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Suppose the time should come that your loved one passes away unexpectedly, and you are the beneficiary of their life insurance policy. In that case, you will have to go through a process where you will claim provided life insurance benefits. This task is pretty straightforward, depending on the type of life insurance policy, but it helps if you are familiar with the basic procedures in case the worst should occur.

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Generally speaking, the entire process of making a claim will take from 30 to 60 days, with some exceptions depending on the type of policy and if there are any outstanding issues. Understanding how to claim life insurance will help you get through this process a little easier and with more understanding so that the benefits can be delivered and the expenses paid. There are three basic types of life insurance policies when it comes to how the claim process works;

  • Individual
  • Employee-Sponsored
  • Group

When it comes to making a claim and following the procedures, you will need to know the type of life insurance policy to follow the proper instructions to get the benefits as swiftly as possible.

How to Claim Life Insurance Benefits for Individually Owned Policies?

The start of the process in terms of how to file a life insurance claim is the same for all three types of policies.

Report the Death of the Policy Holder: The first step is that the policyholder’s death will need to be reported to the life insurance company. In most cases, the beneficiary or next of kin is the one who will make the report. At this point, the insurance company will usually provide the form needed to fill out the claim for the benefits.

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File the Claim: The claim itself is usually relatively simple, with the form with spaces for the information that must be provided. Once the form is filled out, it must be returned to the insurance company with a certified copy of the death certificate.

Incontestable or Contestable: Once the insurance company receives the information, an analyst will evaluate the claim, which will be processed. There are two types of claims, incontestable and contestable;

  • Incontestable: The death occurs after the time frame where the insurance company can contest the benefits.

Each policy has its time frame of when the insurance company can properly contest giving out the benefits. This is a common feature of most policies, but if the policyholder passes away after time, the claim process generally moves fairly quickly.

  • Contestable: If the policyholder passes away during the time frame when the insurance company can contest the benefits, additional information will usually be required.

If the claim is contested, the beneficiary must provide the information requested by the insurance company and usually sign an authorization form so that the analyst can evaluate the deceased’s medical history. In how to claim life insurance after death, a contestable claim can take considerably longer than an incontestable one.

However, many contestable claims are generally attempts by the life insurance company to get more information for their records. If the information they received verifies the information on the claim form, then the benefits will usually be paid. Only if some inconsistency is discovered or if contradictory information is found will jeopardize the benefits of being denied.

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Once the claim has been approved, the benefit will usually be paid in a lump sum unless otherwise directed. This means you will receive the benefits in cash that you can use to pay off funeral expenses, debts, and anything else you choose. The important aspect here is that you can use the benefit to pay off what you want unless there is some directed policy that says otherwise.

One thing to remember is the taxes the death benefit will generate. In most circumstances, the death benefits are excluded from the beneficiary’s income tax. However, they are included as part of the estate of the deceased. Thus, the benefits may be subject to the overall estate taxes at the federal and state levels. However, estate taxes may be avoided if the policy owner is someone other than the deceased. To be excluded under this condition, the reassignment of the life insurance policy must have occurred at least three years before the time of death.

How to Claim Life Insurance Benefits for Employer-Sponsored Policies and Group Policies?

The procedure to claim a life insurance policy under an employer-provided plan and a group policy is similar to an individual policy. In each case, the basic procedure is followed according to the information and policies of each type of life insurance.

Generally speaking, the main difference is the number of available benefits and the greater regulation when claiming life insurance when someone dies. The group and employee coverage generally have a “master policy” that will set the standards for the group. There is no individual underwriting or risk evaluation which means that the chances for collecting the benefits have fewer roadblocks because the insurance company looks at the group as a whole and not as each individual.

However, the benefits tend to be less as the group has a slight variation. Only when expanded policies are removed do the benefits increase, but that will subject the beneficiary to greater evaluation just like in an individual policy.

Overall, understanding how to claim the benefit from a life insurance policy is a fairly straightforward process. However, each company will have its forms and procedures, which may vary somewhat. If possible, the beneficiary should discuss the claim process with the policyholder so that if the worst should happen, they will be better prepared.


Meet Aaron H., a senior life insurance agent from California with 15+ years of experience. With a major in finance, excellent analytical and communication skills, and a passion for helping clients find personalized solutions, Aaron is a trusted advisor in the industry. He stays up-to-date on the latest trends and developments by attending webinars and workshops, reading industry blogs, and writing informative blog posts on this website. Aaron also has a keen understanding of SEO and online marketing, which he uses to help his clients reach a wider audience and get the coverage they need. He cherishes spending quality time with his wife, two children, and elder parents.