How to start tracking down benefits when someone dies

3 min read

When a spouse or a close family member dies, financial worries may need to be addressed as soon as possible, particularly if your loved one was financially supporting you or paying for a large share of household expenses.

Since life insurance typically pays out within 15 to 60 days and other types benefits can be collected in a matter of weeks as well, many people find it helpful to focus on these as soon as possible.

The articles below offer a picture of what you can expect, the documents you’ll need, and how to resolve issues you encounter along the way—so you can complete this time-sensitive task as quickly and easily as possible.

Finding what you need to file claims

Check first with your loved one’s former employer (and, if applicable, their union) to gather information on any policies your loved one had through work.

You’ll also want to gather documents your loved one had at home, especially if you aren’t sure how many policies they had taken out. Look through drawers, files, checkbook entries, contracts, email and mail correspondence, safe-deposit boxes, and tax returns to get a full picture.

Full article: How to navigate your loved one’s insurance policies

Life insurance

One thing to remember about insurance policies: The executor of the estate has nothing to do with collecting benefits.

If you are listed as a beneficiary, you must file the insurance claim yourself. The money will go directly to you, and you can choose from one of several different payout options—each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Full article: How to claim benefits

Social Security

If your spouse, parent, or child passed away and they earned enough Social Security credits through working, you may be eligible for an ongoing survivor benefit.

Surviving spouses, minor children, and disabled children are eligible. In certain circumstances, divorced spouses, stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, or adopted children may be eligible. 

Full article: Understanding Social Security survivor benefits

Pension benefits

If your loved one had a defined-benefit pension—as opposed to a defined-contribution pension, like a 401(k)—it was designed for their retirement, to pay them weekly or in a lump sum.

However, they often are available to survivors when the policy holder dies. Some will pay you the same amount your loved one would have received, while others pay a percentage.

Full article: Pension benefits for survivors

Veterans benefits

If your loved one was a military veteran, there are a variety of benefits that family members and dependents are entitled to, which are meant to help ease your financial burden.

Benefits range from funeral and burial honors—including free burial in a national cemetery—to health care, home loans, and, in some cases, a monthly pension.  Your loved one earned benefits by serving their country, and claiming them is a fitting way to honor them now that they are gone. 

Full article: Claiming veterans benefits

Union benefits

If your loved one was a member of a trade or labor union, the survivor benefits you are entitled to can be a source of meaningful short-term or long-term financial support. 

Many unions provide death benefits (a lump-sum payment) and/or survivor benefits (ongoing monthly payments) as part of the pension or annuity plan. Funeral and burial benefits are also common, as are 401(k)s ●

Full article: Union benefits for survivors

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.