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Life Insurance Claim Examiners: Proving That Not All Heroes Wear Capes

I’ve always loved that saying, “Not all heroes wear capes.” It’s usually accompanied by pictures of pizza deliverymen, the people who work at Chick-fil-A, or various other ways of saying we love people that make life better (or in the case of my examples, more delicious).

Going into an interview with Jeff Butcher, Senior Claims Examiner at MassMutual, I didn’t realize I’d be so touched by the role of a claims examiner. To be honest, when I really thought about it, I thought it must be a pretty depressing job. A claims examiner is the person who handles the payout of a life insurance policy. They deal with death and loss every day.

You’ll soon see Jeff doesn’t view his role that way.

The reason I spoke with Jeff is because MassMutual issues the Haven Term policy and, thus, is responsible for paying death benefits. (That’s a good thing for our customers because when you buy life insurance, you want to know the policy is from a company that has a long history of financial strength and timely payment of claims.

We get a lot of questions from our customers and applicants about how the claims process works. Luckily, we have access to claim examiners like Jeff.

how do you get your life insurance death benefit

I’ve always loved that saying, “Not all heroes wear capes.” It’s usually accompanied by pictures of pizza deliverymen, the people who work at Chick-fil-A, or various other ways of saying we love people that make life better (or in the case of my examples, more delicious).

Going into an interview with Jeff Butcher, Senior Claims Examiner at MassMutual, I didn’t realize I’d be so touched by the role of a claims examiner. To be honest, when I really thought about it, I thought it must be a pretty depressing job. A claims examiner is the person who handles the payout of a life insurance policy. They deal with death and loss every day.

You’ll soon see Jeff doesn’t view his role that way.

The reason I spoke with Jeff is because MassMutual issues the Haven Term policy and, thus, is responsible for paying death benefits. (That’s a good thing for our customers because when you buy term life insurance, you want to know the policy is from a company that has a long history of financial strength and timely payment of claims.)

We get a lot of questions from our customers and applicants about how the claims process works. Luckily, we have access to claim examiners like Jeff.

How did you become a claims examiner?

I started with MassMutual in 2000, as part of the Life Service Center. Being part of the service center gave me a unique perspective of the inner workings of most departments at MassMutual. And that’s where the majority of claims begin – in the call center.

As a call center representative, you answer the initial calls from customers and often interact with members of the deceased’s family. After getting some initial information from the person calling, they go to the claims department to begin the process. I was always very interested in being part of the full claims process. Then, an opening came available in 2005.

I believe the claims department is the best way, as an employee, to help our customers. We fulfill the ultimate promise.

I’d think your job would be very challenging, but you say you get to fulfill our policyholders’ “ultimate promise.” I love that. What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to help people during a very difficult time in their lives. These people are typically shocked and unprepared for the loss they are facing. If anything I do can alleviate some pain or burden from them, then that’s very rewarding to me.

As a claims examiner, you are in charge of fulfilling the ultimate commitment that MassMutual makes to their policy owners. Our commitment is to help people secure the future of and protect the ones they love. It’s a powerful thing.

The impression that we make as examiners on our beneficiaries can last a very long time.

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Who can call in to submit a life insurance claim?

Initial notification of death typically comes from those closest to the deceased, including beneficiaries and family members. However, the beneficiary must be the one to complete the claim requirements in order to receive the death benefit proceeds.

When calling in to start the claims process, it’s most helpful if you can provide the following information:

  • Relationship to the deceased
  • Personal information about the insured, beneficiary and date of death
  • Policy number
  • If there is a reason for urgency, let them know!

What is the full process for submitting a claim?

Typically, the full process goes like this:

  1. The death of an insured is reported by a beneficiary or family member
  2. The claims department prepares the case for examination
  3. The case is reviewed and appropriate claims requirements are sent to the beneficiary
  4. Beneficiary must complete the requirements form and send in with the deceased’s death certificate
  5. The claims department reviews the submission to determine that the requirements are completed accordingly
  6. Payment is sent to the beneficiary. (If the beneficiary cannot be found or does not complete the claim in a certain period of time, the proceeds are escheated to the appropriate state.)

Does the process differ significantly when there are multiple beneficiaries?

When there are multiple beneficiaries, each of them needs to fill out their own claim form.

What happens if you can’t get in touch with a beneficiary, or if they don’t know a policy exists?

At MassMutual, we are very proactive about trying to locate beneficiaries. When you sell a life insurance policy to a person, you’re making a promise to deliver the claim to their loved ones who they are trying to financially protect. We work hard to follow through and fulfill that process.

If we can’t get in touch with a beneficiary, we have procedures in place to try and reach them. There are individuals in our company whose responsibilities include finding contact information for beneficiaries or family members.

In a situation where perhaps a beneficiary doesn’t know their deceased loved one has a life insurance policy, we proactively match our records against the Social Security Death Master File (aka the DMF) and other death records databases on a monthly and quarterly basis. When these databases pick up that an insured has died and a claim has not been started, we then start the claims process and try and find the beneficiary.

Note from Brittney: We discuss this more in another blog post.

What is the typical time frame for paying out a claim?

Typically, from the time we are notified of the death to when payment is released, it takes about 30 days. We try very hard to stick within this time frame.

Is a death benefit taxable?

A death benefit is usually not taxable to the beneficiary. However, from the date the policyholder dies, whether a beneficiary has notified us or not, the death benefit starts to accrue interest because the insurer is holding on to it and must pay interest just like your bank would. You get taxed on the difference in accrued interest. The rate for a death benefit issued is typically 3 percent annually. So, if the death benefit goes unreleased for a year on that $500,000 policy, you will accrue $15,000 in interest, which would be taxable. If it went 30 days, you would receive $1,250.

If you have further questions about the claims process, we’re happy to reach out to Jeff and help address them. Send us an email: help@havenlife.com.

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About Brittney Burgett

Brittney Burgett is the marketing and communications director at Haven Life, a customer-centric life insurance agency backed and wholly owned by MassMutual. She joined the startup more than five years ago as one of the first ten employees and oversees external communications, content, SEO and various other growth marketing initiatives. Brittney is a passionate leader who believes that managing your financial life doesn't need to be intimidating or complicated and brings that philosophy to all the editorial and brand work at Haven Life. Prior to her role at Haven Life, Brittney worked in public relations, her client list included brands in the tech, food and nutrition spaces.

Read more by Brittney Burgett

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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