depend on a few different factors. In most cases, the death benefit funds can be paid to you in less than two weeks. In other cases, it can take up to two months.

The average death benefit claim payout from start to finish takes 30 days. Factors that can slow things down include:

  • The laws about insurance payouts in your state
  • The company that holds the policy
  • The way the deceased person died

The claim itself can also impact the speed of payout. For example, if you provide all the needed information with your claim, the process will generally go faster than if you need to send in more information later. Incorrectly filled-out forms or missing records will also slow down the process.

Delays in processing insurance claims

Unfortunately, you might run into some delays when you submit a claim. This will make it longer to get the payout but is not generally cause for alarm. Some common reasons it might take longer for a claim to be processed include:

The claim is made during the contestability periodThe first two years of any life insurance policy are known as the contestability period. During this time, the insurance company, by law, has the right to take extra time to review any death claim.

They’ll be on the lookout for fraud or misinformation committed on the original life insurance application. For example, if the insured died of a health-related condition, the insurance company would likely review all medical records to ensure that the insured wasn’t treated for the condition in the past and failed to mention it on the application.

Fraud or misinformation committed on an application is likely to result in a non-payment of the death benefit. Instead, the insurance company would generally refund the premium payments.

The policyholder dies from suicide – Many life insurance policies have a suicide clause. A suicide clause states that if a person dies by suicide in the first two years of the policy, no death benefit will be paid out. If death resulted from suicide and it had occurred after the second policy year, the full death benefit will be payable to the beneficiary.

The cause of death was a homicide – It sounds morbid, but if the policyholder was murdered, the insurance company needs to be cautious when making the payout. Specifically, they’ll need to be sure that they aren’t the culprit. You’ll likely need to supply police records or other documents that make clear you’re not responsible for the death.

The policyholder died while committing a crime – If the policyholder was committing a crime during their death, it could cause a delay or likely a denial of the death benefit payout. The exact rules for this will depend on the company.

Life insurance policy claim investigations

Any of the events above can trigger a life insurance policy investigation. In some cases, these investigations can mean it will be several weeks to several months before you see the payout.

This can be frustrating and stressful, but it doesn’t mean you won’t see a payout. As long as the insurance company finds no intentional fraud or misrepresentation committed on the application that would have otherwise originally resulted in a decline for coverage, you’ll receive the death benefit. Plus, the benefit amount will often accrue interest during the investigation, making your final payout larger.

So what should you expect during a life insurance investigation?

The insurance company will do most of the work. Depending on the reason for the investigation, this could include:

  • Medical records – The insurance company might need proof that the policyholder wasn’t misrepresenting their health on the life insurance application. For example, if the policyholder died of congestive heart failure (in the first two years of the policy being issued), the insurance company will likely want to see records that there was no prior treatment of any heart-related condition before applying for the coverage and not mention within the health questions of the application process before the policy was in place.
  • Police reports – The insurance company might need police records to process a claim if death resulted from foul play or accidental. You might also need to provide court other legal records depending on the circumstances.

The insurance company will let you know what information they need from you, but in most cases, they will obtain all the information on their own. The claims department should also update you along the way.

If a policyholder passes away due to a health condition within the first two policy years that was disclosed on the application, the insurance company is highly likely to pay the claim. The two-year contestability period protects the life insurance company due to fraud a misrepresentation committed on the application. Disclosing a medical condition that was underwriting for is not fraud, nor is it misrepresentation.

Waiting for a claim process to be completed can be frustrating, but as long as no fraud or crime being committed, the investigation should turn out in your favor. When it does, you’ll be able to receive the benefit payout.

When A Life Insurance Claim Is Denied

No one likes to hear it, but sometimes a death benefit claim won’t be paid. If the insurance company finds any of these things, you won’t be able to get any payout from the policy. Times your claim could be denied include:

The life insurance policy has lapsed – If the policyholder stops making payments, the life insurance policy will lapse. A lapsed policy is no longer active, and you won’t receive a payout. Most insurance companies have a thirty-day grace period in which you can make a missed payment to bring the life insurance coverage back. If payment is still missed when the grace period ends, the policy will lapse. Unfortunately, you might not know until you make a claim and discover that the policyholder has stopped paying the premiums.

Medical fraud is found – If the policyholder lied about their health on their application, the claim could be denied altogether. This can happen if the policyholder fails to disclose a medical condition. Life insurance companies are most likely only to investigate this type of fraud during the contestability period.

Application fraud is found – It’s not just medical history that could become an issue. If the policyholder failed to disclose a dangerous hobby and then died while doing that hobby, the claim could be denied. For example, if the policyholder didn’t disclose they were a private pilot and their cause of death was crashing their plane, the payout could be denied.

The policyholder committed suicide in the first two years of the policy – This falls under the suicide clause of all life insurance policies and will cause a denial of the claim.

