When a loved one dies, there are many legal matters that typically need to be dealt with rather quickly. In Part 1 of this two-part article, we talked about creating a “Family Survivor’s Guide” as an efficient way to organize important documents, in the event of a family member’s unforeseen death. In Part 2, we will discuss some of the legal tasks that tend to need immediate attention after a spouse dies, including the filing of a death claim.
The loss of a spouse is devastating. For the survivors, things will never be the same again. And in most cases, there are several legal and financial decisions that need to be addressed following a spouse’s death. And that’s where a Family Survivor’s Guide can come in handy.
As we discussed in Part 1 of this article, setting up a will or trust (to document exactly how you want your assets to be distributed) and designating a beneficiary (to oversee financial accounts and assets) to carry out your wishes after you’re gone. These easy and relatively inexpensive tasks can save your family a ton of hassle and heartache down the road.
For now, let’s just focus on one common asset component…life insurance.
For many, purchasing life insurance is a financially effective way to deal with life’s “worst-case scenario”…such as losing a loved one before their time.
And when that time does come…what do those left behind do next?
How do I file a death claim?
So if you do own life insurance, this is what you need to know. Before your family can access your policy’s death benefit, the life insurance company of record typically requires two documents to properly file a death claim: the claimant’s statement (written by the beneficiary of record) and a death certificate (or attending physician’s statement). You can get a copy of the death certificate from the local county coroner (or the county’s Vital Records office). Make several copies, since you will probably need the certificate for other things as well (such as closing bank accounts, utilities, etc.).
In most cases, the typical death claim is processed and paid out within just a few days or weeks, depending upon the laws of each state, and assuming all the paperwork is in order. If the death occurs within two years of the policy’s issue date (the contestability period in most states), it can take a bit longer as the insurance company may do an investigation to make sure no fraud was involved.
Having a Family Survivor’s Guide in place in the present can save your loved ones unnecessary anxiety in the future after you’re gone.