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How To Claim Life Insurance

Rachel Ditchburn
Written by  Rachel Ditchburn
6 min read
Updated: 26 Feb 2024

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

Life insurance claims: A compassionate guide

When a loved one passes away, it's a time of emotional turmoil and grief. Amidst the heartache, the practicalities of life must be addressed, including the claiming of life insurance.

It's a comfort to know that insurers are sensitive to the situation, providing the bereaved with the time they need to come to terms with their loss before embarking on the claims process. There's no rush; insurers understand that there are more immediate concerns during these trying times.

old couple sat together on field surrounded by autumn leaves

Starting the claims process

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. Most insurers now allow you to start the claims process through their website. This initial step is crucial, and while it might seem daunting, remember that providing thorough information can significantly smooth the process. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the vast majority of claims—approximately 98%—are paid out, which should offer some reassurance.

Locating the insurer

Insurance companies can undergo changes, and if you find that the insurer has changed its name or merged since the policy was taken out, the Policy Detective website could help find them. This resource can be invaluable in tracing the current company responsible for the policy, ensuring that you can proceed with your claim without unnecessary delays.

Required details and documents

When making a claim, you'll need to provide specific details, such as the deceased's name, policy number, and the cause of death as stated on the death certificate. It's also necessary to identify yourself and your relationship to the deceased. Insurance staff are trained to handle these situations with understanding and compassion, making the process as smooth as possible for those who are grieving.

Who can claim?

The question of who can claim on a life insurance policy is straightforward: while anyone can initiate the claim, only the beneficiaries are entitled to 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.

Essential documents

To make a claim, three essential documents are typically required: the death certificate, a completed claim form, and the original policy document. If these documents are not readily available, a good starting point is to check the deceased's bank statements for evidence of regular premium payments.

The timeline for settlement

Life insurance claims are given priority by insurers, with many settling within a month or even days if there are no complications and all necessary documentation is in order. However, if the cause of death is unclear or disputed, this can delay the payout.

Determining beneficiaries

If you're unsure whether you're a beneficiary, begin by searching through the deceased's personal papers or tax returns for evidence of a policy. The insurance provider can then confirm the beneficiary's identity. In cases where no beneficiary is specified, a court will need to appoint one, which can extend the claims process. Legal advice may be necessary if there is a dispute over the claim.

Employer-provided policies

If an employer has taken out a life insurance policy on behalf of an employee, it is known as a death-in-service benefit. In such cases, the employer should provide an 'expression of wish' form completed by the deceased, which indicates the intended beneficiary.

Reasons for rejection

Claims can be denied for various reasons, such as the cause of death not being covered, non-disclosure of relevant information by the policyholder, or because the policy term has ended. Unlike whole-of-life cover, a term life insurance policy will expire after a set number of years. If this period has passed, you will not be able to claim. Additionally, certain types of death may not be covered, including death outside the insurance term, by suicide, during an act of war, or while engaging in high-risk or illegal activities.

Appealing a rejection

Should a claim be rejected, the Financial Ombudsman Service is available to review the decision and can be contacted for an appeal.

Joint policies

For couples with a joint policy, the death of one partner will typically result in a payout to the surviving partner, after which the policy will end. If both partners pass away simultaneously, the payout goes to the nominated beneficiaries.

Terminal illness cover

While life insurance policies generally do not allow for claims before death, some include terminal illness cover, which is distinct from critical illness cover. This provision allows for an early payout if the policyholder has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Finding the right life insurance policy

Life insurance claims can be a complex and emotional process, but understanding the steps involved can make it more manageable. MoneySuperMarket is committed to helping you find the right life insurance policy, offering comparisons from leading providers that take into account your personal and medical history. Remember, while the process may seem overwhelming, you're not alone. Insurers and support services are there to guide you through each step, ensuring that you can focus on healing and honouring the memory of your loved one.

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