How life insurance claims work

Making a life insurance claim allows the named beneficiaries to receive a pay out.

But is there a time limit on when a claim should be made and what information do you need to provide?

At Reassured we’re proud to work with insurers who pay out 98% of claims.

What's more, cover through us starts from as little as 20p-a-day.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about life insurance claims…

Making a life insurance claim

As stated above, a life insurance claim typically happens after the passing of the policyholder.

The beneficiaries of the policy will need to contact the insurer to let them know of the passing.

When making a claim it’s likely you’ll need the following information:

  • Name of policyholder
  • Policy number
  • Death certificate

Most insurers will send a claims form to be filled in and returned, but the process can vary between insurers.

If making a critical illness or terminal illness claim, you’ll need to provide medical information regarding your condition from a medical professional.

The claim will then be assessed by the insurer.

Once the claim has been assessed and is deemed valid, a pay out will be made to the policyholder or beneficiaries.

Who claims life insurance?

Anyone can make a claim on a life insurance policy.

When making a claim you’ll often be asked what your relationship to the deceased was.

Typically, it will be a family member, close friend or next of kin.

While anyone can make a claim, not everyone will receive the pay out from this claim.

The pay out will only be made to named beneficiaries.

If you haven’t nominated any beneficiaries in your policy, this will be your next of kin.

If you need to make an early claim on your policy due to critical or terminal illness, you can make the claim yourself, or a loved one can do this on your behalf.

Life insurance claims process

Making a life insurance claim can be as simple as:

  1. Contact the insurer
  2. Fill in and return the claims form
  3. Receive a pay out

The process isn’t instant and may take around 30 days but this can be quicker or slower depending on the insurer.

In some rare occasions, a claim may be delayed by the insurer, reasons for this can be found below.

How much life insurance do you need?

Work out how much life insurance you may need based on your current financial commitments and what you want your policy to cover. Simply fill in the fields which apply to you for an instant calculation.

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£137,934 is the estimated mortgage debt per household in the UK.

The purchase of a home is likely to be the largest financial commitment any of us will make in our lifetime. Your life insurance should cover your remaining mortgage balance to allow your loved ones to stay in the family home should anything happen to you.

Source: Moneynerd.co.uk

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The average monthly household budget in the UK is £2,548 (that’s £30,576 per year), which is spent on transport, food & drink, utilities (gas, electricity, water etc), clothing, council tax and leisure activities.

With energy prices hitting a record high and the cost of living rising sharply in the UK, you may wish to factor in utility bills and family living expenses into your cover.

Source: Nimblefins.co.uk

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The average personal debt of UK adults has risen to £34,566 (not including mortgage debt), with credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts being the most common forms of debt.

Factoring in any debts into your life insurance cover means that, if they need to be paid back from your estate after your passing, your loved ones won’t miss out financially.

Source: Money.co.uk

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According to SunLife, the average cost of a funeral in the UK is £3,953 (with the overall cost of dying at £9,200).

Funeral costs have increased by 116% since 2004 and are a significant cost which should be factored into the amount of life insurance you secure.

Source: SunLife.co.uk

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When factoring in cover for your children, you may wish to calculate the amount based on how long it is until they reach financial independence.

This could include childcare (£7,000 per year for part-time care), school expenses (£1,519 per school year for uniforms, lunches, stationary etc), as well as an additional sum for further education (this could be a contribution of up to £5,000 per year).

Sources: Daynurseries.co.uk, Primarytimes.co.uk & Savethestudent.org

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2 in 5 adults say they are relying on an inheritance to fund their retirement.

Factoring in an inheritance to your sum assured could allow loved ones to live a more financially comfortable life. Alternatively, you could leave a cash gift to a charity of your choosing.

Source: Moneyage.co.uk

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If you’re lucky enough to have your own savings or are part of the 30% of UK residents who already have a life insurance policy in place, this can provide financial protection for loved ones.

By entering your current cover, savings or death in service amount you can reduce the sum assured you require.

Source: Scottishbusinessnews.net

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Is there a statute of limitations on life insurance claims?

In the UK, insurers state no specific time limit on making a claim on a life insurance policy.

This means there’s no specific statutory limitation period.

Losing a loved one is a devastating event and searching through paperwork to make a claim may be the last thing on your mind.

Insurers have a responsibility to pay out after receipt of a valid claim.

The Enterprise Act 2016 gives policyholders (or beneficiaries) the legal right to enforce prompt payment following a valid claim[2].

How long do life insurance claims take?

