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How do life insurance payouts work?

A life insurance payout is a one-off tax-free payment that can be given to your loved ones when you die.

4 steps to getting a life insurance payout Find out
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A life insurance payout goes to whoever is listed as the beneficiary on the policy which is decided by the person who takes out cover. Luckily, payouts tax-free and can pay out more than $1 million. On average, it takes insurers 2.5 months to accept or reject your claim but processing usually only takes around 2 weeks.

How does life insurance pay out?

Generally, a life insurance payout is a one-off lump sum payment in the region of $100,000 to $1.5 million. It goes to the person or persons the policyholder (the person who has passed away) has nominated as their beneficiaries – this is usually a family member or loved one.

The beneficiaries of the person who died will generally need to submit a claim to the life insurer. Most people will be aware that they have been listed as the beneficiary – the person who took out the policy should usually inform you. But if you're not made aware, you can make a search on the ASIC unclaimed money register.

How do I receive a life insurance payout?

These are the four main steps to a life insurance payout.

One

Call the insurer

The insurer's information should be available on the policyholder's certificate of insurance.

Two

Provide them with a death certificate

You'll need to submit a certified copy of the death certificate when you get in touch with the insurer. This is so they can verify that the policyholder has passed away.

Three

File a claim

The insurer will send you a claims form. You'll need to fill that out and provide any information it asks for. For example, the insurance policy details outlining that you are the person the policyholder has listed as their beneficiary. You can usually fill it out and submit online.

Four

Wait for your life insurance payout

Life insurance payouts are usually made to the beneficiary within two weeks of the claim being submitted. If your claim is denied, you can file an internal dispute with your insurer or the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Finder survey: Do people think life insurance is worth it?

ResponseMaleFemale
No53.8%50.62%
Yes46.2%49.38%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

How long does it take life insurance to pay out?

In most cases, a life insurance payout should take less than two weeks to be processed. However, this is just the processing time. It usually takes insurers longer to decide whether to accept or reject your claim. According to the latest APRA data, it takes life insurers (policies bought online) an average of 2.5 months to do this.

NobleOak has the shortest average claim time of 0.9 months. TAL take an average of 3 months and Clearview takes 5 months.

Processing times

Processing times are shorter. According to the latest Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) data on this:

  • 71% of life insurance claims are processed in less than 2 weeks
  • 19% take between 2 weeks and 2 months
  • 7% take between 2 and 6 months
  • 2% take between 6 months and 12 months
  • 1% take longer than 12 months to be processed.

Can life insurance pay out before death?

Yes, this is known as a terminal illness benefit and it's included in most policies. For this to happen, your medical practitioner needs to state that you don't have much longer to live. Depending on the insurer, you can generally have your insurance paid out if it is documented that you have less than 12 months or 24 months left to live.

To claim under a terminal illness benefit, the process is much the same. You or the beneficiaries you've listed need to call the insurer and they'll provide you with the paperwork and next steps you need to take. Hopefully, it's a relatively straightforward process for you during this incredibly difficult time.

Compare life insurance policies in Australia

Name Product Maximum Cover Maximum Entry Age Terminal Illness Benefit Claims Acceptance Rate Average Claim Time Sum Insured
NobleOak Life Insurance
$25,000,000
74
$25,000,000
96.90%
1.1 months
$24,483 million
Our verdict: Finder Life Insurance Award winner for the last 5 years in a row. Good value for money, simple application process and a high claims acceptance rate.
Medibank Life Insurance
$2,500,000
70
$2,500,000
Data not available
Data not available
Data not available
Our verdict: Medibank offers a higher payout limit ($2.5 million) than 15 other providers. Get a 10% discount if you're already a Medibank Health Insurance member.

⭐ Current offer: Save 10% on your first year of Medibank Life Insurance when you apply by 1 July 2024. T&Cs apply.
TAL Accelerated Protection Life Insurance
No set limit
73
Not stated
Data not available
1 months
$249,285 million
Our verdict: One of Australia's leading life insurers. Automatically includes child critical illness cover. Plus, it comes with a level premium option (e.g. costs remain similar as you get older).

⭐ Current offer: Get up to 15% off your TAL Life, Trauma or TPD insurance policy for life - if you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 19 and 28 at the time of your application. Offer T&Cs on insurer website apply.
RACWA Life Insurance
$25,000,000
74
$25,000,000
96.90%
1.1 months
$24,483 million
Our verdict: RAC’s maximum death cover limit of $25 million is one of the highest limits you’ll find, including $5 million in TPD insurance. You can get an online quote, but you’ll need to call RAC to get trauma cover. Benefit from added peace of mind with fully underwritten insurance. RAC is also WA-based but services all of Australia.

⭐ Current offer: Get two months free when you apply for two or more RAC Life Insurance covers by 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.
ahm Life Insurance
$1,500,000
55
$1,500,000
Data not available
Data not available
Data not available
Our verdict: ahm offers a simple application process. You can be approved online or over the phone. There are no medical or blood tests needed.

⭐ Current offer: Get 10% off your first year of ahm Life Insurance when you apply by 1 July 2024. T&Cs apply.
AAMI Life Insurance
$1,500,000
65
$1,500,000
Data not available
3.1 months
$37,768 million
Our verdict: There’s flexibility with AAMI as you can add another adult to your cover, with a competitive limit of $1.5 million. Easy application process with no medical exams.

⭐ Current offer: Take out a new AAMI Life Insurance policy and get $100 eGift card after your first 4 months of cover. T&Cs apply. Ends June 30, 2024.
Suncorp Life Insurance
$1,500,000
65
$1,500,000
Data not available
3.1 months
$37,768 million
Our verdict: Competitive maximum cover limit of $1.5 million. Suncorp lets you change your cover amount by up to $100,000 after a big life event, such as having a baby.

⭐ Current offer: Take out a new Suncorp Life Insurance policy and get $100 eGift card after your first 4 months of cover. T&Cs apply. Ends June 30, 2024.
Real Family Life Cover
$1,000,000
64
$1,000,000
88.90%
2.4 months
$53,238 million
Our verdict: The application is simple; it can be done with 1 phone call and there are no medical exams. But households with larger debts may need more than a $1 million payout.

⭐ Current offer: Get back 10% of the premiums you’ve paid after 1 year.
Zurich Ezicover Life Insurance
$1,500,000
69
$1,500,000
98%
3 months
$24,495 million
Our verdict: Good if you want a cheap policy from a well-regarded insurer – its 98% claims acceptance rate is higher than any other provider on Finder. Zurich keeps things simple: unlike others, it doesn’t go in for optional add-ons such as TPD or trauma cover.

⭐ Current offer: Policy discounts include 10% off for your partner if you sign up for a joint policy. You can also get 5% off income protection if you buy it alongside your life cover.
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