How to File a Life Insurance Death Claim

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If you have a life insurance policy, it’s important for you to talk to your loved ones about it’s details. If it’s still in-force at the time of your death, your beneficiaries can submit a claim with the appropriate documents.

There isn’t a time limit on how long you have to file a life insurance claim and the process is quite simple.

Steps Needed to Submit a Claim

1. Contact life insurance agent or the company’s customer service department

The beneficiary will need to notify the insurance company or agent of the policyholder’s death. If there’s a group life insurance policy, contact the employer. They will guide you through the process and indicate which documents you need.

2. Gather documents

There are 3 documents needed to file a death benefit claim:

  1. Death certificate – The insurer will need a certified copy of the policyholder’s death certificate. You can request a copy from whoever prepared it. Usually the funeral home or medical professional will have a copy. You also can request a copy from your local vital records office.
  2. Policy document– This will have all of the necessary information about the life insurance policy: the term, the death benefit amount, and other details. If you don’t know the location of the policy, contact the insurance company (if you know who it is), search your loved one’s files or reach out to their financial advisor/insurance agent.
  3. Claim form – Also known as a “request for benefits.” You’ll fill out information about the policyholder, cause of death, policy number, etc. You’ll also indicate your relationship to the policyholder and how you would like to be paid once the insurance company processes the claim.

3. Wait for the claim to be processed

After you submit the correct documents, the insurer will start processing the claim. They’ll verify beneficiaries and make sure the policy is still in-force. If the policy lapsed because of nonpayment or the term ran out, there won’t be a death benefit paid out.

It can take up to 30-60 days to receive the death benefit. If the policyholder died within the contestability period (the first two years of owning the policy) or if death was caused by suicide, it can take longer. Although, insurance companies do have an incentive to pay out quickly so they can avoid interest charges on unpaid death benefits, so it may be faster.

4. Receive the death benefit

There are different ways you can choose to receive the death benefit, depending on the insurer and policy. The two most common options are lump sum and annuity.

Lump sum

With a lump-sum payment, the beneficiary gets the entire death benefit at once, tax free.

You’ll likely be able to choose how you want to receive it, either by direct deposit or you may be able to receive a check.


The beneficiary may be able to convert the death benefit into an annuity instead of receiving it as a lump sum. The death benefit is essentially invested and then paid back to you as an annual payment for a set number of years.

The Bottom Line

There are specific documents and steps needed in order to receive the death benefit from a life insurance policy. Reach out to your insurance agent or company and follow the process so you can receive the payment in a timely manner.

The death of a loved one is exceedingly difficult, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.


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