How Long Does Life Insurance Take to Pay Out?

Life insurance payouts can take anytime between two weeks to two months. Several factors, such as missing documents, the cause of death and state laws, can delay your payout. Learning how to file a claim and what causes delays can help quicken the payout process.

Lindsey Crossmier, writer for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Lindsey Crossmier

    Lindsey Crossmier

    Financial Writer

    Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.

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  • Edited By
    Lamia Chowdhury
    Lamia Chowdhury, editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lamia Chowdhury

    Financial Editor

    Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.

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  • Financially Reviewed By
    Eric Estevez
    Eric Estevez, Independent Licensed Life Insurance Agent

    Eric Estevez

    Licensed Independent Insurance Broker

    Eric Estevez is a duly licensed independent insurance broker and a former financial institution auditor with more than a decade of professional experience. He has specialized in federal, state and local compliance for both large and small businesses.

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  • Published: April 21, 2022
  • Updated: August 10, 2022
  • 4 min read time
  • This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
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APA Crossmier, L. (2022, August 10). How Long Does Life Insurance Take to Pay Out? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/life-insurance/payout/how-long-does-it-take/

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How Do You Get Your Life Insurance Payout?

To receive a life insurance payout, you must confirm you are the beneficiary by contacting the life insurance provider. And if you are the beneficiary, then you are responsible for filing the claim. You will need several documents to settle the claim quickly.

4 Steps to File a Claim
  1. Find a copy, or the original, of the life insurance policy. If you cannot find it, contact the life insurance company to receive a digital version online or a new physical copy via mail. Confirm the information on the policy and that it was still active when the policyholder passed.
  2. Get multiple copies of the notarized death certificate. You will need one for the insurance claim and others to access the policyholder’s finances, taxes and other accounts.
  3. Submit both the policy claim and the notarized death certificate to the insurance provider for the settlement.
  4. Once the claim is successfully submitted, decide how you want to receive payment.

The documentation required may vary depending on the insurance provider and the face value of the policy.

For example, with American International Group (AIG), if the death benefit is $15,000 or less, a funeral service program or the funeral home bill would suffice as proof. If the benefit amount is between $50,000 and $100,000, a copy of the death certificate is required, but it doesn’t have to be notarized. When the face value goes above $100,000, only a death certificate is permitted, and it must be notarized.

Since document regulations vary, it’s best to have several notarized death certificates on hand to avoid delays. If the paperwork is sent quickly and all is in order, the wait time to process is typically seven to 10 business days.

How Quickly Does Life Insurance Usually Pay Out?

You can receive your life insurance payout as soon as two weeks if you file your claim quickly and include all the necessary documents.

However, the more realistic range is between two weeks and two months. Many factors, such as waiting to file the claim, can influence how quickly you receive your pay out.

Factors That Affect Your Claim Wait Time
  • If all the right documents were sent
  • How long the policy was active
  • Cause of death
  • State laws

What Can Delay Life Insurance Payouts?

In extreme cases, like a suspicious death or medical fraud, some claims may be denied after an investigation. Learn what circumstances can delay claims to help ensure an easier payout process.

Cause of Death

If the insured individual is murdered, committed suicide or passed away from high-risk or illegal activities, the insurance claim will likely be investigated. For example, if the policyholder was murdered, the beneficiary will need to be crossed out as a suspect. High-risk activities that aren’t covered under certain policies include skydiving and snowboarding.

Contestability Period

Most life insurance policies have a contestability period, which is the first two years of owning the policy where the insurer can review application answers. If the policyholder passes away within the contestability period, the life insurance company can investigate the claim. Investigation can take up to a year, which may delay your payout. In the end, your claim could be denied.

Fraud

If the policyholder lies on their application about their health, like a pre-existing or life-threatening condition, there will likely be an investigation for fraud. Should the life insurance company conclude the policyholder committed fraud, then no death benefit will be paid.

But if the policyholder is honest on their application and divulges any conditions, the beneficiary should receive a guaranteed payout.

Policy-Related Delays

Insurance companies typically send the beneficiary a claim form to provide detailed information about the policyholder. The claim form also requests how the beneficiary would like the death benefit paid. If you fail to fill out any section of the form, it may delay your payout.

If you go to file a claim and an investigation reveals that the policyholder stopped paying their premiums before they passed away, then the delayed status will change to denied.

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What Are Your Life Insurance Payout Options?

The two most common types of life insurance payout options are in the form of a lump sum or an annuity. Depending on your circumstances, one could be more beneficial to you than the other.

With an annuity, you’ll receive your payout in fixed installments. You can spread out your payments between five and 40 years. This ensures controlled payments for a set period of time.

If you choose a lump-sum payment, you receive one tax-free imbursement. This is the most common payout option since it instantly provides the beneficiary with ample funds to cover any death expenses.

Last Modified: August 10, 2022
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5 Cited Research Articles

  1. Kadetskaya, T. (2021, August 31). How Long Does It Take for Life Insurance to Pay Out Death Benefits? Lawyers Explain How to Get Your Check Fast. Retrieved from https://life-insurance-lawyer.com/how-long-for-life-insurance-to-pay/#:~:text=When%20a%20claim%20is%20delayed,claims%20are%20still%20unfairly%20delayed
  2. Kadetskaya, T. (2020, October 23). Life Insurance Claim Process: How to File for Benefits After Death. Retrieved from https://life-insurance-lawyer.com/how-to-claim-life-insurance/
  3. Insurance Information Institute. (n.d.). How Do I File a Life Insurance Claim? Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/how-do-i-file-life-insurance-claim
  4. AIG Direct Insurance Services. (n.d.) Life Insurance Claims Process: How to Receive a Life Insurance Payout. Retrieved from https://www.aigdirect.com/about-life/managing-your-policy/how-to-file-a-life-insurance-claim
  5. American International Group. (n.d.). Forms and Documents Needed to Process a Claim. Retrieved from https://www.lifeandretirement.aig.com/individuals/life/claims/life-insurance-claim-forms-documents