When there is a death in the family, life insurance can provide cash to meet pressing needs. To receive the benefits that you are entitled to, you first must file a claim.
To help guide you through that process follow these steps:
Obtain several copies of the death certificate. While a death certificate is the standard form of documentation required when filing a life insurance claim there may be acceptable alternatives in extraordinary circumstances. Your life insurance representative will know what forms and documents are needed to proceed with your claim.
Contact your insurance agent. The life insurance agent who sold the policy can help you fill out the necessary forms and act as an intermediary with the insurance company. If you do not have an insurance agent, or do not know the name of your loved one's agent, contact the life insurance company directly.
As a precaution, you shouldn't store a life insurance policy—which contains important contact and policy information—in a safety deposit box. In most states, boxes are sealed temporarily upon one's death, which could delay a settlement.
In the case of a group life insurance policy, such as one offered by an employer, first contact the group plan sponsor or the human resources department at the employer directly. If you're unable to contact the employer, you may contact the life insurance company directly.
Submit a certified copy of the death certificate (or acceptable alternative in extraordinary circumstances) from the funeral director with the policy claim. Once the claim is submitted, a settlement should be issued to you shortly.
Once a life insurance claim is submitted, you will need to determine how the proceeds will be distributed. Some settlement options that may be available to you are:
Lump sum: You receive the entire death benefit in a single amount, which allows you to use what you need for immediate expenses and invest the rest.
Specific income provision: The life insurance company pays you both principle and interest on a predetermined schedule.
Life income option: You receive a guaranteed income for life. The amount of income depends on the death benefit specified in the life insurance policy, your gender, and your age at the time of the insured's death.
Interest income option: The company holds onto the proceeds and pays you interest. The death benefit remains intact and goes to a secondary beneficiary upon your death.
Publications and Resources
What You Should Know About Life Insurance. An ACLI guide to help you choose the right life insurance products to meet your needs.
Tips on Buying Life Insurance (PDF). Choosing a life insurance product is an important decision. As with any major purchase, it is important to understand your family's needs and the options available. Use this list of buying tips to help you choose.
State Insurance Department Directory. The State Insurance Department Directory, with contact information for 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Includes names and phone numbers for key personnel and specific subject contacts.