On average it takes one month for insurers to make a pay out to beneficiaries after a valid claim has been made.

But this timeframe will vary depending on who you’re insured with as different life insurance providers will have different requirements.

However, certain factors may impact the length of the claims process:

  • How long it takes to complete and return the claims form
  • Non-disclosure 
  • Contestability clause
  • Suicide clause
  • Death inquisition

Non-disclosure refers to not being truthful or not providing certain information on your application.

If insurers believe that not all information was provided at the point of application, they may delay the claim while they gather more information into the death to determine whether the claim is valid.

This can lead to the contestability clause being used (see below).

Reasons life insurance companies deny claims

In some rare occasions, a life insurance pay out will be denied. This can be for a number of reasons.

Typically these include:

  • Premium payments not up to date
  • Non-disclosure

Failure to keep up with your premium payments will lead to your policy lapsing and your cover becoming invalid.

If you pass away after you’ve stopped paying your premiums, a claim made on your policy won’t be valid and a pay out won’t be issued.

If you fall into financial difficulty and can no longer afford your cover, it can be tempting to just stop paying but this will lead to your payments going to waste.

It’s important to let insurers know if you can no longer afford your premiums as they may be able to help.

The most common reason insurers won’t pay out is due to non-disclosure.

This involves being untruthful or not providing certain information at the point of application.

It can seem tempting to lie on your application in the hopes of obtaining more favourable premiums (for example, lying about being a smoker).

But this can be extremely detrimental.

If a claim is made and insurers believe there’s a case of non-disclosure, they can use the contestability clause, which could lead to a claim being declined.

The contestability clause

The contestability clause allows insurers to obtain more information about the death of the policyholder.

It refers to a period of time where insurers can further investigate the death.

This can apply to any death within the period stated by the policy (usually the first 2 years at the beginning of the policy).

For example, if a policyholder passes away due to a heart attack, the insurer has a right to request medical information and reports to determine whether or not the policyholder had underlying conditions or was a smoker but didn’t disclose this information.

If it’s found that information was withheld at the point of application, the insurer can deny the pay out.

You can read our full guide as to why insurers might not pay out.

Are life insurance claims taxable?

After your passing, your policy will form part of your estate (unless written in trust).

If the value of your estate is over £325,000 it will be subject to 40% inheritance tax.

To reduce inheritance tax it’s wise to write your policy in trust.

Writing your policy in trust detaches your life insurance from your estate, meaning your loved ones receive 100% of your pay out.

At Reassured not only can our award-winning team guide you through the entire life insurance application process, but our customer service team can also help you write your policy in trust for the majority of the policies we arrange.

Critical illness claims

Critical illness cover allows you to make an early claim on your life insurance policy in the event you’re diagnosed with a life-changing illness.

You can add critical illness cover to a term policy for an additional cost.

Typically there is a list of 30 illnesses you can claim for with critical illness cover but this can be more or less depending on the insurer.

To find out what you can (and can’t) make a claim for it’s best to check the terms and conditions of your policy.

If diagnosed with an illness listed within your policy (during the term) you’ll be able to make an early claim and receive an early pay out.

If you’re left unable to work due to your illness, a critical illness pay out can help to replace any lost income.

Terminal illness claims

Terminal illness cover allows you to make an early claim on your life insurance should you be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and given less than 12 months to live.

This pay out can be used to help:

  • Pay for private medical treatment 
  • Make any necessary adaptions to your home
  • Pay for carers
  • Enjoy time with your loves ones

You may be asked to provide medical information and reports from medical professionals when making a terminal illness claim.

All term policies taken out through Reassured come with terminal illness cover at no extra cost.

Life insurance claims statistics

Research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that in 2021:

  • £6.8 billion was paid out in protection claims
  • Almost £4 billion of this was on life insurance claims
  • 97.3% of life insurance claims were paid out
  • Cancer is the most common reason for a critical illness claim
  • Non-disclosure was the most common reason for claims being declined[3]

In summary

We hope this article has shown you that making a claim doesn’t have to be a daunting process.

At Reassured we can compare quotes from insurers who pay out 98% of claims.

Our team can help you find the best policy for the best price we can offer you, saving you time and money.

And we don’t charge a fee for our award-winning service.

Simply get in touch for your free, no-obligation quotes.

Sources:

[1] http://www.pacificlifere.com/content/dam/paclife_corp/pre/public/publications/pacific_momentoftruth_8pp_LOW.pdf

[2] https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/8-518-2251?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&bhcp=1

[3] https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2022/05/payouts-for-bereavement-illness-and-injury-claims/

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