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Getting Paperwork Together
"How do I file a life insurance claim?" starts with gathering the paperwork. You will need to get a copy of the life insurance policy as well as an original death certificate. The policy should state who the listed beneficiary is. Life insurance policies can list more than one beneficiary with both primary and secondary beneficiaries listed. Secondary beneficiaries, sometimes called contingent beneficiaries, receive the assets if the primary beneficiary dies before the insured.
An original death certificate is required; you will not be able to use a photocopy. While a copy will be given to you by the hospital or the morgue, other certified original copies can be obtained either through the county recorder's office, the morgue and sometimes the hospital. Expect to pay a fee of around $10 to $15 for a copy.
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Contact the Insurance Company
Once you have the paperwork that you will need, call the life insurance company where the policy is held. The number should be located on the policy or a recent statement. Explain to the customer service representative that you are requesting a death benefit claim and need the paperwork associated with the policy. Provide the representative with the policy number, the deceased name and date of birth along with the date of death. The representative will confirm your name, check that the policy is still in effect and confirm the designated beneficiaries.
The death benefits form can either be sent via fax, email or regular post. Ask the customer service representative what the options are for that particular company. Being able to access the form sooner allows you to access death benefit assets sooner as well. This is especially important if funds are required for funeral expenses or other estate debts.
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Complete and Submit Paperwork
Once you have the paperwork, it is time to complete it. The reality of how to file a life insurance claim is that only the designated beneficiary has the authority to sign death benefit paperwork. Therefore, if you are the estate executor but not the designated beneficiary, you must contact the beneficiary and provide them with the paperwork to make the claim. Minor children may have a legal guardian complete the paperwork on their behalf.
Depending on the life insurance company requirements, you might need to get the paperwork signature guaranteed at a local bank or notarized to authenticate your identity as the designated beneficiary. Once the paperwork is completed and submitted with the original copy of the death certificate, the insurance company will process the claim.
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Get the Check
Unless there is something wrong with the claim, the life insurance company should process proceeds quickly. Quickly generally means within seven to 10 days. Possible problems are beneficiary discrepancies; if the insurance company nor you confirmed the designated beneficiaries and someone else is named, there will be a delay. If fraud is suspected, the insurance company might start an investigation. Most life insurance death benefit claims are straightforward with no problems.