Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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woman giving life insurance payout
Guildelines for life insurance payout

A life insurance payout is usually paid within two weeks of the death of the insured person to the beneficiary listed on the policy.

There are no general guidelines to speak of as each insurance company has their own policies and procedures, however, if all goes well, you can expect to have a check in your hand in the time-framed mentioned above. To obtain free online insurance quotes just use the tool on this page!

In general, an insurance company will conduct an investigation, which is typically rather quick, to ensure that there is nothing suspicious about the death of the insured person and to ensure that the cause of death falls under the confines of the policy.

If you read on, you will learn what to do to expedite the process and under what circumstances the insurance company can refuse to pay a benefit to a beneficiary.

How to Make a Claim on a Life Insurance Policy

In order to make a claim on a life insurance policy, you will have to have two things. The first thing that you will need is proof that the insured person is dead.

Some states have very loose guidelines as to what they accept as proof of death. Some will accept the police report or even the medical incident report stating that the person has died. Most states, however, will require an official copy of the death certificate from a licensed coroner. To ensure you have the right document, it is better to be safe than sorry and provide the actual certified death certificate.

The other thing that you will need is proof that you are the beneficiary of the life insurance policy. A few insurance companies actually require you to come into their office with identification; however, in most cases you will find that if you provide your full name, social security number, date of birth and address, this will be all that you need.

Despite popular belief, you don’t have to have a copy of the policy in order to make a claim on a life insurance policy. The only time you might want the policy is if you don’t know which insurance company the insured person had a life insurance policy with. Not knowing who provided the policy can really slow down the process and make it difficult to collect on a life insurance policy.

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Finding Out Who Wrote a Life Insurance Policy

The first thing that you need to understand is that an insurance company is under no obligation to locate the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Many companies will attempt to locate a beneficiary if they are notified of a policy owner’s death; however, they aren’t going to hire private investigators to make that happen. If you can’t be found easily, then you won’t be notified.

With that being said, the insurance company doesn’t get to keep the benefit, they never expire. You could learn in ten years that you were the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and then collect on it. The money will have been turned over to a state fund for collection, but it will still be available.

If you are sure that the person who has died had a life insurance policy and you can’t find the paperwork there are several things you can do. Look through old bank records to find evidence of monthly payments to an insurance company. You can contact local insurance companies and see if the deceased had a policy with them. There is also a national database you can access.

This database doesn’t actually show who has a policy, but it does provide a list of everyone who ever applied for a life insurance policy and where. You can’t just look at the database. You have to order a report from the company, so you may want to exhaust other, free, avenues, before you use this site.

If you access to the deceased person’s mail, then all you will probably have to do is wait a bit to learn who wrote the life insurance policy. If the deceased stops paying their premiums, the insurance company is going to want to know why.

The insurance company will send a letter to any policyholder that stops paying their bill. The downside is that many people pay directly through their bank accounts; which leads us right back to checking old bank records. If you live out of state but are the sole beneficiary to the estate, you can have the mail forwarded to you.

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When the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay

As mentioned in the first part of this article, it usually takes two weeks to get a check from the insurance company as long as there are no problems when the insurance company investigates the death of the insured person. An investigation is typical and usually doesn’t take long, but there are some circumstances where the insurance company can legally not pay on an insurance policy.

The first situation is if the deceased took their own life within the first two years of purchasing the insurance policy. A common misconception is that if someone kills themselves the insurance company automatically won’t pay. This isn’t the case, however, in most states. The reason for this is that many states have laws in place preventing insurance companies from including a no suicide clause in their policies. They can have a limited clause (normally it is two years but it can be longer or shorter, depending on the state the policy was purchased in), but it cannot exceed whatever the states maximum happens to be. If, however, the deceased killed themselves before the maximum allotted time, then the insurance company can legally refuse to pay the benefit.

Another cause for refusal to pay is if the person died in a way that was excluded in the policy. There are a variety of reasons this type of stipulation might occur. For example, someone who used to smoke heavily may have a no lung cancer stipulation in their policy. Someone with breast cancer may have a no breast cancer clause. There are even policies that only cover accidental death but not natural causes or health related causes.

Lastly, if the insured person or the policyholder lied when filling out the application the insurance company can refuse to pay on the policy. The most common lie is that someone doesn’t smoke when they do smoke. Often, however, if the lie and the cause of death aren’t associated, then the insurance company will pay anyway. If, however, they are associated, for example a smoker getting lung cancer, then the benefit is void.

All of these things are important to keep in mind when collecting a life insurance benefit, but the majority of the time beneficiaries don’t have any problems collecting on a life insurance policy. If you are someone who is looking for a life insurance policy, then you need to ensure that once you choose one that you let your beneficiary know that they are the beneficiary of your policy. If you don’t then they could run into issues when you die.

Before you purchase a policy, however, take a few minutes right now to use our free online life insurance rate tool. This tool will provide you with rates from several insurance companies so that you can compare them in one place. This will save you time and money and perhaps provide you with options that you weren’t even aware of. Try the risk free life insurance quote tool today!