How Long Does It Take for a Beneficiary to Get a Life Insurance Payout?

Frank spent months browsing online life insurance quotes and finally bought a life policy. He passed away just shy of two years later. It took more than a year for his wife to collect his life insurance payout.

Doug had a 30-year term life policy and died the same day as Frank did. His wife was able to get her life insurance payout within two weeks.

How long does it take for a beneficiary to get a payout?

As the two scenarios illustrate, it depends. Some payouts can take as little as three to five days. If the insured dies within two years of purchasing the policy (called the two-year contestability period) as Frank did, it can take longer.

Barring any snafus, the average life insurance payout takes about 30 days to process.

How to File a Life Insurance Claim

Whether you are the sole beneficiary or one of several beneficiaries, you will have to file your own individual claim.

  1. Locate the actual policy. The life policy will have the claim instructions as well as the insurer’s contact information. You can either call the insurer to have a claim form mailed or download it from the insurer’s website.


  1. Gather Your Documents and Information. To fill out the form, you will need to have the following documents and information handy:
  • the insured’s death certificate, either the original or a certified one obtained from the funeral home or the vital statistics office of the insured’s state of residence.
  • the life insurance policy, with the policy number
  • the date of death
  • the cause of death
  • the state in which the insured died
  • the insured’s date of birth
  • the insured’s social security number
  • an obituary notice, not necessary, but may help move things along
  • in some cases, the insurance company will ask for an autopsy report or medical records


  1. Choose how you want your payout delivered. There are a few ways available to choose from.
    • a lump sum. This is tax free.
    • an annuity. This pays out a fixed amount over a specific time frame. The insurance company invests unused funds for you. However, any interest earned will be taxed.
    • a retained asset account. The insurance company keeps the payout in an interest-bearing account from which the beneficiary can withdraw funds. Interest on this account is also taxable.


  1. Submit your claim according to the claim instructions.

Why Would an Insurance Claim Be Denied?

There are only a few reasons why a life insurance company would deny a claim.

Fraud. If the company suspects the insured died under questionable circumstances or lied to the insurance company, the company can deny the beneficiary the life insurance policy’s payout.

The insured died during the contestability period. Most policies and/or states have a provision that allows the insurance company two years to review an insurance policy for inconsistencies related to fraud.

If the insured dies during the contestability period, the beneficiary may be denied the life insurance payout. In Frank’s case, he died just short of the contestability period. His wife was able to collect, but it took longer and required more effort.

A lapsed policy. If the premiums have not been paid up at the time of the insured’s death the beneficiary will not receive the death benefit payout.

If your claim is denied, you can always reach out to the insurance company for clarification. Sometimes it’s just a matter of missing documentation such as an autopsy report or an insurance payment receipt.

Losing a loved one is difficult. Life insurance companies have worked to make the claims process as easy as possible. Once you’ve filed the claim, you can relax and know you are taken care of.

How Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes, Simplified

They say nothing is sure but death and taxes.

If you’re reading this, you probably already have life insurance or are seriously considering buying a policy to protect your family. And you probably know how life insurance works.

You buy a policy for a certain amount of coverage, say $250,000, for which you pay a monthly premium of say, $25. Should you die while the policy is active, your beneficiaries receive the $250,000 payout.

What you now want to know is, how will life insurance affect your taxes? What follows are some highly simplified explanations for a variety of “death and taxes” situations.

How Term Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes

If you have a term life policy, your beneficiaries won’t have to pay taxes on the payout they receive.

Term life policies are straightforward. You pay a monthly premium for a set amount of time, and you receive a set amount in death benefit. End of story.

But if you expect a tax break on your premium, you’re going to be disappointed. The IRS considers life insurance premiums a personal expense and therefore not deductible.

How Permanent Life Insurance Affects Your Taxes

Because permanent life insurance policies produce cash value, the IRS looks at types of permanent life insurance such as whole life and universal life differently than they do term life.

Interest earned on a permanent policy is tax-deferred, i.e. not taxed if it remains untouched. However, if you withdraw it, it will be subject to income tax.