The policyholder died committing a crime – Generally, if a policyholder dies while committing a crime, the payout will be denied.

The beneficiary is thought to have caused the policyholder’s death – It sounds like the plot of a movie, but it does happen in real life. That’s why insurance claims will always take longer if the policyholder is murdered. The claim will be denied if you’re responsible for the policyholder’s death, and you won’t receive a payout.

When fraud doesn't result in denial

It’s important to note application fraud doesn’t always result in complete denial in a life insurance death benefit payout. It depends on the company’s policy and the actual fraud. In some cases, the insurance company won’t deny the claim.

Instead, they’ll determine what rate the policyholder would have gotten if they’d been honest, assuming the condition wouldn’t have originally lead to a decline. They’ll then calculate the difference in what the premium payment would have been versus the premiums that have been actually paid up until the time the death claim is reported to the life insurance company. The total difference would then be subtracted from the payout, and the beneficiary will still receive a payout, but it will be reduced.

For example, let’s say Jane failed to disclose she was a deep-sea diver and then died while on a dive. Jane had a $500,000 policy for exactly one year before she died. Her monthly term life insurance rate was $40 a month, and she had made a total of 12 payments equaling $480 before her passing.

The insurance company discovers Jane did not mention her hobby on the application even though deep-sea diving over 100ft was listed within the “high-risk hobbies” portion of the application. Rather than denying the death benefit payout to Jane’s beneficiary, the insurance company determines what Jane’s rate would have been if she’d told them about her hobby.

The rate would have been $140 each month. Over the course of one year (the time Jane had her policy), that’s an additional $1,680. The insurance company takes that amount out of the death benefit and pays Jane’s beneficiary $498,320.

This process will still make a claim take longer. You might be waiting for several additional weeks if the insurance company decides to go this route. However, you will eventually get a payout, so this outcome is a lot better than a denial.

Ways To Help Ensure Your Beneficiaries Receive the Payout

When you buy a life insurance policy, you want it to be there for your loved ones. The last thing you want is for your policy to cause additional stress with a delayed payout or a denial. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make things easier on your beneficiary. To help your policy process faster, you can:

  • Make sure your beneficiary knows they are listed on your policy.
  • Give your beneficiary your policy number and other information.

To prevent a denial, you should:

  • Be as truthful as possible in your application. It might be tempting to lie for a better rate, but that’s never a good idea in the long run.
  • Buy a policy you can afford the premiums on. Don’t buy a bigger policy than your budget can handle. If you can’t pay the premiums, your policy will lapse.
  • Try to arrange a payment plan with the company if you’re behind on payments. Some companies will grant you an extension or allow you to make other arrangements. Always try to work something out before letting your policy lapse.

Paying your premiums during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Some insurance companies are currently offering extended grace periods to people facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll still need to pay your premiums eventually to keep your policy, but this could help you catch up if you’ve fallen behind. You’ll need to reach out to your insurance company about this option.

Life Insurance Company Claims Department Directory List

Need help locating a life insurance company to file a death benefits claim? We have put together an extensive list of the top insurers to include the telephone number to their claims department, mailing address, and a direct link to their online claims portal.

If you’re unable to locate a company on this list below and need help locating the company’s claim department, just let us know, and we will get you the contact information to submit a claim.

InsurerTelephone (Claims)Mailing AddressOnline Claims
PO Box 59060
Minneapolis, MN 55440
Allianz Claims Portal
American Equity1-877-542-8847American Equity
PO Box 71216
Des Moines, IA 50325
American Equity Claims Portal
PO Box 818006
Cleveland, OH 44181
AIG Claims Portal
PO Box 410288
Kansas City, MO 64141
Americo Claims Portal
PO Box 10466
Springfield, MO 65808
ANICO Claims Portal
PO Box 82533
Lincoln, NE 68501
Assurity Claims Portal
Baltimore Life1-800-628-5433Baltimore Life
10075 Red Run Blvd
Owings Mills, MD 21117
Baltimore Life Claims Portal
Banner Life1-800-638-8428Banner Life
3275 Bennett Creek Ave
Frederick, MD 21704
Banner Life Claims Portal
11225 N Community House Rd
Charlotte, NC 28277
Brighthouse Claims Portal
Cincinnati Life1-888-212-6970Cincinnati Life
PO Box 145496
Cincinnati, OH 45250
Cincinnati Life Claims Portal
PO Box 179
Buffalo, NY 14201
Foresters Claims Portal
Gerber Life1-800-628-0560Gerber Life
445 State Street
Fremont, MI 49412
Gerber Life Claims Portal
Illinois Mutual1-800-437-7355Illinois Mutual
300 SW Adams
Peoria, IL 61634
Illinois Mutual Claims Portal
John Hancock1-888-887-2739John Hancock
PO Box 55979
Boston, MA 02205
John Hancock Claims Portal
Lincoln Financial1-800-487-1485Lincoln Financial
PO Box 21008
Greensboro, NC 27420
Lincoln Financial Claims Portal
1295 State St
Springfield, MA 01111
MassMutual Claims Portal
Mutual of Omaha1-888-493-6902Mutual of Omaha
3300 Mutual of Omaha Plaza
Omaha, NE 68175
Mutual of Omaha Claims Portal
One Nationwide Plaza
Columbus, OH 43215
Nationwide Claims Portal
North American1-877-880-6367North American Life
One Sammons Plaza
Sioux Falls, SD 57193
North American Claims Portal
Pacific Life1-800-347-7787Pacific Life
P.O. Box 2873
Omaha, NE 68103
Pacific Life Claims Portal
Principal Financial1-800-986-3343Principal Financial
711 High St
Des Moines, IA 50392
Principal Financial Claims Portal
PO Box 12486
Birmingham, AL 35202
Protective Claims Portal
213 Washington St
Newark, NJ 07102
Prudential Claims Portal
Sagicor1-888-724-4267Saigor Life
8660 E. Hartford Dr #200
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Sagicor Life Claims Portal
PO Box 4048
Woburn, MA 01888
SBLI Claims Portal
PO Box 64114
St. Paul, MN 55164
Securian Claims Portal
4333 Edgewood Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52499
Transamerica Claims Portal

