How to File a Claim on Life Insurance

Do you need to file a life insurance claim? If a loved one has passed away, there are important steps to take to file your life insurance claim and make funeral arrangements. Filing the life insurance claim is probably the furthest thing from your mind if you’ve lost someone. But, you might have bills that will be due soon if the person who died was your spouse and you relied on them for some or all of the household income.

Here are a few steps to help you file your claim.

How to File a Life Insurance Claim

Your life insurance company may not know right away that the insured has passed away. Hence, contacting them is an important step. It’s your responsibility to file the necessary paperwork and make a claim on the life insurance policy.

Find the life insurance policy

The original policy might be in a filing cabinet or with an attorney. The insurance company needs the original policy but make a copy for your own records.

What if you can’t find the policy? Or, don't know the insurance company name?

Check the deceased’s bank statements. Often, life insurance payments are paid monthly, by quarter, semi-annually or every year. If you find a payment for premiums, you can contact the life insurance provider listed. Another way to find information on the policy is to check with the deceased's employer. Call and ask for the HR department.

Determine if it’s a group or individual policy

Read the policy. If it’s individual, that means your loved one has an agent or broker they used and that’s who you should contact. If it’s a group policy, then it’s through an employer and you can contact the association or company listed on the insurance policy. You might also be able to reach out to the HR representative for your loved one.

What if you can't remember the agent's name? Or, you don't know it?

If you can't find the agent's name in your loved one's contacts or if you don't know it, call the insurance company.  Use the insurance company website or a claim helpline listed on their site.

Fill out the forms you receive

When you contact the life insurance company, they can walk you through the next step. They will request that three forms are filled out and returned to them.

The forms include:

  • The insurance claim form: You're filing a new claim and the claim form is to be filled out by you as the beneficiary or recipient of the policy.
  • The death certificate: The funeral home that handles the service can provide you with this as they have to fill out this form. They might charge a small fee and can provide you with copies of the death certificate for your records.
  • A physician’s report: A detailed report signed by an attending physician is part of the necessary paperwork. The physician has to fill out this form and it must be signed. Contact your loved one’s doctor or the hospital where they passed away for copies of the physician's report.

Other documents you might need

When filing a claim as a spouse, you might need copies of your marriage certificate or the newspaper clipping of the deceased's death. You might also need your shared mortgage and any shared credit card statements or bills. These can help if you run into a roadblock with filing the claim or with any bills that were in your spouse’s name only.

The Time Frame for Processing Claims

When you file the paperwork, make copies for yourself and if you’re mailing the items, only mail them with a tracking number. These are important documents you don’t want to be lost in the mail or delayed.

After filing the paperwork has been received by the insurance provider, it should take about a week or so to process the claim. Confirm this as the time frame can vary with insurance providers.

Typically time frames for receiving your cheque include:

  • For smaller policies less than five years old, if no review is required, the cheque can be mailed immediately. And, this includes some large seven-figure amounts.
  • For policies less than five years old and those that are twenty-four months old or less, the process can be immediate or take up to four to six months. Reviews may require doctor's reports and some provinces the doctor is allowed ninety days to submit follow-up reports. If the claim is under review, expect that it might take four months. But, as soon as the review is complete, you can receive the money within a few days.

How is the claim payment sent?

In most cases, the payment will arrive by regular post in the form of a cheque. If you live in Ontario, your insurance agent might be able to pick it up and arrange to bring it to you.

If you're experiencing financial hardship and the deceased was a partial or sole breadwinner, ask if you can pick up the cheque. Or ask if the insurer can overnight it to you. Another option is to contact the local insurance office where you have your policies and ask for help. They might be able to overnight the cheque to you or let you pick it up from their office. Sometimes they will do this because you are a customer.

Delays That Can Slow Down Claims

If you haven't heard back from the insurance company after a week or two, you might want to call them. There are delays that can cause the claim's process to take longer.

These include:

  • Not filling out the paperwork completely: Don't leave any boxes blank on the claim form. If you're unsure, contact your attorney, physician, bank or your loved one's employer.
  • Necessary forms that are missing: Ensure the death certificate, physician report and claim form are sent to the insurance provider.
  • A contestability period: If the deceased died within twenty-four months of starting a new policy, an investigation might start into the cause of death. This can delay how long it takes for the claim to be processed and you to receive the policy money.
  • Loans against the policy: Claiming proceeds can vary and may depend on if the policy is term, whole life or group life. And, any loans against the policy have to be factored in before you can receive payment as a beneficiary.

When You Need Help with Life Insurance

Filing a life insurance claim after the death of a loved one can be a difficult time as filling out paperwork is the furthest thing from your mind. But, by turning in the necessary paperwork, you can receive the policy money you need to cover bills, funeral costs and other expenses. For help with life insurance or if you have questions, contact Kanetix.com.

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