The loss of a loved one is often a profoundly sad and confusing time. Dealing with the loss can affect survivors in a myriad of ways, from deep trauma to anger to depression, depending on the nature of the loss and one’s relationship with the deceased. Along with the emotional upheaval, there are also practical considerations to account for: organizing a funeral or memorial service, cleaning out the person’s belongings, and filing all the necessary paperwork to settle an estate. A significant part of settling an estate is dealing with any life insurance policies that the deceased may have purchased to benefit their descendants post-death.

Fortunately, especially if detailed instructions and information have been provided, filing the paperwork as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy is quite simple and straight-forward. If possible, having a conversation with your loved one prior to their death will help the process go a bit smoother. This way you’ll have all of the necessary information and know the individual’s wishes. There are three documents needed to file a life insurance claim:

  1. A certified copy of the policyholder’s death certificate: a certified copy of the death certificate can be obtained anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after death. Funeral directors, medical professionals, and hospice providers are examples of professionals who can confirm the time and place of death and, therefore, prepare the death certificates. They can help facilitate getting copies of the certificates from the vital records department in the state where the individual died.
  1. The life insurance policy: this document contains all the essential information for filing the claim. It lists the policyholder, the policy number, the monetary amount to be awarded, the beneficiaries, and the life insurance company name. With advanced planning, the policy will be easy to find and enact. If it appears to be missing, searching the deceased’s physical and digital files, or contacting his/her financial advisor, might be helpful.
  1. The claims form: filling out this document carefully and completely is prudent. This document will be submitted to the insurance company. It contains information such as the cause of death, your relationship to the deceased, and how you would like to receive your monetary benefits (lump sum or annuity, for example).

Grieving takes time. Allow yourself to ask for help along the way, and remember that your loved one cared enough to take care of you.