Life Insurance Annuities and Taxes

If your beneficiary collects your death benefit in installments, the payouts will be considered income and subject to income tax.

Life Insurance and Estate Tax or Inheritance Taxes

If your life insurance policy is wrapped up in an estate, your beneficiaries will owe an estate tax if the estate is worth more than the IRS threshold, which for 2023 is $12 million for an individual beneficiary and $24 million for a married beneficiary filing jointly.

If the estate is worth less than that, they will owe no tax.

Some states levy an inheritance tax. States vary on the threshold so consult a tax attorney in your state to find out what your beneficiaries may or may not have to pay.

Accelerated Death Benefits and Taxes

Although you can use the benefit from an accelerated life insurance policy while you are still alive, it is not taxable.

Transfer for Value Life Insurance and Taxes

If you sell (settle) or surrender your life insurance policy, you will pay tax on any monetary or material value above what’s called the policy basis.

The policy basis is the policy’s cash value minus premiums you paid and required administrative fees. Anything you receive above the policy basis will be taxed as income.

Again, these are highly simplified explanations for situations that can be complicated. As with any financial decision, it’s important to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to determine the tax implications related to any life insurance policy you’re considering purchasing.

For the Best Life Insurance, Trust the System

For the Best Life Insurance, Trust the System

If you’re over a certain age, you remember calling customer service and having a human answer the phone. We all know those interactions aren’t normal anymore. Automated technology is standard today.

And technology continues to evolve. For example, PolicyWand just adopted aggregator neural network technology in the form of Wandy, an avatar designed to provide initial customer services to online visitors in search of the best life insurance.

But AI can’t get inside your head. Wandy can only go so far to get you to a life insurance policy that will fit your lifestyle and your family’s needs. Yes, avatars like Wandy accelerate the process with upfront data gathering and quotes, but life insurance is personal. It deserves human interaction.

The best systems blend automation and human interaction.

Life Insurance Agents

The best thing to come from automated technology is that it’s encouraged life insurance agents to reevaluate their business approach. Why would anyone take time to drive to a storefront with a pushy life insurance salesperson inside when they can hop online from home?

Life insurance agents have had to adapt from being a salesperson to being an answers-person. When technology connects you to a live agent today, you’ve already received your quotes. There’s no more selling to do.

That’s good news.

But there are still plenty of questions. No two life insurance clients have identical medical or financial situations. Their questions are as unique as their needs. And most people prefer to speak with a person rather than a data-collecting avatar when discussing them.

Life insurance customers want a licensed life insurance agent with the knowledge and experience to identify the best products to meet their needs. If just anyone could answer your questions, the process would go faster. But quality takes time and specialized knowledge that doesn’t come from a call center.

So getting from an avatar to a licensed agent requires a wait, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours, depending on when your call comes in. Normal business-hours calls take minutes. A call that comes in after business hours will require a ticket for a returned call in the morning.

Providing exceptional service takes time. But think of it this way. If you must wait a few minutes, it’s probably because the life insurance agent you’re waiting to speak to is providing the best service they have to give. And if they’re committed to that kind of quality, they’ll extend the same to you when it’s your turn to discuss your life insurance needs.

You just have to trust the system.

Does Term Life Have Cash Value? Cash value life insurance explained

Technically there’s no such thing as term life cash value. With term life insurance policies, you pay a specific premium for a specific amount of time (term) and receive a specific payout in the event you die before the term ends. Even the best life insurance companies in the U.S. don’t offer traditional term life insurance with cash value. There’s no time to build it.

However, there are some ways to use a life insurance policy to build it.

Firstly, what’s cash value?

Cash value is money accrued from a life insurance policy over time. The longer you have the policy and the more you pay into it, the more cash value you build.

Cash value is a savings component. You build interest in a tax-deferred investment account your insurance company provides. Part of the rate you pay will go to your premium and administrative fees; the other part will be invested to build interest.

So, it’s more expensive than traditional term life insurance. Also, the savings component varies based on market conditions and your insurance company’s investment performance.

But the great thing about cash value is you can borrow against it or use it to pay your premiums. You can also surrender or cash out your life insurance policy.

What types of life insurance build cash value?

