Life Insurance Troubleshooting: Your Policy Problems Solved
While many of us understand the basic functions of our life insurance policies, it is not uncommon for questions to arise long after we have purchased the policy.
To help you address your policy problems, we’ll answer four of the most common life insurance questions to help you understand and control your life insurance policy.
How do I file a life insurance claim?
To begin the claims process, you will need to obtain a couple of copies of the policy holder’s death certificate. If you are having trouble getting copies of the death certificate at the hospital or coroner’s office, your funeral director should be able to get you a copy.
Next, you will need to contact your life insurance agent. Your agent will help you complete the necessary documentation to file the claim. If you are 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 your agent’s death certificate, as this will be necessary to ensure prompt submission of the claim.
How will I receive the death benefit?
Once the life insurance claim is submitted, you will need to choose how the life insurance proceeds will be allocated.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), there are generally four ways to distribute the death benefit:
Lump sum. Receive your entire death benefit in one payment.
Disposition of specific interests. The insurance company pays you both principal and interest on a pre-arranged schedule.
Annuity. Receive guaranteed income for life. However, the amount you receive depends on the benefit amount, your gender and age at the time of the insured’s death.
Interest income. The life insurance company retains the income, but pays you the interest on the policy. Therefore, the death benefit remains intact and goes to a second beneficiary after your death.
Regardless of 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 way. For the guidelines under which your insurer must pay a claim, contact your state insurance division.
What should I do if I can’t find the policy?
Unfortunately, there is no database for purchased life insurance policies. That is why it is very important to know where the insured’s life insurance policy is at all times. However, there are a few things you can try to locate a lost policy.
You can start by trying to determine:
- What company could 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 III recommends trying to locate that information by:
Search for records, storage areas and safe deposit boxes. There you can find insurance-related documents, old checks, premium payment receipts, or policy notices.
Get in touch with the legal and financial advisers of the insured. Past and current consultants may have information about the deceased’s life insurance.
Contact 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.
Verification of tax returns. By checking previous tax returns, you can find interest income from or paid to a life insurance company.
Checking the mail. Even if the policy was paid, the insurance company will send an annual premium or dividend notice regarding the policy.
Checking north of the border. If there is 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 online.
Polling the MIB database. While there is no database for life insurance policyholders, there is a database for life insurance applicants. For $ 75, you can search the MIB database, and while it’s rarely worth it (MIB finds about one in five policies), it might be worth a try.
If these tips still do not result in the location of a lost policy, contact your own agent, attorney, or financial advisor, as they may have additional recommendations.
What if I can’t pay my life insurance premiums?
Financial difficulties can fall on anyone. If this happens to you and you cannot pay your life insurance premium, you need to know what to expect.
Generally speaking, if you have a term life insurance policy, not paying your premiums will result in an expired policy, which means that the policy will be automatically canceled and you probably won’t see any product from the policy.
If you have a permanent life insurance policy, the III says you will have some of the following options:
Collect the policy. When you withdraw the money, you will stop paying the premium and collect the available cash value. However, if the sum of the cash value is more than what you paid in premiums, that cash may be taxable.
No confiscation. A “reduced payment” option may be available, allowing you to stop paying premiums entirely in exchange for a reduced death benefit and no cash savings. You can also convert a permanent policy to an extended term policy.
Expired policy. If you decide to let your policy lapse, you may be able to reinstate it. Some insurance companies allow you to do this if you do it within five years of expiration. However, repayment may depend on your ability to pass a medical exam and pay the premiums due plus interest.
If you’re going through tough times, be sure to contact your life insurance agent right away to work out a deal. Depending on your circumstances, it is generally best not to let a permanent policy lapse entirely, as you can lose the cheap life insurance you had when you bought the policy.
Don’t let your questions go unanswered!
If you have questions about your life insurance policy, it is always a good idea to discuss them with an insurance agent. They can give you new, updated, and state-specific information about your life insurance policy so you don’t have any surprises down the road.