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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Life Insurance Claims


Life insurance can be purchased one of two ways, either through your employer, in which case ERISA applies, or from a private life insurance company. ​Our experienced bad faith insurance and ERISA lawyers can assist you when either types of these claims have been denied.

For more information on life insurance claims, read the FAQs below:

  • Why would an insurer deny my life insurance claim? There are many reasons given by insurers for denying a life insurance claim. Most denials arise from the language in the actual policy . The insurer may deny payment because of the particular cause of death, or because a death occurs within a certain period of time after the policy is issued. A claim may be denied based upon alleged misrepresentations in the application- such as a statement that the deceased person was of “good health”.. Typically, the insurer doesn’t double check on the accuracy of such statement until after someone dies, when they look through the medical records with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Can a spouse contest a life insurance beneficiary? It is difficult to contest a beneficiary designated by a spouse on a life insurance policy, but it is not impossible. There are many factors which could lead a court to invalidating or rewriting a policy to more accurately reflect what an insured intended or to canceling a policy which was issued inappropriately.
  • Can a beneficiary claim on a lapsed policy? Even if a life insurance policy is lapsed, there may be opportunities to make a claim under it. The terms of the policy will be a major factor in making that determination.
  • Can a last-minute insurance beneficiary change be contested? A court can undo a last-minute change in the beneficiary of a life insurance policy in some situations where it appears that the change was improper.
  • Who can change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy? Generally, the owner of the life insurance policy can change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The owner may not be the insured. The owner is designated by the policy and is generally, but not always, the person who pays the premiums.
  • How do you find out if a deceased person had life insurance? It is important to review the papers, documents, and records of a deceased person to determine whether there may be any life insurance on their life. It is also a good idea to check with their insurance agents, bankers, employers, and any associations or organizations in which there were a member. Whether the deceased had a safe deposit box is also an important determination to make.
  • How do you find out if a life insurance policy was paid out? The insurance company is the best source of information on whether a life insurance policy was paid out. Bear in mind, the insurance company may not disclose that information to just anyone. You might have to show them why you need to know.
  • What happens to life insurance policies with no beneficiary? Generally, life insurance policies with no designated beneficiary or no surviving beneficiary will be paid in accordance with their terms, usually to the estate of the deceased.
  • How does money get split between beneficiaries? Generally, the proceeds of a life insurance policy are paid amongst the beneficiaries as designated by the insured or the owner of the policy. Otherwise, it is split equally amongst the beneficiaries unless the policy provides otherwise.
  • Can a life insurance beneficiary be changed after death? The beneficiary of a life insurance policy cannot generally be changed after the death of the insured, except by court order or, if allowed by the policy, by the direction of some other document, or by virtue of the beneficiary being a trust or some other entity who can re-direct the proceeds.
  • Can I share life insurance benefits with my siblings? The beneficiary of a life insurance policy can do whatever they want with the benefits that they receive, unless restricted by some other document, such as if they are the trustee of a trust.
  • The insurer claims the deceased committed suicide, but they did not. Can I make them pay? This happens sometimes and suicide “exclusions” are not enforcable generally if the policy has been in force for a certain number of years. And certainly the circumstances of what caused the death can be challenged by a lawyer.
  • The insurer denied the payment of the claim but sent the premiums paid back to the family. Should I cash the check? No. Do not cash the check until you discuss with a lawyer experienced in life insurance law.
  • The insurer claims the application contains mistakes, but it was the agent’s mistake. Do they have to pay? Sometimes they will have to be bound by what the agent wrote down if the agent’s answers to questions aren’t what the deceased person actually told them.
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