Understanding the Life Insurance Death Claim Process

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states.
After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insu…

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Reviewed by

Rachael Brennan

Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Feb 26, 2022

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Here's the Scoop

  • Life insurance death claims should be relatively straightforward if you have the information needed to complete a claims form
  • Life insurance claims can be paid out as quickly as one week after the insurer receives the completed forms
  • Most life insurance companies will accept claims at any point after the original waiting period which is usually less than four years

Shopping for different types of life insurance is one thing, but understanding the life insurance death claim process is another important responsibility of policyholders and beneficiaries that could go unmentioned. It’s not always comfortable to discuss life insurance policies, but it is often necessary.

This article will help anyone who is looking to better understand life insurance claims by breaking down common processes, explaining how the processes differ between companies, the waiting periods once claims are filed, and more.

Ready to learn more about life insurance death claims? Keep reading or enter your ZIP code above to get free quotes from the best life insurance companies near you.

Table of Contents

How do life insurance death claims work?

The life insurance claims process can vary slightly from company to company but it almost always has the same primary steps. Once the policyholder is deceased, one of the beneficiaries will need to contact the insurance company to initiate a claim.

Once the claim is started, there will be some documents that must be sent to the insurance company so that they can properly investigate the policyholder’s death to be sure nothing is unusual about the death or claim. The insurer will send the beneficiary, or beneficiaries, the allocated death benefit once the claim is processed.

While this may sound simple, it’s not always quite that easy. Not every life insurance company handles claims the same way. You could see some changes between companies in any of the following:

  • How you initiate a claim
  • How you submit documents
  • Information that is required on the claims forms
  • How you can track the progress of the claims
  • Waiting periods associated with the claims
  • Length of the claims process

As a policyholder, it helps to look into these details to avoid any major issues during the claims process. Imagine paying into a life insurance policy for decades and your death benefit was never paid out because of documentation errors. That would be a catastrophe.

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How do I submit life insurance death claims?

If you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you will want to submit a life insurance claim as soon as possible to initiate the process. You’ll need to know what life insurance company the policy is through at the very least.

As a policyholder, it would be wise to provide your beneficiary with other details that are requested on the company’s claims forms. Some examples include:

  • Policy number
  • Policy type
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Funeral home and location of the burial

While a beneficiary may eventually have success with a claim without private information such as your social security number, many insurers request that information so it could make the process more fluid.

For the beneficiary, you can usually download claims forms on the company website. Once you have completed those forms, you will either need to submit them online, by mail, or by scanning the documents to a company email in some cases.

If the life insurance company doesn’t allow beneficiaries to submit claims online, there’s a good chance you also won’t be able to track claims online. In such cases, it would be advised to call the insurance company periodically to check for any updates.

Is there a time limit for claiming life insurance death benefits?

Some life insurance companies may have a time limit for claims to be submitted. Most time limits associated with life insurance policies revolve around the initiation of the policy and how close it was to the death of the policyholder.

There aren’t typically any major restrictions for submitting life insurance claims a long time after the policyholder passed. For example, Allstate will allow beneficiaries to submit a claim at virtually any point after the policyholder’s death as long as the death claims forms are complete.

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How long after death can you process a life insurance claim?

There isn’t a specific time in which you can process a life insurance claim. As long as you have the appropriate documentation, you shouldn’t have any trouble submitting a claim.

Keep in mind that there can be a waiting period associated with a life insurance policy in some cases. The waiting period means that the policy won’t be active until that period is over. With most life insurance policies, the waiting period is not in excess of four years.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, waiting periods may also be referred to as elimination periods, so you’ll want to make sure you keep an eye out for either phrase.

There are ways to get around a life insurance waiting period. Policyholders could purchase a policy with accelerated underwriting or with special life insurance riders to forego a waiting period to ensure a policy becomes active immediately.

How fast does an insurance company process a death claim?

Assuming you’ve submitted the appropriate life insurance claims forms, you shouldn’t have to wait long to receive the death benefit as a beneficiary. Without any setbacks, this process is usually done in one to eight weeks after the insurer receives the completed forms.

As long as there isn’t any suspicious behavior related to the life insurance claim, there’s no reason for a life insurance company to delay the process. As a beneficiary, it’s important to be patient, especially if there are multiple beneficiaries.

If you’re concerned about property deeds, real estate, or other assets, it might be smart to hold onto your paperwork for those title transfers until the death benefit is paid out. Some people might try to file quitclaim deeds to remove others from a title once dead, but there are better ways to approach these situations.

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Life Insurance Death Claims: The Bottom Line

Filing claims for life insurance can be stressful if you don’t have the right information. Good communication on the front end between the policyholder and beneficiary can help make the claims process more efficient during somber times.

We hope we helped you better understand the life insurance death claims process. While you’re here, see if you can save on life insurance today by entering your ZIP code below.