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Life insurance claims

How to make a life insurance claim

published: 01 September 2020
Read time: 5 minutes

There’s plenty to think about when a loved one dies. Besides grieving, there are funeral arrangements, and if you handle the estate you may have to claim on their life insurance

The first thing to understand is that there’s no rush, and no time limit to claim on a life insurance policy. Insurers understand that people have other priorities when it comes to the death of a loved one.

When you do come to claim, you shouldn’t fret too much about making a mess of the paperwork. While it will speed things along if you can supply as much information as possible, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), 99.6% of life insurance claims are paid out.

How do you make a life insurance claim?

When you are ready to claim, the first step is to contact the life insurance provider. You should find the relevant details in the deceased’s life insurance documents, and most insurers now allow you to start the claims process through their website.

If the insurer has changed their name or merged since the policy was taken out, the Policy Detective website could help find them.

You'll need to supply the following details:

  • The name of the deceased

  • Their policy number

  • Cause of death, which will be on the death certificate

You'll also have to identify yourself and your relationship to the deceased. Staff are used to dealing with those who are grieving and may be able to help with arrangements.

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Who can claim on a life insurance policy?

The beneficiaries of a life insurance policy do not have to be the ones to make the claim, but they are the only ones who can receive the payout.

The beneficiaries tend to be the surviving spouse or civil partner, or the nominated person if the policy was set up in trust.

The policy may also be paid to the deceased’s estate, where it will be distributed according to a will and will be subject to inheritance taxes.

What documents do I need to claim for life insurance?

There are three documents you need:

  • A death certificate: A certified copy can be supplied from the funeral director

  • Acompleted claim form: One should be available from the insurer’s website

  • A policy document: A certificate of insurance that should have been issued when the policy was purchased

What if I cannot find the relevant life insurance documents?

Life insurance policies may have been purchased decades earlier and it’s not unusual for beneficiaries to have no knowledge of the policy, and they may not know the name of the insurer.

A good start is to check the deceased’s bank statement to see what regular premiums were being paid.

If the original documentation has been lost the ABI may be able to help with its tracker. Experian’s Unclaimed Assets Register (UAR) could also assist and you may have to pay a small fee.

How quickly will I receive a life insurance payout?

Insurers prioritise processing payments for life insurance claims.

If there is no dispute over the beneficiaries and all documentation is in place, claims are often settled within a month and sometimes within a few days.

Sometimes a payout will delayed if the cause of death is unclear and needs to be investigated.

What if no beneficiary has been specified in the policy?

A court will have to name a beneficiary, which is likely to delay the claims process.

If this is the case and there's a dispute about who receives the payout, you may wish to seek legal advice.

How do I claim on a life insurance policy through an employer?

If an employer has taken out a life insurance policy on behalf of an employee it is known as a death in service benefit.

Once the employer has been notified of the employee's death, they should supply an ‘expression of wish' form that the deceased should have filled out to specify the beneficiary of the policy.

Why might a life insurance claim be rejected?

On the rare occasion a life insurance claim is rejected, it could be due to the following:

  • Cause of death is not covered: Some policies exclude suicide, death caused by drug or alcohol misuse or by reckless behaviour. Check the policy terms

  • Non-disclosed information: Payouts can be reduced or rejected if the policyholder didn’t supply full and accurate information about themselves, such as failing to reveal a relevant medical condition, or whether they smoke

  • The policy term ended: Unlike whole-of-life cover, a term life insurance policy will expire after a certain number of years. If this has passed you will not be able to claim

Can I appeal if my life insurance claim is rejected?

You can contact the Financial Ombudsman if you disagree with the insurer's handling of your policy.

What happens if we have a joint policy?

If one person dies on a joint policy, then a lump sum is normally paid to the surviving partner and the policy will end. The surviving partner would then no longer have life insurance.

If both partners die at the same time, the policy will pay out to the nominated beneficiaries in the normal way.

Can I claim on a life insurance policy before I die?

Not through life insurance, but some policies may also offer terminal illness cover (not the same as critical illness cover) which allows for a payout to be made early if an individual has been given a terminal diagnosis.

How do I get cheaper life insurance?

If you’re looking for cheaper life insurance, you can compare quotes from leading insurers by searching with MoneySuperMarket. You’ll always see the guaranteed price you’ll pay for your life insurance.

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