One of the most challenging things people deal with during their lifetime is losing a loved one. In addition to the emotional impact, a loved one’s passing can also create financial challenges. In addition to expected costs, such as funeral and burial expenses, you may discover outstanding debts for personal and medical expenses.

There are several financial options to explore after a loved one’s passing. You may qualify for private or government benefits and have legal options to cover costs stemming from your loved one’s death.

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If the loved one who passed away received annuity payments, you could claim them after your loved one’s death. Annuity payments are regular payments made to a recipient. Examples of annuity payments include legal settlement and trust fund payments. Some individuals also set up their retirement plans to pay annuities.

Some annuities have survivor benefits, which means they continue making annuity payments to the deceased person’s beneficiary. A widow or widower may also receive annuity payments if they invested in a joint and survivor annuity

Death Benefits

You may qualify to receive life insurance death benefits after your loved one dies. Your loved one may have a life insurance policy through their employer, a private policy, or multiple life insurance policies. 

Qualifying for Death Benefits

Insurance policies pay death benefits to the named beneficiaries. The policyholder identifies one or more beneficiaries when they take out their policy. They may also change their beneficiaries at a later date if they get married, divorced, or have children.

Insurance companies pay death benefits to the named beneficiaries unless no beneficiaries are listed. In those cases, the insurance company pays the benefits to the policyholder’s estate. 

Types of Death Benefits

Life insurance policyholders can choose between level and increasing death benefits. With a level death benefit, the beneficiaries receive a fixed amount. Increasing death benefit policies increase in value – the longer the policyholder has the policy, the greater the value of the policy. 

Some policyholders take out whole life insurance policies, enabling them to borrow funds from their insurance policy while living. Unpaid loan amounts reduce the death benefit amount paid to beneficiaries.

How to Claim Death Benefits

Ideally, you’ll locate the deceased’s insurance policy after their passing. You may have to contact your loved one’s employer or lawyer to get a copy of the policy. Next, contact the insurance company. As long as you’re the named beneficiary, you can fill out the forms supplied by the insurance company to request the death benefits.

How are Death Benefits Paid?

Some policies make a single payment of the total death benefits. You may also have the option of receiving smaller monthly or yearly payments. It’s a good idea to check on local tax laws to determine whether you’ll have to pay taxes on the death benefits. In that case, you may prefer avoiding a lump sum payment that could significantly alter your annual income.

Losing Death Benefits

Some factors could nullify an insurance policy. For example, suppose the policyholder borrowed funds from their insurance policy. The insurance company charges interest on those loans. If the policyholder didn’t repay the loan or pay the interest owed, their policy could lapse. 

Beneficiaries only receive death benefits from policies that are in good standing. Consequently, if the policyholder stops making policy payments or fails to repay a loan from the policy, the beneficiaries may not receive death benefits.

Disputes with Insurance Companies

You may have legal recourse if the insurance company fails to authorize your claim or delays payment. Bad faith insurance lawyers can review your claim and take legal action to ensure you receive the death benefits. 

Disability Insurance

Disability benefits are benefits paid to individuals who are unable to work. Disabled individuals may have private disability insurance or receive social security disability payments. Some disability benefit policies pay death benefits after the recipient dies. Consult a disability benefits attorney to ensure you understand what benefits you can receive and whether any payments must be returned after your loved one’s death.

Divorce and Child Support

couple sitting with crossed arms mad at each other

Most states require parents to create financial plans for minors when they get a divorce. The courts may require the parent that pays child support to have a life insurance policy to cover costs if they die before their children are adults.

The other parent should have a copy of the divorce decree. If both parents are deceased, their wills should outline financial and custodial details. If you don’t have a copy of their will, contact their executor or attorney to get a copy or to get the will’s probate court number. Use the probate court number to request a copy of the will from the court. 

Pension Benefits

Investment funds make pension payments to qualifying employees. Your loved one may have received monthly pension payments before they passed, and you may be eligible to receive the payments after their death. Surviving spouses can receive 50% of the deceased’s pension, or the whole amount, depending on the pension benefits the deceased received.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Surviving family members may receive social security death benefits if the deceased qualifies for government death benefits. Workers with 40 credits qualify for full survivor benefits, but the qualifying number is lower for younger workers. Widows, widowers, dependents, adult children with disabilities, stepchildren, and grandchildren may qualify for Social Security benefits. The amount beneficiaries receive depends on their age and relationship to the deceased. There’s also a limit to the maximum amount families can receive, which could impact those percentages. Other factors affecting your survivor benefits include whether you remarry, are still in school, or wish to claim your retirement benefits. 

Wrongful Death Claim

You may have grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death claims can help you recover medical and funeral expenses, pay for property damage, and provide compensation for pain and suffering. Depending on where you live, the deceased’s spouse, children, parents, or estate representative can file a wrongful death suit. 

Example of Wrongful Death Suit

Wrongful death lawsuits apply when the deceased dies unexpectedly due to the negligence of another party. When someone dies in a car accident, their family members may pursue wrongful death litigation against the at-fault party through the civil court system. The at-fault party may settle out of court, or your wrongful death attorney may present evidence at trial to secure a settlement.

Why File a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim can provide financial compensation to cover expenses from losing your loved one. Suppose your spouse dies in a car accident, leaving you to raise young children on a single income. A wrongful death settlement could provide funds to cover immediate costs, such as funeral expenses, and long-term expenses, such as college tuition fees. 

You may struggle to cope with your responsibilities if your loved one passes unexpectedly. Download and read “Unthinkable“ by Kyle Bachhus to discover ways to deal with your challenges after your loved one’s passing.  

How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

wrongful death lawyer looking at law book

Wrongful death attorneys can guide you through every step of the legal process. Our legal team can outline your options and establish grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact us to discuss your rights and learn how a wrongful death claim can address financial challenges stemming from your loved one’s passing. We offer free consultations and don’t charge any fees until we win your case. 


Kagan, J. (2022). Joint and Survivor Annuity.
Orem, T. et al. (2022). Inheritance Tax: Who Pays & Which States in 2022.
Retirement Topics – Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity. (2022).
Social Security: If You Are the Survivor. (2022).

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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.