Permanent life insurance policies build cash value. These include whole life and universal life.

Universal Life Insurance (UL) is a type of permanent life insurance that builds cash value and has characteristics closest to those term life has. UL premiums, like term life premiums, are lower. So, you pay a lower premium but still enjoy building cash value. UL insurance has its drawbacks, but it is the closest thing to term life with cash value you can find.

Whole life insurance builds cash value but has set premiums and less flexibility. And it’s more expensive than UL.

Alternative Ways to Leverage Term Life Insurance for Cash

Buy a Return of Premium (ROP) Rider

An ROP is a rider you can add to your term life insurance policy. It enables you to receive a refund on the premiums you paid into it. It also has its drawbacks but is a way to use your term life policy as a savings component.

Sell Your Life Insurance Policy

Technically called a life settlement, you can sell your policy for a cash payment. It won’t be for the whole value of the policy, but a percentage of it. Typically, it’s investors who buy policies. They’re mainly interested in older policyholders because it will take less time to see a return on their investment.

If you want to sell your policy, it’s best to find a broker to handle it.

Convert Your Policy

Young people with young families tend to buy term life insurance because it protects their families at an affordable rate. They aren’t necessarily interested in or able to buy a cash value policy.

However, as children grow their needs grow. Many times this coincides with higher income. So, it may make sense to convert your term policy to a permanent one and enjoy building cash value.

So, to answer the question put forth in the post title, does term life insurance build cash value, it does not. But it can be an effective springboard toward building it in other ways.

Underwriting: How Life Insurance Rates Are Determined

Since its inception, life insurance has been about relationships—protecting those you care about. You want to get life insurance to protect the ones you love. Life insurance enables you to do that. Underwriting ensures you receive the best life insurance rates possible from the best life insurance companies in the U.S.

What Is Underwriting?

The dictionary says that to underwrite something means to accept responsibility for guaranteed payment in case loss or damage occurs.

The business of underwriting is a vetting process. The insurance company wants to make sure you’re a good insurance risk. And they want to make sure you can afford the premium. It’s also your chance to choose the best company for your needs.

In relationship terms, underwriting ensures the relationship between you and your life insurance company is a strong one. You just have to find a company you can work with.

Every life insurance company has its own set of standards and guidelines as to what constitutes an acceptable risk and what they’re not willing to cover.

There are two types of underwriting: full and accelerated.

Full underwriting is the traditional kind. It includes a medical exam and lab tests. It takes between six and eight weeks.

Accelerated underwriting requires no medical exam or tests, so it takes less time. However, no-exam life insurance can be more expensive than fully underwritten policies. AI has made it easier to streamline the process through technology called insurtech, which uses algorithms and machine learning to go through data quicker.

How Underwriting Works

The Application

The underwriting process kicks in once you’ve submitted your application. That application asks about your height, weight, habits (smoking, drinking, exercising), hobbies, and questions about your current and past health as well as your family’s health history.

The Phone Interview

The phone company will set up a call to ensure the information you provided on the application is correct. It takes no more than 30 minutes.

The Medical Exam and Lab Tests

This is a free exam of your height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood and urine tests.

If your tests reveal red flags, the insurance company may order an Attending Physician Statement (APS) to find out if there are any underlying conditions.

They will also conduct a prescription check of all medications prescribed to you in the past three to five years.

The Motor Vehicle Report

The insurance company will also look at your driving record. Tickets, accidents and DUIs can mean you’ll pay a higher premium. Some companies will deny a life policy based on a DUI.

The Actuarial Tables

This is where the underwriter takes the collected data and compares it to actuary tables to help get a sense of your life expectancy. The mortality table is a statistical baseline that uses your age and gender to predict when you’re most likely to die.

They may also use a build table, which uses your height and weight to further predict your life expectancy.

The older and heavier you are, the higher your premium will be.

The Risk Classifications

The insurance company uses classifications made up of people who share the same characteristics posing a specific level of risk. This is what will determine how much premium you will pay.

For instance, if you’re in excellent health, don’t smoke, work a desk job, have a clean driving record and have no risky hobbies, you’ll likely be classified in the Preferred Best, or Preferred Select group, which pays the lowest premiums.