Frequently Asked Questions About Life Insurance Payouts

We’ve answered a few questions about some common concerns regarding life insurance and death benefit claims. If we missed anything, let us know, and we will get you an answer to your question.

Do I always have to file a claim?

You might have heard stories of people who received surprise life insurance payouts from policies they didn’t know existed. After this article, you might also be wondering if that’s an urban legend. We can’t verify every one of those rumors, but it’s not a completely impossible scenario. You can receive a payout without making a claim.

In some states, insurance companies are required to cross-check their policyholders against the Social Security Administration’s death master file. If they find any policyholders who have passed away, they can pay out the death benefit to any listed beneficiaries. So it is possible to receive a payout from a policy you didn’t know existed.

However, there are several drawbacks in this scenario. The first is that this rule doesn’t apply in all states, so depending on where you live, this might be off the table. The second is that this takes a long time. It might be months or even years before the company performs the cross-check. The third is that it might be hard for them to find you. If the information the policyholder supplied to contact you is out of date, it could be very difficult for the company to find you.

So, no. You don’t always have to submit a claim to receive a death benefit. However, if you’re the beneficiary on a policy, filing a claim is the fastest way to ensure you actually receive the payout.

Does the claims process work the same way no matter what type of insurance policy you have?

Yes. The general steps to file a life insurance claim would be the same no matter if the policyholder had a whole, universal, or term policy. All life insurance policies payout to beneficiaries in the same way. There might be slight differences in the process, such as what documentation you need to send in, based on the company, but the actual policy type won’t make a difference.

Can I earn interest during a claim investigation?

Yes. From the day the policyholder dies until the policy is paid out, interest is accrued. When the policy pays out in 10 days, this doesn’t matter much. However, if an investigation causes a payout to be delayed for months, a significant amount of interest can accrue. This will be added to the payout amount.

Do I have to pay taxes on a death benefit?

No. You never pay taxes on death benefits. The payout from a life insurance policy is not considered income and isn’t taxed. However, you will need to pay taxes on any interest that the benefit amount earned during an investigation or other delay.

Final Word

In most cases, getting a life insurance payout is an easy process. You’ll need to file a claim with the company and wait. You can normally expect money within a few weeks to about a month. Unfortunately, there are times it will take longer. An investigation can delay the payment by weeks or months. In some cases, your claim might be denied following the investigation.

One of the best ways to prevent a denial down the road is to be honest on your application. If you’re worried that your health will keep you from getting a policy you can afford, a no medical exam term life policy might be a good fit. With a no medical exam policy, you won’t have to take an exam to get great coverage. You don’t have to stress about the results of your exam raising your rates.

If you’re in the market for a policy, let us help. At No Medical Exam Quotes, we’ll show you rates from top companies. The insurance companies we work with don’t require a medical exam and allow you to get coverage fast. So if you’re ready to get started, fill out our quick form today.

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Picture of Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert
Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola is the founder of No Medical Exam Quotes, an online insurance agency that strongly focuses on helping people shop for the perfect life insurance policy. He is a licensed life insurance expert and content creator for the website.

Before becoming a life insurance agent, he served in the United States Marine Corps, transitioning from serving his country to helping families find affordable life insurance coverage beginning in 2009. Since starting a career as a licensed life insurance agent, Jeffrey has helped thousands of families with their life insurance needs.

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