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The life insurance claims process isn’t something people give a lot of thought to until you’re there. And to complicate things it will be at a time when, unless the death has been expected for some time, you will be a bit scattered just because there are going to be so many things going on for which you just don’t have any practical experience to deal with.

So let’s talk about it and see if some things might make sense and will hopefully stick with you until it’s needed.

There are two ways to file a claim, basically through your agent or directly through the company. I always encourage my clients to have their spouse or beneficiary call me directly. While the claims representatives at the company are professional and trained to be both that and compassionate, by engaging your agent in the process you take a lot off of your plate and a good agent is going to make sure that you are informed and kept in the loop to whatever degree you want to be.

If you go through your agent, all you will need when you call them is the date and cause of the death. They should already have on file all of the policy information and they can confirm where you want claim forms sent and how often you would like to be updated. Not to take anything away from the home office representatives, they can do the same thing but they will have to ask more questions simply because they don’t know you and have to confirm who you are and what the policy specifications are.

So, one way or the other you will get a claim packet and the good news is that it isn’t cumbersome or difficult. Again, as part of what I consider the most important service, I have the company send me duplicates of the claim packet so if there are questions, you can call or email me rather than going back through a company switchboard.

As soon as you have a death certificate you send in the claim along with, if you have it, the original policy. Some people are a little hesitant to part with what they consider their only documentation of insurance. Even though I have enough backup, I always encourage a claimant to make a copy of the specification page as a backup and for their own information as well.

If the policy is more than two years old, once the claim has been sent to the home office there should be a 10-14 business day maximum turnaround before a check is on the way. If the policy is less than two years old and is in the incontestability period expect that it will take a minimum of a month, usually longer. The time it takes for them to settle a claim in the incontestability period will be very close to the amount of time it took them to originally underwrite the policy, plus time to track down any medical records that have been generated since the policy was put in force. Beneficiaries often worry about a contestable claim thinking that the company is looking for some reason not to pay.

Again, this is a time when having an agent on your side will be helpful and comforting. Having an advocate who understands that the company is just doing due diligence is important to your peace of mind. We can also help in tracking down the necessary records and help keep things moving by letting doctors know the importance of prompt response.

Bottom line. The claims process isn’t really hard, it just comes at a very hard time. Lean on your agent to help complete the job they started when they sold the policy.