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

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

A pair of hands, one of which is holding a pen and signing a check for 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.

Nick Trawinski - Founder of PolicyWand
Nick Trawinski

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