When a policyholder passes away, beneficiaries will typically receive the death benefit payout. But it’s important to be aware that there are a few instances where life insurance won’t pay out. Top reasons life insurance won’t pay out may be because the policyholder lied on their application, their death was the result of suicide, or they passed away during the waiting period. Let’s dive deeper into how life insurance payouts work, how long it takes to receive a payout, and some reasons life insurance won't pay out.
To collect a life insurance payout, beneficiaries must file a claim after the policyholder passes away. Once the life insurance company receives a certified copy of the death certificate and claim form, they’ll likely process it and pay the beneficiaries via their preferred payout method.1 The average life insurance payout a beneficiary can receive vary based on the policy type, insurance company, riders, and other factors. Some types of life insurance payouts include:
The lump-sum payout is the most common option. With this type of payout, beneficiaries receive the entire death benefit at once in a single payment.
With a retained asset account, the proceeds of the policy are kept in an interest-bearing account. The beneficiaries can then use special checks to withdraw cash and will have to pay taxes on any interest they earn.
The specific income payout allows beneficiaries to receive monthly installments over a set time period while the money is held in an interest-earning account. This ensures that their funds don’t run out too quickly.1
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Now that you know how life insurance payouts work, you may be wondering how long it takes for life insurance to pay out. In many cases, it takes anywhere from 14 to 60 days for beneficiaries to receive a life insurance payout. But many factors impact this time frame. These include the insurance company’s procedures, when the claim is filed, how long the policy was active, the cause of death, and state laws regarding insurance payouts.2
Fortunately, life insurance usually pays out the full value of the policy to the beneficiaries when the policyholder dies. Insurers are required to fulfill their promise of a pay out, as long as the policyholder paid their premiums. Sometimes, however, life insurance won’t pay out.
Here are some common reasons why life insurance won’t pay out:
If the policyholder stopped paying their premiums, the insurance policy may lapse. In this situation, the insurer can cancel the policy and not pay the death benefit.
Applying for a life insurance policy requires truthful answers about a policyholder’s health and lifestyle. If the policyholder lies on their application or withholds important information, the life insurance company might refuse the pay out.2
There are some states and life insurance companies with a suicide clause. The clause states a certain time period where the policyholder can’t pass away by suicide, or the life insurance policy won’t pay out. This period is usually within the first two years.3
If the policyholder passed away while engaging in illegal or criminal activities, the insurer can deny their claim. Even if the crime was committed unknowingly, the policy might not pay out.
A term life insurance policy doesn’t last forever. If the policyholder outlives their term, which might be 10, 20, or 30 years, there won’t be a payout.
Some types of life insurance come with a waiting period that may last between 12 months to 24 months.4 If the policyholder dies during it, beneficiaries won’t receive the death benefit payout.
If a life insurance company denies your life insurance claim and you believe their denial was wrong or unfair, you may follow these steps:3
The main purpose of having a life insurance policy is to help provide your beneficiaries with a payout or death benefit upon your passing. While life insurance payouts usually occur after a claim is properly filed, there are some instances where they’re refused by the insurer. As long as you and your beneficiaries become familiar with the reasons life insurance won’t pay out and how long it can take to pay out, you can prevent disappointments in the future.
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1 Experian - How Do Life Insurance Payouts Work? Updated April 7, 2021. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-do-life-insurance-payouts-work/. Accessed April 25, 2023.
2 Policygenius - How Long Does It Take to Get a Life Insurance Payout? Updated February 24, 2023. https://www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/how-quickly-do-life-insurance-companies-pay-out-death-claims/. Accessed April 25, 2023.
3 Policygenius - What to Do If Your Life Insurance Claim is Denied. April 10, 2023. https://www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/what-to-do-if-a-life-insurance-claim-is-denied/. Accessed April 25, 2023.
4 Nerdwallet – When Doesn’t Life Insurance Pay Out? Updated August 2, 2022. https://www.nerdwallet.com/uk/insurance/life-insurance/reasons-life-insurance-wont-pay-out/. Accessed April 25, 2023.
Coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus. In New York, coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
In Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, & Virginia, Policies: ICC1368100, ICC1368200, ICC1368300, ICC1368400. In Delaware, Policies A68100-A68400. In New York, NY68100-NY68400. In Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, & Virginia, Policies: ICC18B60C10, ICC18B60100, ICC18B60200, ICC18B60300, & ICC18B60400.
Aflac Final Expense insurance coverage is underwritten by Tier One Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Aflac Incorporated and is administered by Aetna Life Insurance Company.
The life insurance policy described herein contains an optional Accelerated Death Benefits Rider that is intended for favorable tax treatment under Section 101(g) of the Internal Revenue Code. Aflac does not give legal or tax advice. Please consult with a qualified legal, tax, and accounting advisor before engaging in any transaction. In AR, AZ, ID, OK, OR, PA, TX and VA: Policies ICC21-AFLLBL21 and ICC21-AFLRPL21; and Riders ICC21-AFLABR22, ICC21-AFLADB22, and ICC21-AFLCDR22.
Coverage may not be available in all states, including but not limited to DE, ID, NJ, NM, NY or VA. Benefits/premium rates may vary based on state and plan levels. Optional riders may be available at an additional cost. Policies and riders may also contain a waiting period. Refer to the exact policy and rider forms for benefit details, definitions, limitations and exclusions. For complete details, including availability and costs, please contact your local Aflac agent.
Content within this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting or medical advice regarding any specific situation.
Aflac cannot anticipate all the facts that a particular employer will have to consider in their benefits decision-making process.
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