Hurricanes and Term Life Insurance - Tips for Being Prepared

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Filing a term life insurance claim can be one of the most difficult things a person has to do – Proper preparation before and after a catastrophe can save you and your loved ones a lot of stress

Survivors of major hurricanes and other catastrophic events like 9/11 know that the process of putting your life back together after a life-changing catastrophe is a long and complicated process. But according to life insurance experts, the process of filing a life insurance claim after the death of a loved one can be eased by simply being prepared.

We spoke with Guy Cardinale, CEO and spokesman of Complete Life Quote, Inc., an online life insurance company representing some of the best companies in the life insurance industry ( He had this to say when asked how to ease the life insurance claim process:

"First of all, proper preparedness begins when you purchase your policy. A common mistake that is often made at the beginning of the process is not buying an adequate amount of insurance. Not providing the proper amount of support to dependents is common, so it's imperative to carefully consider the total amount of financial support your family will need (after burial expenses are paid) at the time you purchase your life insurance policy. Chances are that you won't go back and adjust the policy after you purchase it, even though your standard of living may increase substantially throughout the years."

In addition to making sure you have an adequate amount of coverage, it’s a good idea to ensure that your policy is "titled" correctly and that the named beneficiaries are accurate and up-to-date with current address information. Verify that the dates of birth and social security numbers on file with the insurance company are correct, as errors can cause the benefits to pass through probate and delay the transfer of funds to your loved ones.

Additionally, the following preparation tips can help make the claim process less stressful:

  • Keep your life insurance policy in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or fire-proof safe. If your home is destroyed in a fire, hurricane, flood, or other disaster, your policy will be intact and easily accessible.

  • Let your loved ones know where to locate the policy, and make sure they have access to it. If you keep it in a safe or safe deposit box, make sure they know how to get it out.
  • If you have a Living Trust or Will, include a copy of your life insurance policy with it, or provide a copy to your family attorney.
  • Make sure that your family has the name and phone number of your life insurance company or insurance agent. It will save them a lot of time if they cannot locate the policy.
  • If the policy can not be located after the insured’s death, don’t panic. If you know the name of the insurance company, most can verify the policy as long as the claimant(s) can provide them with information on the policy holder.
  • Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate as soon as possible. In extraordinary circumstances like Hurricane Katrina, if you are unable to obtain a death certificate, some companies will accept, in lieu of an official death certificate, an affidavit from a funeral home director or surviving family member, hospital records, and in some cases, a statement from a physician.
  • Pay your life insurance premiums. The law requires a 30-day grace period in every life insurance policy sold, allowing the insured to pay the policy premium any time during the 30 days following the due date of the premium without incurring a policy lapse. If you let your premium lapse for over 30 days, your coverage may lapse and you may be required to provide proof of good health before reinstating the policy. If you lose a loved one, it’s a good idea to call the insurance company right away to make sure all premiums have been paid.

According to Mark Simmons of Trust Term Life Insurance, "These simple steps can help ensure that life insurance proceeds will reach their intended beneficiaries. By following them, those who have lost loved ones can slowly begin the process of putting their lives back together."

Unfortunately, the tips above are worthless to the millions of Americans with no insurance to protect their loved ones. This is often the case in low-income regions, and seems to be the scenario for the majority of Hurricane Katrina’s victims. Two major life insurance companies with high exposure in the regions affected by Katrina recently reported that they have only received a handful of life insurance claims in Katrina’s wake, yet according to a recent report by CNN, the death toll from this hurricane currently stands at 1034.

Preparing for the unexpected can lessen the stress of a tragedy, and if you are one of the millions of Americans without life insurance, several on-line resources are available to help. Sites like,, and countless others contain information on the different types of life insurance available. They offer fast quotes, easy to complete applications, and most have toll-free phone numbers for personal assistance and answering applicants’ questions.


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Frankie Marzocchi