How Long Does It Take to Get a Life Insurance Payout or Check?


After the death of a loved one, many details must be attended to during this difficult time. If you’ve been made the executor of a will, you can be responsible for maintaining due diligence of an estate. This includes obtaining multiple copies of the death certificate, making final arrangements with the funeral home, and dealing with the mounds of paperwork pertaining to the deceased.

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One of the documents that is typically at the top of the pile is a life insurance policy with the deceased named as the insured and usually loved ones being the beneficiaries. However, the beneficiary can also be a charity or business partner

Beneficiaries often need to receive the life insurance proceeds quickly if they’re responsible for funeral and burial costs, as well as needing funds for living expenses if the deceased was contributing to the family’s income.

Though having a life insurance policy is great, it can be daunting to use it as intended, which is to receive benefits after a loved one’s death.

Average Time It Takes to Get Death Benefits From Life Insurance

The average time it takes to receive the death benefits from the life insurance company can average anywhere from two to eight weeks. Payout timing can depend on how quickly you file a claim with the insurer and fill out all of the right forms. Some insurance companies have an online claims portal, and they ask for a variety of relevant documents in order to get the claim approved.

Once all of the necessary documents are received by the insurance company, they’ll begin to review the claim. If all of the information is accurate and there are no extenuating circumstances surrounding the death, you could receive a check within two weeks. If the documents are not in order, claims payment could be delayed for weeks.

State regulations can vary, but in some states, the insurance company is required to periodically cross-reference a “death master file.” This file is kept by the Social Security Administration and companies can check against their list of policyholder names to determine if the policyholder named in the claim is listed. This can substantially delay the payout process.

If you don’t file a claim, it doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually receive a check from the insurance company. The insurance company has all of the information on the insured in its records, including the beneficiaries. Insurance companies have been known to check death records when policyholders reach a certain age and subsequently pay the beneficiaries the death benefit.

The waiting period to receive the payout usually is not dependent upon the type of life insurance the deceased owned. No matter if it’s a term policy or a whole life policy, the insurer is legally obligated to pay the claim if everything is in order. 

Policies with a clause that pays an additional benefit if the insured dies due to an accident can face a longer wait for a payout. The insurance company will need to investigate the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding the accident to verify that the insured did indeed die due to an accident. 

Some states also have regulations that an insurer must abide by concerning how long to get a life insurance payout. In many cases, the insurer has 60 days from the receipt of all necessary documentation to do their due diligence and pay the beneficiary, barring an investigation.

Claim delays and denials

Although the insurer may pay out the death benefit in as little as a couple of weeks, the claim may be delayed or denied for several reasons.

One of these reasons is the “contestability period.” If the insured dies within the first two years after being issued the policy, the life insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine if there has been fraud or misrepresentation.

Fraud has been known to occur when a death certificate has been presented even though the person named on the certificate is still alive. Fraud is also factored in when the deceased dies from a homicide that was staged to appear as an accident.

Misrepresentation often occurs when the insured has a serious pre-existing medical condition that they didn’t disclose to the insurer when applying for coverage. The claim may be delayed while the insurer obtains and reviews medical records concerning the deceased.

If the insured died while committing a crime, the claim could be delayed, dependent upon the wording in the actual life insurance policy itself. If there are any suspicious circumstances, the insurance company’s investigation can add another six to 12 months to the time you receive the payout.

Another reason a claim can be denied is if the insured dies by suicide. Life insurance policies contain a “suicide clause,” stating that if the insured dies by suicide during the first two years after the policy was issued, no death benefit will be paid to the beneficiaries.

Tips for Making Sure You or a Loved One Gets a Timely Life Insurance Payout

You can have an impact on how quickly you receive the death benefit from the life insurance company. Here are some tips on how you can help things go smoothly and in a timely manner.

Get the death certificate as soon as possible 

You must provide proof with a death certificate to prove that the insured has passed away. Copies aren’t acceptable. Insurers require an original death certificate to process the claim. Order multiple copies if the deceased owned more than one life insurance policy.

File your claim as soon as possible

When you’re grieving, it can be painful to file a claim. As difficult as that is, the sooner you file the claim, the sooner you’ll receive the proceeds of the policy.

To make this process easier for you, most life insurance companies have specialists that only process death claims. They’re experienced with working with grieving individuals, and they do their best to make the claims process as easy as possible for you. They’ll take the time to walk you through everything and answer any questions you might have.

Have the policy handy 

When you contact the insurance company, you’ll want to have the life insurance policy with the original application in front of you. The policy will have the policy number printed on it, which the insurer will need to get the claim started.

Many times, beneficiaries experience long waits because they can’t locate the policy. As part of your end-of-life planning, make sure you and your loved ones know where all of your important documents are located, including your insurance policies, wills, trusts, do not resuscitate orders, and any other estate planning or medical directives you’ve had drawn up.

Get any additional documents required

As we’ve discussed, sometimes the insurance company will investigate the death before the beneficiaries receive the death benefit. In such cases, they may require additional documents, which you can help them procure in a timely manner.

For example, say the insured died from a critical illness such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. In that case, the insurer may want to review physicians’ medical records to ensure that the deceased didn’t have a pre-existing medical condition when the policy was issued. You can help with this process by getting the medical records yourself and providing them to the insurer. It often takes insurers longer to get medical records than if you take care of it yourself.

Another document you can help get to the insurer to move things along is a police report, if necessary. If the insured died due to an accident or from being the victim of a crime, insurers will want to have the police report as one of the documents they have on hand to determine if the claim is going to be paid. Oftentimes, you can get the police report quicker than the insurance company, which will reduce your waiting period.

Insurers say that most delays can be attributed to incomplete documentation or incomplete information when the claim is filed. 

What Can You Do If Your Life Insurance Payout Is Delayed or Taking a Long Time?

The first thing you can do if you are experiencing an extended delay is to contact the insurance company. During the claims process, you will have probably worked with one individual in the claims department who has been assigned to your claim. This is the best person to talk to about what’s causing the delay and if there’s anything you can do on your end to help.

If you’re not satisfied with the person's performance assigned to your claim, you have every right to speak with the manager of that department, explain the circumstances surrounding your claim and your experience with the person working on your claim, and ask for the manager’s help.

If contacting a manager doesn’t help, contact the insurance commissioner’s office of your state. They’ll tell you what the rules and regulations are that your insurer must obey concerning claims payment. Though it’s not a quick process, sometimes the insurance commissioner will send a letter to the insurer reminding them of their obligations or asking them to explain the delay.

You can always contact an attorney that specializes in litigation against insurance companies. The attorney can send a letter to the insurer requesting immediate payment. The last thing insurance companies want to do is to get involved in litigation, so they will often expedite claims payment or an investigation to get the matter settled.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to contact your local media and ask to speak with the reporter that handles consumer problems. They will sometimes lend a hand since insurance companies are many people’s favorite targets when it comes to rectifying poor customer service and being slow-paying claims.

Getting a Life Insurance Payout

Though this may be a very challenging time, you and your family have been paying premiums to the insurance company as agreed, probably for many years.

The insurance company has a legal obligation to honor the policy’s terms and conditions, including paying the beneficiary the right amount of the policy. It may take weeks or sometimes months to get your payout, but don’t give up – you can get what you’re entitled to receive.


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