Basics of Death Benefits
Anyone can buy life insurance
Redeeming the policy
Annuity pay out options
Common reasons for denied claims
In a perfect world, we'd all pass away at age 98. We'd die comfortably in our homes, surrounded by loving family. Our estate plans and life insurance policies would all be clear, and it would be a peaceful time of reflection for our families.
Unfortunately, the reality is sometimes much different. People pass away in surprise situations or as victims of crimes or accidental, unattended deaths. Family members are left wondering if life insurance policies existed and if anyone can claim them without the policy. The good news is that you can find out if there is a life insurance policy, make a claim, and notify other beneficiaries, even without the policy in hand.
Today, the team at Bio Recovery will help you understand how to claim a life insurance payment even if you don't have the paperwork. We'll also address other common questions about death benefits that we often hear in our business, like "How do death benefits work?"
Anyone Can Buy Life Insurance Policies in the US
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a free online tool anyone can use to find life insurance policies.
You will need:
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- Your valid photo ID
- A reliable mailing address
Go to the NAIC search tool linked above, fill in the application and scan those documents into the system. Other key information like the decedent's date of birth and full name will be on the death certificate.
NAIC will perform a search of all life insurance policies in the US. It takes about 30 days. Once complete, NAIC will notify ALL beneficiaries of ALL your family member's policies. That means only one search needs to be done, even if your loved one had many insurance policies. Next, let's talk about how death benefits work.
How Do I Redeem Life Insurance Death Benefits?
If you already have the life insurance policy in hand, you need to call the insurer and make a claim. There's usually a toll-free number on the policy paperwork. Call them and provide your information and the policy number. You'll need to provide them with a certified copy of the death certificate or an obituary notice. The company will start the claims process, and you'll get a claim number. Most insurers will have a check to you within a few weeks.
Unusual circumstances do pop up from time to time. Insurance companies go out of business or sell their policies. If you're struggling to reach an insurer or get an answer about a claim, do the NAIC search above.
How are Death Benefits Paid?
You can cash out on a death benefit as a lump sum or an annuity. Both are paid for yearly or monthly. Claims are usually processed from 1-3 weeks after receiving a valid copy of the insured's death certificate.
Why Might a Death Benefit be Denied?
Life insurance companies could deny benefits if the reason for death violates the contract. To prevent insurance fraud, this cases of suicide and homicide are the ones examined most closely. This doesn't apply to all claims, especially if the policy is at least a few years old. However, if your loved one only had the policy for a few months, expect to be refunded only their payments, not the full death benefit.
Sometimes whole life policy checks might be smaller than imagined, too. That's because these policies work like a savings account and build a cash value over time. If your loved one borrowed money out of the cash value and didn't pay it back before they passed away, a beneficiary might receive a smaller check than expected.
And finally, material misrepresentations on a life insurance application can put a wrench in the works. In the realms of insurance, "material" means "something that matters." So if your loved one lied about their age or pre-existing illness on their life insurance application, it might be a challenge to collect a death benefit.
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