When a loved one passes away, the last thing that anyone wants to worry about is a life insurance company delaying payment unfairly on a claim to the death benefit.  Major companies are usually very expeditious in their handling of death claims today, and most are paid within 30 days of the death of the insured.  A claim rarely takes more than 60 days after death to be processed by a life insurance company (assuming they have what they need to pay the claim).  If all documents are in order, and a claim is straightforward, it can be processed and money can be paid in as little as 10 to 14 days.

The exact amount of time it takes will depend upon the company, the laws in your specific state, and the speed at which you turn in all of the claim requirements to the life insurance company.  Read on for a further description of how claims are handled, and to learn how to get your claim paid as quickly as possible.

Each State Has Different Laws

Every State individually regulates life insurance companies operating within their jurisdictions.  To learn the rules in your specific state regarding the handling of claims, read our state page section.  While each state has separate rules regarding the maximum amount of time that a life insurance can take to process a claim, most companies will pay claims faster if the right steps are taken.

How To Get Claims Paid Fast

There are some important steps that you can take as a beneficiary to have your death claim paid as quickly as possible.  Do have some patience during the claims process.  Not every claim will be handled immediately, life insurance companies must still process each claim very carefully, which does take some time.  Life insurance companies always make sure that a claim is valid, and that there are no attempts at fraud.  If a company pays out on fraudulent claims it costs all policyholders more money, so owners should be happy that companies are careful when they pay claims.  Read on to learn how to make your life insurance claim as fast as possible.

Have The Death Certificate Ready

Life insurance companies will require a death certificate which gives proof that the insured person is deceased.  Most companies will require an original death certificate (not a copy) and they do not return this.  To expedite the process of a claim, order enough death certificates to provide an original copy to each life insurance company.

Contact Your Life Insurance Company Immediately

The time immediately following a death can be extremely difficult.  Not only are their many logistics to take care of (ie funeral arrangements) but it is a very difficult time emotionally.  It is still very important to contact your life insurance company immediately.  You have two options for contacting your life insurance company.

  1. You can call the company directly.  Every company has 1-800 numbers for service listed on their website, and it should also be on the physical policy as well.  You can call their service line, who will then probably direct you to a claim specific specialist, or if you can find a number for the claims department directly you can contact them.  A company can send each beneficiary the claim form directly.  They will apprise you of all requirements, and give you a mailing address to send all information to the company.  They can also walk you through the full claims process, so you can know what to expect at each step.
  2. You can also call your agent.  Your agent can notify the company directly, and facilitate the claims process himself.  You will still need to fill in the claims paperwork even if the agent is involved.  Only the beneficiaries can legally sign the claim paperwork.  Whether the agent is involved or not, all of the same claim requirements will still need to be sent to the life insurance company.

Usually, it makes sense to notify both your agent and your life insurance company yourself.  If your agent is going to help you handle the claim, notify the company of this when you speak with them.  Oftentimes the fastest way for the beneficiary to get the claims paperwork is to have the company send it directly to them.  If you have questions on how to fill out the paperwork, the agent may be the best resource.  Do not delay in notifying both your agent and the life insurance company.

Make Sure That You Have All Requirements The First Time

After you have received and filled out your claim paperwork, make sure that all supporting documentation is attached.  Usually, the company will require 3 items: the claim form, the original death certificate, and possibly the original policy.  If you do not have an original policy, don’t panic.  Notify the life insurance company and they will work with you.  Even if you do not have the policy the company is still legally required to pay the claim (if valid).

If the life insurance has any further requirements regarding the claim they will notify you of this.  If a beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries are no longer living, for instance, they may require a copy of a death certificate for the deceased beneficiaries.  They may also require certain instructions regarding how the claim is to be paid, (ie in one lump sum or as an annuity), and if the claim is a homicide a police report may be required.

Whatever your requirements are, be clear that you have all that the life insurance company requires before you submit your claim paperwork.  This will help the processing go as quickly as possible.

What Can Slow A Claim Down

The Claim Happens During The Contestable Period

The first two years after a policy is issued is known as the contestable period.  If a claim is filed during this period, the life insurance company may decide to review medical records further.  The company will be looking to make sure that all representations made on the life insurance application were true.  If the insured person did not tell the truth regarding their health, the company may have the right to contest the claim.

After the contestable period expires, they will not review the records further and the claim will be paid faster.

Not Having All Documents In Order

This is the most common reason that the processing of a claim is slowed.  Make sure that all documents are filled out fully, that the death certificate is original, and that all supporting documentation is provided.

The Life Insurance Company Has a Backlog

Today, companies are well staffed in their claims department and they have the ability to handle excess capacity.  Even so, it is possible that a small backlog could delay processing by a few days.  This would never account for any extended or undue delays.  If you suspect that a company is withholding your claim unfairly, contact your state insurance department immediately.

Claim Pages For Select Life Insurance Companies


  1. Patricia A. Jones

    What is the status of beneficiary payout for Johnnie M** Mc***** (policy number 002E****). How soon should I expect payment. I’m the beneficiary and I was client’s POA and representative payee.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      You will need to check with the insurance company that issued the policy regarding the status. Each state has a different requirement for how quickly the claim must be paid. 30 days is typical for many companies.

  2. My mother passed in March of 2011 and I want to inquire if she had any life insurance policies unknown to me. Is it too late to check? Finally, how do I begin my search?

    Thank You

    1. It is not too late to start your search since a life insurance company would still pay out a qualifying claim. Here is our article on the subject.

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