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Insurance 101

The ins and outs of filing a life insurance claim

Insurance 101

The ins and outs of filing a life insurance claim

Understanding the claims process is easier than you think.

Losing someone you love is difficult. Not only are you grieving, but there are a lot of preparations to be made, meaning a lot to think about. So it’s important to have plans in place to make the process as easy as possible. One of the things you might have to consider is filing a life insurance claim. A lot of people may be intimidated when they start the process, especially if it’s not something they’ve ever had to experience before. You might also need to do it asap so you don’t fall behind on any payments or bills. So how do you file a claim, and what happens when you do? While the claims process can be different depending on the company, let’s look at how the process generally works.

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  1. How do you file a claim?
  2. What happens once the insurance company has your documents?
  3. What happens once your claim is approved?
  4. Conclusion

How do you file a claim?

When you decide to file a life insurance claim, the first question on your mind might be, “how do I do this?”. Although there is no mandated time frame after your loved one’s death, you probably want the claims process started as soon as possible so you can receive your death benefit quickly. Funeral expenses can be very pricey, so that might be at the top of the list of things that need to be paid off.

In any event, there are few steps you need to take when you file the claim.

Gather your documents

The insurance company may request:

  • The death certificate of your loved one. Having proof of death is necessary to prove the policy-holder has indeed passed away.
  • The life insurance policy document, which shows the term, the payout amount, beneficiaries, and more.
  • While most companies will provide the claim form once you notify them of your loss, you will need to fill out your information and send it back.

Contact the insurance company

Once you notify the company, they’ll request that you submit your documents and possibly ask for proof of identity to confirm you are indeed the beneficiary. If you need further assistance, you may also be able to get information on their website, if they have a claims section.

Be transparent with information

Besides submitting the necessary documents, make sure you are transparent about the events surrounding the policyholder’s death. Also, add any pertinent information that may not have been included in the death certificate or the claims form.

  • The contestability period is a two-year period where the life insurance company can review your coverage for anything that may have been misrepresented during the application process. For example, if the policyholder claimed to be a non-smoker and then died of lung cancer. If there is proof that the information added was not truthful, the beneficiary may not receive the full payout so it’s important that all the information added to the policy is accurate.
  • Many life insurance companies protect themselves by including a suicide clause. This usually means that if a policy holder takes their own life within two years of buying the policy then the claim can be contested.
  • If the policy holder died abroad, it may take longer to verify the claim.

What happens once the insurance company has your documents?

The insurance company claims investigator will take it from here. Their job is to make sure all the documentation is valid and confirm there was no misrepresentation on your life insurance policy. So as you wait for your claim to be approved, the investigator is confirming several things.

  • The beneficiaries are real people and are who they say they are. This may include basic things like your name, address, and social security number.
  • The death certificate is valid.
  • The insurance is still active and that coverage hasn’t lapsed.
  • The policy term hasn’t expired.
  • The documents are official.
  • There was no fraud or forgery involved.

What happens once your claim is approved?

Once the life insurance company has all your documents and has proved that you are the beneficiary of the death benefit, the pay-out date may vary depending on the particular policy. Typically you will receive the money within a few days, but it can take up to 30 to 60 days if the insurance claims investigator needs to do a further review.

But don’t fret. If there are no issues with your claim and it’s approved, you will receive your payout in a lump sum (meaning you’ll get the full amount) either via check or direct deposit.


While there are several steps to take when you file a claim, the process isn’t as scary as it might initially seem. Just make sure you are thorough when submitting the paperwork and be prepared to answer questions or submit more info if needed.

You should also become familiar with the policy and understand what it covers and what it doesn’t. This can alleviate your family from extra stress when working through the claims process.

The opinions we expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations.