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Life Insurance Troubleshooting Your Policy Problems Answered


While many of us understand the basic functions of our life insurance policies, it's not uncommon for questions to arise long after you purchased the policy.

To help address your policy problems, we'll answer four of the most common life insurance questions to help you gain understanding and control of your life insurance policy.

Questions Answered

How do I file a life insurance claim?

To begin the claim process, you'll need to obtain a couple copies of the policyholder's death certificate. If you have trouble obtaining copies of the death certificate from the hospital or coroner's office, your funeral director should be able to get you a copy.

Next, you'll need to contact your life insurance agent. Your agent will help you complete the necessary paperwork to file the claim. If you're not sure who the insured's agent was, you can contact the insurance company directly and someone will help you file the claim. Remember to bring a copy of the death certificate for your agent as it will be needed to ensure quick claim submittal.

How will I receive the death benefit?

Once the life insurance claim is submitted, you'll need to choose how the life insurance proceeds will be allocated.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are generally four ways to distribute the death benefit:

Lump Sum. You receive the entire death benefit in one payment.

Specific interest provision. The insurance company pays you both principle and interest on a prearranged schedule.

Life income. You receive a guaranteed income for life. However, the amount you receive depends on the benefit amount, your gender and age at the insured's time of death.

Interest income. The life insurance company holds the proceeds but pays you interest on the policy. Thus, the death benefit remains in tact and goes to a second beneficiary after you die.

No matter which option you choose, you should receive the proceeds from the policy within days of filing the claim. Life insurance companies are required by law to pay claims in this fashion. To learn about the guidelines under which your insurer must pay a claim, contact your state's division of insurance.

What should I do if I can't find the policy?

Unfortunately, there's no database for purchased life insurance policies. That's why it's very important to know where the insured's life insurance policy is at all times. Nonetheless, there are some things you can try to locate a lost policy.

You can start by trying to determine:

Which company might have issued the policy

Which agent may have issued the policy

Whether the policyholder had life insurance through an employer, union or other group

The I.I.I. recommends trying to locate that information by:

Searching records, storage areas and safe deposit boxes. There you may find insurance-related documents, old checks, premium payment receipts or policy notices.

Contacting the policyholder's legal and financial consultants. Previous and current consultants may have some information regarding the deceased's life insurance.

Contacting the insured's employer(s). Previous and/or current employers will be able to tell you if the policyholder had a group life insurance policy.

Checking tax returns. By checking past tax returns, you may find interest income from or paid to a life insurance company.

Checking the mail. Even if the policy was paid up, the insurance company will send an annual premium or dividend notice in regard to the policy.

Checking north of the border. If there's a possibility that the policy was purchased in Canada, you can contact the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association at (800) 268-8009, or visit them on the Web.