Losing a loved one is a difficult and stressful event. Life insurance can relieve financial burdens to make this time a little easier. Insurance companies do their bit to help by trying to make the process of claiming as quick as possible, but there is still plenty to know.
This guide will give you information on how to prepare for and make your claim, and how and when you can receive the pay-out. It also covers some of the things that can reduce your pay-out or cause your claim to be denied, and find out how you can avoid these where possible.
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In this guide
How to prepare for and make your claim
There are a number of things you have to do before you make your claim.
Firstly, you need to contact the policy provider for the exact details of how to make the claim. Their contact details, for example telephone number and email address, will be on their website. It’s likely they’ll send you a claim form, or get you to fill one out online. They’ll also provide you with full details of how to fill out the form.
To make your claim, you’ll need to be prepared with some key pieces on information:
The name of the deceased (usually the name of the person paying for the life insurance)
Your name as the beneficiary, and how you are related to the deceased
Cause of death (this and other details can be found on the death certificate)
The policy number of the life insurance policy
As well as this, you’ll also need to send your insurance provider a copy of the death certificate. They will usually need an official, original document instead of a photocopy or a scan, so it’s a good idea to get multiple copies from the register office (when you register the death).
It’s important to send your documents by recorded delivery – if you don’t and your documents get lost, your claim could be seriously delayed.
Receiving your claim
The two key things you’ll want to establish when looking to receive your claim is; who is allowed to get the money, and how long it will take to be paid. This will depend on the type of policy you have.
The simplest case is if your life insurance policy is written in trust. These documents name the beneficiary (or multiple beneficiaries) on the document itself. These are the people entitled to the money. In this case the insurer should able to pay out in a few weeks or even days.
This process is very simple as you needn’t wait for any administration to be completed. Administration is where the estate of the deceased is distributed as stated in the will, or in keeping with the rules of intestacy (when someone dies without making a will). This process is known as probate in England and Wales, and confirmation in Scotland.
If the policy was not written in trust, you have to wait for administration to take place before you receive a pay-out. Where there is a will, the pay-out will likely take around 6 months and almost always less than a year. If there’s no will, it can take significantly longer, as distributing assets according to the rules of intestacy is a long and complicated process.
It’s a good idea to establish whether the policy is written in trust before the event of a death.
Things to remember
At an already stressful time, making a life insurance claim can seem like one thing too many. It’s important that you don’t worry. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) calculated that around 99.6% of life insurance claims are successful. If you’re still concerned about your claim, take a look the list of possible complications below.
It’s also good to remember that you can take your time. There isn’t usually a deadline for making your claim. It’s better that you focus on making your claim correctly, rather than rushing and making mistakes. For example, make sure you’re very careful when filling out the form, completing it incorrectly can slow down your claim significantly. There should be plenty of advice available from the policy provider.
You also don’t need to stress too much if you’ve lost your insurance certificate/policy document, insurance providers know that over the course of long policies such as these, it’s easy to misplace a document. The ABI should be able to help, or at least point you in the direction of those who can.
Possible complications: Denied and reduced claims
Unfortunately, there are a number of situations which may negatively affect your claim. They may cause your pay-out to be reduced or even denied altogether. Some of the most common reasons are:
Inaccurate information: This usually relates to a failure to tell them about the medical history of you or your family. For this reason, you should be careful of life insurance policies that don't require a medical, although these types of policy could still be beneficial in the right circumstances.
Expiry date of policy has passed: Most policies will have an expiry date contained in the conditions – a fixed term of 20 – 30 years for example. You will not be able to claim once this date has passed. It’s a good idea to keep a note of this so that you can update or purchase a new policy at this time.
Circumstances of death not covered: This can include suicide, deaths relating to abuse of alcohol or drugs and reckless behaviour. These must be disclosed to your provider.
Missing documents: Policy providers need a lot of information from you, and if there are certain documents that you can’t find for them, your claim may be denied.
If your claim is denied, your insurer must tell you why, and if you disagree it may be worth seeking legal advice or appealing to the Financial Ombudsman.
All of the points above will be contained in the terms and conditions of the policy, so remember that it is always a good idea to read them carefully.
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Author: Fergus Cole
Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.