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The life insurance payout is a tax-free lump sum paid to your beneficiaries in the event that you pass away while your life insurance policy is active. This payout is also called a "death benefit."
The death benefit is meant to financially support the policyholder’s loved ones and relieve the financial burden of their passing.
Your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) can use the life insurance to cover whatever they see fit. This might include:
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The life insurance payout process is pretty straightforward in Canada. Here are the steps to follow if you need to make a claim.
Ideally, the policyholder should have informed the beneficiaries about the policy and where to find relevant documents. In this case, the process is fairly simple.
If you know you’re a beneficiary of a policy but don’t have the documents or policy number handy, though, there are a couple of options.
You’ll need to notify the life insurance provider of the policyholder’s passing to make a claim. This usually requires proof of death, like the death certificate. But in some instances, more than one document might be required, including:
Most life insurance companies will have their contact information listed on their website to reach out to.
Life insurance claim forms can often be found online on the company’s website, but if not, a representative from the insurer should be able to help you find them. Submit this along with any required documents to the insurer.
After this, your claim will go under review. If any additional information is needed, they’ll let you know at this stage.
The life insurance payout usually takes anywhere between two weeks to 60 days to be paid. This depends on the insurer and the individual circumstances of your claim.
Life insurance companies typically pay out the death benefit in a lump sum, but some insurers offer other payment options, too. Let’s go through some of the more common types.
A lump sum payment is paid out in one go, so you receive all the funds at once, tax-free. Most people prefer this type of payment as it allows them to deal with the upfront costs of final expenses and gives them complete control over the payout.
This is the most common type of death benefit payout and may be the only one your life insurance company provides.
This option allows you to receive the payout in instalments rather than one single payment.
You can decide the amount of each payment and the time period over which it will be paid.
Like with a specific income payout, if you choose annuity payments, the payout will be paid over a set amount of time. But with annuity payments, any currently unpaid amount grows at a fixed interest rate determined by the insurer.
There are a few different factors that might affect your life insurance payout. Make sure to read your policy carefully to get a clear picture of any terms, clauses or exclusions that might be present in your contract. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Different types of life insurance policies have specific rules that can affect the claims process.
For example, if you have a mortgage life insurance policy, the payout will go straight to the policyholder’s mortgage lender rather than their loved ones like in a traditional policy.
Another example: A term life insurance payout, on the other hand, goes straight to your beneficiaries.
Term life insurance is one of the most straightforward policy types available. It’s simple to understand and you won’t have to worry about hidden fees, cancellation charges, or other risks hidden in the fineprint.
Still not sure what type of life insurance policy to choose? Speak with one of our Canadian advisors to get real, honest advice.
Life insurance policies usually contain exclusions that outline situations where the policy won’t pay out. Common exclusions may include death by suicide in the first two years or deaths related to dangerous activities (think: skydiving!).
Most life insurance policies have a contestability period, typically the first two years after the policy is created.
During this period, if a claim is made, the insurance company has the right to investigate the accuracy of the information provided during the application process. This is to protect the life insurance company against potential fraud.
It’s extremely important to provide accurate information when applying for a life insurance policy to avoid potential claims being denied.
Making a life insurance claim can be an emotionally difficult thing to do when a beneficiary has just lost their loved one. That goes double when there are added complications. Here are a few things policyholders can do to make the process as easy as possible for their beneficiaries.
Regularly review and update your life insurance policy to make sure it reflects your current circumstances. Let your insurance company know of any changes in contact information or if you’d like to change your beneficiaries.
It bears repeating: honesty is the best policy when it comes to life insurance! Make sure you’re disclosing all relevant information at the time of application to avoid any unwelcome surprises when it comes time for your beneficiaries to make a claim.
Misrepresenting yourself on your life insurance application can lead to the policy becoming void. That means sacrificing the integrity of the safety net you’ve built for your loved ones.
It will be much easier for your beneficiaries to claim the policy if they have all the details handy. Inform them of the policy's location and give them the contact information for the insurance company.
This transparency will help your beneficiaries navigate the claims process with more ease during a difficult time.
It’s unlikely that a life insurance policy won’t pay out in Canada. That’s for one simple reason: death is hard to fake.
With that said, though, there are a few reasons life insurance might not pay out:
Be sure to read your policy carefully to see what other clauses may apply.
No, life insurance payouts usually aren’t taxable in Canada, at least with a term life insurance policy. With permanent life insurance, however, your beneficiaries may be taxed on your policy’s cash value (if the policy has accumulated any).
There are some other circumstances when a life insurance payout may be taxable:
If you’re not sure whether or not your policy’s payout will be taxable, it’s a good idea to speak with a financial advisor who can walk you through the ins-and-outs.
If the insurer is not made aware that the policyholder has passed away, the policy could expire due to non-payment. But if the insurer somehow finds out that the insured has passed, they may attempt to reach out to the family.
This is why it’s important for policyholders to discuss with their beneficiaries that there is a policy in force and where to find the documentation.
It’s pretty rare for a life insurance company to deny a claim, but it does happen. Most of the time, rejected claims are due to misrepresentation at the time of application. But a claim can be denied for other reasons, like policy exclusions, policy expiration, or suicide in the first two years.
The policy will typically include when a beneficiary needs to file a claim by. The typical range is between 90 days and 12 months, according to Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association.
That said, if you’re submitting a claim later than the stated timeframe, it’s still worth trying. Depending on the circumstances, the insurer may still consider the claim.