Most people are placed in the Standard class, with characteristics being a bit overweight, having some medical issues and dings on their driving records, and engaging in a risky hobby or two once or twice a year.

To be in this group, you have to have been smoke-free for at least a year. People in this classification pay the baseline rate. If you smoke, you’ll be placed in a substandard class and pay a higher rate.


Once the company assigns your rating, they send you the contract for signature. If you’re not happy with the premium offered, you can negotiate or look for another company to work with. As stated earlier, every life insurance agency has different guidelines about what they are willing to risk and what they aren’t.


Your online life insurance quotes are the beginning. Underwriting allows you to find the best life insurance with the best company you can go the distance with.

What Is Wandy? The AI Wizard of Life Insurance, that’s who.

If you’ve requested a quote from PolicyWand, you’ve no doubt met Wandy. And after interacting with our cool little guy, our customers have been asking for more information about it.

Aggregating the Life Insurance Neural Highway

Wandy is what’s called an insurance aggregator neural network—loaded with tons of life insurance data that enables it to take your information, match it with its existing data, and respond back with a tailored quote in real time.


While Wandy’s primary function is to provide quotes and answer life insurance questions, its intuitive technology makes it an apt problem-solver.


Each query interaction expands  Wandy’s fluid insurance knowledge. As the insurance market changes, the rates change. Wandy tracks all of it, flexing its AI skills to anticipate and respond more effectively to new customer queries. The more Wandy’s used, the smarter it gets.


Wandy is not only a great student, but also a great host. The smart little avatar guides guests through the entire life insurance buying process, from initial greeting to setting an appointment with a live agent.


If you need to leave the interaction before setting an appointment, Wandy will remember you when you return. And when it introduces you to a live agent, that agent is fully armed with a customized plan to identify the best policy at the best price without shuffling through files while you wait.


But Why  Call it Wandy?


Society has been using digital technology day in and day out for decades now. Our phones are now extensions of our bodies.


But stop and consider how much goes on inside your phone or computer in one nanosecond—or your body for that matter. It’s magic. Are there codes involved? Sure. But codes are the magic words. You still need someone to wield the wand.


Wandy’s our guy. We hope you get the chance to collaborate with it soon.

Need Life Insurance? Be Prepared to Answer Financial Questions

When you requested your quote for life insurance online, you entered an estimate of how much life insurance you need. But is it accurate? And can you afford it?

Determining How Much Life Insurance You Really Need

Once you’ve submitted your life insurance application, it goes to underwriting for a process called Evidence of Insurability (EOI). This is where the insurance company conducts its due diligence to ensure they can afford to cover you and to establish a financial justification for the coverage amount you requested.

Life Insurance companies base EOI on two things: your physical well-being and your finances. In most cases you’ll have to take a medical exam or at least answer some health questions. That’s to be expected unless you go the no-exam route.

But your financial health is just as important as your physical health. While you could be in peak physical condition, you could be denied coverage if your financial health is failing.

Underwriters assess your risk, assess your beneficiary’s dependence on your income, and make sure you can afford the life insurance premium they assign.

Financial Information Requested During Your Life Insurance Application Process

So what will they ask about?

  1. You will have to tell the company where you work, what you do and how much you make. Life Insurance companies generally allow you to apply for 20-30 times your annual income if you’re relatively young and less than 20 times your income if you’re older.
  2. Your beneficiary. The company will want to know about the amount of hardship your death would cause your beneficiary. They want to ensure your beneficiary’s need aligns with the coverage amount you requested.
  3. You must provide information about assets like investments, alimony, real estate, and other income-generating products and activities.
  4. Other Life Insurance policies. If you have applied for other life insurance policies or are insured by other companies, you’ll need to disclose that.

If you justifiably disagree with the coverage you’re offered, you can negotiate. You want to be sure you have what you need and can afford to pay for it every bit as much as the company needs to be sure you’re a good risk.

Because at the end of the day, life insurance is about relationships. Your online life insurance quotes are the jumping-off point. The underwriting process determines if the relationship will go the distance.