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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

How quickly do insurance companies pay life insurance claims?

Jack Dolan, a spokesperson for the American Council of Life Insurers, says that once an insurance company receives a death certificate proving the death of the insured, the beneficiary usually receives a death benefit within one week.

However, if an insured dies within two years of buying a policy, and the insurer conducts a follow-up investigation to see if the death was caused by suicide, or if there is reason to suspect the insured lied on the application, it could take 30 to 45 days before a death benefit is paid, according to Dolan.

Most life insurance policies have an "incontestable clause" that states an insurer can refuse to pay the death benefit if it finds that the insured lied on his or her application. For example, if an insured died of lung cancer within two years of buying the policy, and the customer wrote on the application that he or she did not smoke, the insurer may have grounds to deny the claim based on the results of an investigation.

Last updated: Dec. 7, 2009