Life Insurance

A Guide to the Life Insurance Claim Process

Jan 26, 2022
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If you’re the beneficiary of someone’s life insurance policy, you need to know the life insurance claim process. The life insurance company does not initiate the payout process. Instead, it’s the beneficiary’s responsibility to initiate the payment.

Learn how to claim life insurance in case of death so you don’t miss out on receiving a financial gift from the person who chose you as a beneficiary.

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How to claim life insurance in 5 steps

Getting a life insurance payout shouldn't be extremely complicated, no matter if the policyholder had term or whole life insurance. Follow these steps to make the process as smooth as possible.

  1. Get copies of the death certificate. The first step is to get multiple certified copies of the policy holder’s death certificate from the funeral home. Be sure to procure original copies, rather than photocopies. This is required so that the life insurance company can confirm the individual’s death. 
  2. Contact the life insurance company. Next, notify the life insurance company of the policy holder’s death and find out their claims process. It’s helpful to have the policy number on hand. 
  3. Fill out a claim form. This may also be called the request for benefits and is the first piece of documentation you’re likely to receive from the life insurance company. You will need to fill out information about the policy holder, including details surrounding their death.
  4. Choose a payment method. Another part of the claim form includes choosing your preferred payment method. You can typically select either a lump sum or installment payments. 
  5. Return the claim packet. Once complete, send back the claim packet along with any requested supporting documentation. You’ll have to wait for the claim to be processed. If approved, you should receive the policy payout. 

The amount you receive depends on how much coverage the policyholder opted for when they originally took out the policy, as well as any outstanding premiums or policy loans. 

How long do you have to claim life insurance?

There’s no time limit on filing the initial claim, as long as three conditions are met:

  • The life insurance policy was valid at the individual’s time of death
  • The premiums were all paid in full
  • All of the information on the individual’s life insurance application was accurate

You may not be sure if you actually are a beneficiary. If you’re able to, check the deceased’s personal belongings for any communications about a life insurance policy. If that’s not possible, you can submit a request through your state’s insurance commission. They will then have all licensed insurance companies perform a search to see if the deceased had a policy and if you are a beneficiary.

While you don’t face any limits on when you can submit a claim for a payout, there could be a limit to how long you’re able to appeal if your claim is denied. Some states have a statute of limitations on how long you can wait to file a legal appeal, usually limiting it to two years.

How long does it take to receive life insurance money?

The amount of time it takes to receive a life insurance death benefit depends on a few factors, including the individual life insurance company. It could take anywhere between one week and two months, but the norm is usually around 30 days.

There are a few reasons you may encounter a delay in having your claim processed.

  • Incorrect forms: You may have omitted information or given incorrect information that needs to be addressed.
  • Cause of death is homicide: The insurer needs to rule out the beneficiary as a suspect.
  • Contested policy: Payout can slow down if someone contests the policy. This is more common if the beneficiary was changed shortly before the policyholder’s death.
  • Death occurred within two years of taking out the policy: This is called the contestability period. The life insurance company needs to make sure the policyholder didn’t lie about their health or medical history on the application. If they did, the claim could be denied.

What are the reasons for a life insurance claim being denied?

There are several situations in which a life insurance claim could be denied. 

Original application was incorrect: If during the contestability period, it is revealed that the policy holder lied on their original application, the claim may be denied. For instance, if they lied about being a smoker or having a pre-existing condition, then the death benefit may not be honored.

Cause of death wasn’t covered: Not all types of death are covered by life insurance. Each policy will have its own details. Most frequently, the following causes of death will nullify a life insurance policy:

  • Suicide during the first one to two years of the policy
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Illegal activities involved with death
  • Dangerous hobbies, such as skydiving and SCUBA diving (policy will list out exact activities)

Have more questions about online life insurance? Check out these FAQs to better understand everything you need to know as a beneficiary or a policyholder.

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