The passing of a loved one is endlessly painful. While often nothing can lighten the burden of loss, the stress of newly realized financial burden has potential to make it even worse. That’s why many people have life insurance –  to protect their loved ones from the added weight of financial stress in the event of an already tragic event.

However, in order to obtain the benefits of a life insurance policy, there’s a process that must be followed and choices to be made. Researching insurance information is the last thing on anyone’s mind in the event of astounding loss, so we’ve outlined the initial steps to Filing a Claim and important information regarding your Payment Timeline, Payout Options, and Possible Delays.

Filing a Claim

1. Obtain a certified copy of the death certificate 
One of the easiest ways to obtain a copy of the death certificate is through the funeral home, but you can also work directly with the offices of county in which or hospital/nursing home where the death occurred.

2. Request and fill out the official claim form
To request a claim form, or claims packet, the beneficiary or their insurance agent must contact the insurance agency where the life insurance policy was filed and provide the date and cause of death. Then, an agent will forward a copy of the claims packet. The packet contains a collection of forms that request the information necessary to process the claim. Submitting all the information at once will speed up the process.

3. Contact the insurance company to file the claim
Now, you’ll contact the life insurance company to officially start the claims process. You will need the death certificate and the completed claim form mentioned above. Additionally, if you have access to a copy of the insurance policy, this can significantly speed up the process. If you do not, you can work with the company to obtain one.

Payout Timeline

Processing a life insurance payout can be a quick process. Once the claims packet has been submitted, most states only allow insurance companies 30-60 days to review the claim. During that period of time they may provide the payout, deny the claim, or request additional information. If an insurance company delays the payment of the claim, they may face steep interest charges.

Payout Options  

Your payout may come to you in one of two ways: Lump-sum or Annuity.

Lump-sum means the beneficiary will receive the full payout amount all at once. This is the most common form of payment to the beneficiary. The benefits received in this manner are not subject to income tax.

Annuities, or installment payments, are a newer payout option that allows the beneficiary to receive a pre-determined, guaranteed stream of income anywhere for 5 to 30+ years until the money runs out. Any interest collected over time is considered taxable income.

Possible Delays

Insurance companies have methods in place to prevent insurance fraud. For example, the contestability period clause gives the insurance company the right to investigate the application if the insured dies within 1-2 years of buying the policy.

An insurance company may deny benefits if the insured passed away during the contestability period as a result of illegal activities or a risky hobby that was not mentioned in their initial application.


If you have questions about life insurance or filing a life insurance claim, contact McInturff, Milligan & Brooks via the form below or at (423) 639-5171.

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