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When Does Term Life Insurance Payout?

Learn About Payouts on Term Life Insurance Policies


If you’re considering the purchase of term life insurance coverage you may be wondering when does a term life insurance policy payout benefits?


When Term Life Death Benefits Are Paid Out

Typically, a term insurance policy benefits are paid when the insured has died, and the beneficiary files a death claim with the insurance company, submitting a certified copy of the death certificate. Many states allow life insurers 30 days to review the claim. Then they can pay it, deny it or ask for additional information.

Most life insurance companies pay out benefits within 30 to 60 days of the date of the death claim.

There is no set time frame but insurance companies are motivated to pay as soon as possible, after receiving bona fide proof of death, to avoid steep interest charges for delaying payment of claims. 

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What Could Delay Payouts on Term Life Policies?

Several situations can result in later payment of a death claim. If the insured died within the first two years after the life policy was issued, beneficiaries could face delays of 6 to 12 months. 

The Reason: The Two-Year Contestability Clause

Most life ins policies contain this clause, which allows the insurance carrier to investigate the original application to ensure fraud was not committed. 

As long as the insurer cannot prove the insured lied on the application, the death benefit will normally be paid. Most policies also contain a Suicide Clause that allows the company to deny death benefits if the insured commits suicide during the first two years of the policy.

Another scenario that could delay payment, not surprisingly, is when “Homicide” is listed as the cause of death on the death certificate. 

In this case, a claims representative may communicate with the detective assigned to the case to rule out the beneficiary of the life insurance policy as a suspect. If the beneficiary is a suspect, the benefit will be held until charges are dropped or he/she is acquitted of the crime.

New Choices in Payout Options on Life Insurance   

Since the inception of the insurance industry more than 200 years ago, the death benefit payout to the beneficiary was always a lump-sum payment of the proceeds. 

The default payout option of most policies remains a lump sum.

Installments and Annuities

More than 5 years ago there was a change in how life insurance payouts can be delivered to the policy’s beneficiaries.

These included an installment-payout option, or an annuity option, in which the proceeds and accumulated interest are paid out regularly over the lifetime of the beneficiary.

These choices give the policy owner the opportunity to select a pre-determined, guaranteed income stream of between 5 and 40 years. 

For income-protection life insurance, most life insurance buyers prefer the installment option to guarantee the proceeds will last for the necessary number of years.

Pre-Death Benefits for Term Life Insurance

Traditionally, life insurance policies only pay out at the time of the policy holder’s death. 

However, within the last 20 years, some life insurance companies have designed policies that allow their policy holders to draw against the face value of the policy in the event of a terminal, chronic or critical illness. 

These policies enable the life insurance policyholder to be the beneficiary of their own life insurance policy.

The term for this is accelerated death benefit which is a rider the owner of the policy may attach to the coverage provided by the life insurance plan.

Filing a Claim for Death Benefit Payout

The life insurance company should be contacted as soon as possible following the death of the insured person to begin the claims process. The claims representative will request paperwork to process the claim.

The beneficiary of the insurance policy must obtain a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate. This can usually be obtained through the county in which the named insured dies. If the insured died in a hospital or nursing home, the institution may have completed the certificate.

The death certificate has to be submitted to the insurance company address listed in the policy along with a statement of claim, which is sometimes called a "Request for Benefits," signed by the beneficiary.

Policies owned by revocable or irrevocable trusts must ensure that the insurance company has a copy of the trust document identifying the owner and the beneficiary of the life insurance policy.

The Bottom Line

Life insurance policies provide policy holders and their loved ones peace of mind that financial difficulties may be avoided in the event of a person’s death. 

To expedite the claims process, and avoid errors and delays, accuracy is essential when submitting any documentation or communicating with the life insurance company. 

Your insurance agent can help make sure that the claim form is filled out correctly and help answer questions throughout the claim process.


How Do Term Life Insurance Payouts Work?

Life insurance can help provide a financial safety net in the event of your death. However, your beneficiaries should know how term life insurance pays out, and what steps they’ll need to take to claim their death benefit upon your passing.

Term life insurance payouts are generally provided in a lump sum. However, some policyholders may opt for their beneficiaries to receive payouts in installments over a period of time, or for their entire life.

Requesting Your Death Benefit Payout

Life insurance benefits are paid after a policyholder has died, while the policy was still In Force. These death benefits are paid to the beneficiaries named by the policyholder in the policy.

For many insurance companies, beneficiaries must take three main steps to receive their payout:

File a Death Claim on the Policy

Term life insurance payouts begin with the filing of a death claim.

Make sure to contact the insurance company as soon as possible after the policyholder has died. Once this claims process has begun, your insurance representative will ask you to begin supplying necessary paperwork to process the claim.

If multiple beneficiaries were named with the policy, each may need to submit his or her own claim form if the primary beneficiary died before the policyholder, a contingent beneficiary (if named) can claim the term life insurance death benefit payouts.

Provide Proof of Death of Insured Person

Life insurance companies generally require a death certificate as proof that the policyholder has died. This usually must be a certified copy of the certificate, and can often be acquired from the county in which the policyholder has died.

If the policyholder died in a hospital or other medical facility, that institution may have completed the death certificate.

Wait for Approval of Payout

In general, term life insurance payouts are processed within 30 to 60 days of the claim’s date. 

However, several factors can delay payment.

  • New Policies – If the policyholder purchased the insurance plan within two years of his or her death, beneficiaries may have to wait between six months and a year to receive benefits. That’s because many policies have what’s known as a contestability clause. This clause allows insurers to further investigate the claim, to ensure that no fraud has taken place.
  • Suicide – Most policies also have a clause that allows benefits to be denied if the policyholder committed suicide within two years of having purchased the plan.
  • Homicide – If homicide is listed on a death certificate, insurers may delay payments until the investigation rules out the beneficiary as a suspect.

Terms Related to Payout of Death Benefit

  • Death: Termination of life. A death certificate is required by a life insurance company for a beneficiary to receive the death payment.
  • Death Benefit: Amount payable, as stated in the life insurance policy, upon the death of the insured. This is the face value of the policy plus any riders. 
  • Death Claim: Proof of death of the Insured form filed with the Insurance Company establishing the rights of the Beneficiary to the Death Benefit.


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When Does Term Life Insurance Payout

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