Q

How long does it take to get a life insurance payout?

A

It can take as little as two weeks or as long as two months to get a life insurance payout. The timeline depends on several factors.

Amanda Shih author photoHeadshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir

By 

Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an editor and a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

 & Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Updated April 15, 2022 | 2 min read

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If you have an active life insurance policy, the life insurance company will pay a death benefit to your beneficiaries when you die. This payout protects your family from the financial burden of losing your income.

According to Policygenius data, it takes 14 to 60 days to receive a life insurance payout from an insurer. However, many factors impact how long you'll wait between filing a claim and getting the death benefit, including when and how the deceased died and the insurance company’s procedures.

Key Takeaways

  • Life insurance providers usually pay out within 60 days of receiving a death claim filing.

  • Beneficiaries must file a death claim and verify their identity before receiving payment.

  • The benefit could be delayed or denied due to policy lapses, fraud, or certain causes of death.

How quickly do life insurance companies pay death claims?

While most people can expect to receive their payment in under 60 days, your timeline will depend on:

  • When you file your claim

  • Documents required for your claim

  • How long the policy was active

  • The cause of death

  • State laws governing insurance payouts

If it takes you longer to submit all of the necessary paperwork, it will take longer to process your claim, for example. Some states require life insurance companies to periodically check their list of policyholders against the Social Security Administration’s death records to keep death benefits from going unclaimed. But that process is slow and can be unreliable.

The best way to ensure you receive a payout is to file a claim yourself. Many life insurance companies let you file a claim online and will ask you for a death certificate and identification. 

Why are life insurance payouts delayed or denied?

As long as you have paperwork to verify the policyholder’s death and your status as a beneficiary, there shouldn't be a delay in the life insurance payout. However, some claims can be delayed or — in very rare cases — denied due to:

  • Exclusions: If a policyholder dies doing something not covered by their policy, like skydiving, you won't get the life insurance payout. You may get a refund of the premiums the deceased paid into the policy.

  • Fraud: If the policyholder lied on their insurance application, the provider will investigate and may decrease or deny the payout.

  • Missing policy paperwork: If you don’t know the policy number, it will slow the claims process, but you will still get the payout. Learn more about finding a lost policy here.

  • Policy lapse: If the policyholder stopped paying the premiums and let the policy lapse, you won’t get any death benefit because their coverage is no longer active.

  • The contestability period: A death in the first two years of a policy falls under contestability, during which the insurer can review an insurance application for fraud. This might delay a payout, but as long as the deceased was honest, you’ll receive the full death benefit.

In any case, the provider will eventually process your claim as long as any investigation finds no violations of the policy contract.

→ Learn more about filing a death claim

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How is life insurance paid out to beneficiaries?

Beneficiaries of a life insurance payout get to choose how they receive the money. You may have the option to either get a mailed check or electronic transfer of the funds. You can also choose how much money you get at once. For the latter there are usually a few options:

  • Lump sum: This is the most common payout method because it can go toward expenses left behind by the policyholder immediately and is tax-free.

  • Annuity: An annuity is an investment account. You can put the benefit in an annuity and get yearly payments for a set period. It's best for people without immediate financial needs. The unpaid money earns interest, which is taxable.

  • Retained asset account: This less common option is when the insurer holds the insurance money in an interest-bearing account and you can make withdrawals by check. Any earned interest is taxable.

You’ll likely get the most value from opting for a lump-sum payout, which avoids tax complications and gives you the most flexibility with your money. There are no restrictions on spending life insurance payouts, so you can use it however and whenever you want.

Managing someone’s end-of-life affairs can be complex, but knowing what to expect can ease the process of filing a life insurance claim. With the correct documents and open communication with the policyholder, you can get the financial support they secured for you within 60 days.

Frequently asked questions

How are life insurance proceeds paid out?

After a beneficiaries file a claim, life insurance companies pay out the death benefit in a tax-free lump sump, an annuity, or a retained asset account.

How quickly do you get a life insurance payout?

After you file a claim, you should be paid within 14 to 60 days. Errors or investigations can sometimes extend the timeline.

How long does a beneficiary have to file a life insurance claim?

There is no time limit for filing a claim for a life insurance payout.