Skip to Content
Father, mother and daughter laughing symbolizing a time of life when learning about life insurance is important.
Life Insurance Basics

How long does life insurance take to pay out?

Life insurance companies work hard to ensure your benefits are paid in a quick and timely matter.

If you're the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, it's important that there are no delays in the handling of your life insurance claim. Fortunately, most life insurance companies are very quick in expediting death claims. As long as the required paperwork is in order and the policy isn't being contested, a life insurance claim can often be paid within 30 days of the death of the insured. However, each claim is different and there may be state regulations that require additional processing time. 

Life insurance payout process

Several factors can impact the payout process. It’s important to contact the life insurance company as quickly as possible to initiate the payout process and avoid unnecessary delays.

The life insurance company must complete several steps in the payout process. They locate the policy and evaluate that it is still in force and in good standing. They will also evaluate the claim to ensure that the claim is not fraudulent. As a regular part of the process, the company will also investigate the insured’s cause of death to ensure that the cause of death was not due to an excluded cause (for example, participation in a high-risk sport depending on your contract details). 

The life insurance company will verify that all the proper documentation has been provided and ensure that applicable state laws are followed in the payout process. 

Factors that may affect when benefits are paid

The amount of time it takes to pay a death claim depends on many factors, such as the insurance company's processing procedures and how quickly the necessary claim documents are received. And while every state has separate rules regarding the maximum amount of time a life insurance company can take to process a death claim, most life insurance companies will work to pay a claim sooner as long as they have what they need.

The death certificate

There are certain actions that you can take as the beneficiary to help avoid delays and to get your life insurance claim paid just as soon as possible. First, is providing proof the insured person is deceased by way of a death certificate. Keep in mind that every life insurance company requires an original death certificate — not a copy — so be prepared to produce this critical piece of documentation. If multiple life insurance policies are involved, you'll want to request several original copies for each insurer.

Filing ASAP

We understand that having to file a death claim after a loved one dies isn't easy. However, by notifying the life company and filing a claim as soon as possible, the claim process can begin more quickly. Fortunately, most life insurance companies have designated claim specialists who can walk you through the process and help answer any questions that you may have. These specialists work exclusively on death claims and are there to help avoid any undue delays. Once the claim is open, you'll have peace of mind knowing that the process has started and you can turn your thoughts toward other things at this very emotional time in your life.

The contestability period

The first two years after a policy is issued is known as the contestable period. If a claim is filed during this time, the life insurance company has the right to review the medical records of the deceased to ensure that no misrepresentations or inaccuracies were made on the insurance application. You could experience a delay in your claim if the insurance company decides to review this information.

There can be several situations resulting in the later payment of a life insurance claim. However, most delays can be attributed to incomplete information and improper documentation at the time of the claim. If you experience a delay in benefits, contact your insurance company right away to determine the cause.



Arrows linking indicating relationship

Related Articles

A man discussing the options of tapping into his permanent life insurance policy with his financial advisor.

Can you cash out a life insurance policy?

Learn more
 Hands on a laptop keyboard researching what the definition of the various roles in a life insurance policy are.

Life insurance basics part 2: Life insurance roles

Learn more
 Older couple viewing mountain range, leveraging flexible life insurance benefits while still alive

Using your life insurance benefits while still alive

Learn more
All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective and its products and services, visit

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective or its subsidiaries.