How to File a Life Insurance Claim

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2020

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Life Insurance Claims: Here’s What To Do

When there is a death in the family, life insurance can provide almost immediate cash to meet pressing needs. Before you can get that cash, however, you have to file a claim. Here is what to do:

Call your insurance professional or broker. He or she can help you fill out the necessary forms and act as an intermediary with the insurance company. Although your insurance professional can assist you with the details of filing your claim, you will find it helpful if you have kept the policies at hand.

If you do not have an insurance professional, or do not know who the deceased’s agent was, you can deal directly with the insurance company. Call or write to its nearest office to ask what procedure should be followed.

If you do not know the name of the company that issued the policy and have no information at all related to the claim, write to the Missing Policy Service at the:

American Council of Life Insurance, 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004-2599. Include a self-addressed business size envelope. Your inquiry will be forwarded to nearly 100 large life insurance companies in an effort to locate the lost policy. (A nominal fee will be charged to cover administrative costs.)

You may be asked to secure certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral director, one copy to be submitted with each life insurance policy claim.

Submit the death certificate together with the claim form and either the policy itself, if it is requested, or its number.

Once the claim is submitted, you should receive a settlement in fairly short order. You may receive a lump sum or installments, according to your choice or the policyowner’s prior decision, or you may be able to leave the proceeds on deposit. The money will accrue interest until it is withdrawn. The insurance company will handle the settlement as instructed.

Typical settlement options which may be available include:

A lump sum, which gives you the option of using what is needed for immediate purposes (paying funeral expenses, final debts and current living costs) while investing the rest. Lump sum payments offer the most flexibility.

An interest income option, under which the company holds the proceeds and pays interest on them, either for a specified period or until funds are depleted.

Some insurance companies will put money in a money market mutual fund paying current market rates.

Specific income provisions, either with payments over a specified period or with payments of specified amounts. In this option, payouts of both principal and interest are made on a predetermined schedule.

A life income option, similar to an annuity, in which you are guaranteed income for life. The amount of income you receive depends upon the death benefit, your gender and your age at the time of the insured’s death. There may be a minimum number of payments made, even if you live only for a short while.

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