If you’re waiting for a life insurance payment, it could take anywhere from two weeks to two months. In some cases, the process goes smoothly, and beneficiaries receive payment in just a few weeks, but in other cases, the insurance company may request additional clarification or information. Some factors that may cause delays include when you file a claim, outdated beneficiary information and state laws.

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Key Takeaways

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Life insurance claims are typically paid out in two weeks to two months.

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Some factors that can delay a claim include incomplete or inaccurate paperwork, cause of death and contestability clause.

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While there’s usually no deadline to file a claim, filing a claim sooner means receiving the benefit in a shorter amount of time.

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Which Factors Affect the Timing of Life Insurance Death Benefit Payouts?

Some of the factors that affect the timing of a life insurance death benefit payout are in your control, like submitting accurate paperwork on time. Others are outside of your control, like state laws and regulations and the policyholder’s cause of death.

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    Time Taken Before Filing a Claim

    Depending on the policy, there may be a defined period in which you’re required to file a claim, or you may be able to file a claim at any time after the policyholder’s passing. In general, the sooner you file a claim, the sooner you will receive a payout from the insurer.

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    Time Taken to Submit Documents

    To file a claim, you need to submit relevant documents, including the policy number, information about the deceased, a death certificate, and the original contract. You may also need to provide an obituary or other public notice of death. The sooner you do so, the faster the payout.

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    Beneficiary Information Accuracy

    Making sure that your information, as the beneficiary, is up-to-date can help to expedite the process. The information may include your name, address, and other personal information. If any of this information is inaccurate or outdated, it could delay the death benefit payout.

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    Insured’s Cause of Death

    How the policyholder died can affect how long it takes to get a life insurance payout.

    For example, if the cause of death was a homicide, the insurer may need to investigate to ensure that the beneficiary wasn’t responsible for the death or is not under investigation for it. Another example is if the cause of death was suicide — it’s possible that a claim could be denied.

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    Contestability Clause

    If the policyholder dies within the first two years of taking out a life insurance policy, the insurance company may contest the claim for death benefits. The insurer is likely to want to look more closely into the policyholder’s medical history to make sure that there weren’t any medical conditions they failed to disclose or that there wasn't a history of risky behavior.

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    State Laws

    Some states require that insurance companies cross-reference with the Social Security Administration’s death records. That process helps to prevent beneficiaries from leaving unclaimed benefits on the table.

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Claims naturally take a little while to pay out. That is because a life insurance death benefit is often a large sum of money, and insurers want to confirm that the information is accurate and the beneficiary is eligible for the benefit before they make the payment.

Common Reasons for Life Insurance Payout Delays

Things like failing to file paperwork on time or submitting inaccurate information could delay a life insurance death benefit claim.


Submitting Incorrect Information or Documentation

Filling out claim forms vaguely or incorrectly can cause an avoidable back and forth. Submitting the wrong documents (such as a copy of the death certificate instead of a certified death certificate) can also cause a delay.

To ensure that the claims process goes as smoothly as possible, you should follow all directions from the insurance company to the best of your ability.


Missing Paperwork

A common cause of death benefit payment delay is missing paperwork. You must provide the insurance company with all the required paperwork in order for them to begin processing your claim, including the original policy and a certified death certificate, and other information about the deceased. You may also need to include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization.


Death During the Contestability Period

If the policyholder dies during the contestability period, this could delay payout for a few months to a year. The insurance company will need to investigate fraud or potential misrepresentation on the application to make sure that the beneficiary is eligible to receive the benefit.

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To avoid delays, you should contact the life insurance company as soon as possible. The claims department can provide guidance about meeting requirements, submitting the correct paperwork and making sure that everything is in order so that the claims process goes as smoothly as possible.

How Long Do You Have to Claim a Life Insurance Policy?

There’s usually no time limit to file a claim for a life insurance policy's death benefit. Unless the insurance policy has specific language outlining the time period during which a beneficiary can make a claim, it’s up to you to decide when you want to start the claims process. Even if the policy does state a particular time frame, you may be able to make a claim outside of that period if you’re able to justify the delay to the insurer.

Some people may take months or years to file a claim, especially if they’re unaware they’re a beneficiary. But as long as the insured died while the policy was active, the beneficiary will still get the money. Keep in mind that the sooner you make a claim, the sooner you’ll receive the payout.

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While beneficiaries can technically file a claim at any time, filing a claim quickly can help to expedite the payout process. If you’re depending on the money from a claim, it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling on the claims process as soon as possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Filing a claim for a life insurance policy death benefit can sometimes be a confusing process. We’re here to answer some of the most common questions surrounding life insurance payouts.

About Margaret Wack

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Margaret Wack is a freelance writer who covers insurance, saving, investing, banking, and more. Margaret earned a bachelor's degree in classics, comparative literature, and poetry from Smith College and a master's degree from St. John's College.