Death benefits and life insurance claims lawyers
Claiming a superannuation death benefit?
If you’re a member of an active superannuation fund you are likely to automatically hold life insurance through your membership.
When an insured person passes away, the life insurance held through a super fund is usually paid by the insurer into the deceased’s super account and the whole balance is then distributed by the fund trustees.
If there is a valid binding death benefit nomination in place, the fund trustee must pay the benefit accordingly.
Otherwise, the fund trustees have a discretion to decide how its paid with a focus on supporting the deceased’s financial dependents. That is, the person or people who looked to the deceased for future financial support. That is often the deceased’s spouse or minor children.
The trustees may also decide to pay the benefit to someone with whom the deceased had an ‘interdependent relationship’ which requires that they:
- Have a close personal relationship;
- Live together;
- One or each of them provides the other with financial support; and
- One or each of them provides the other with domestic support and personal care.
Finally, the fund trustees may decide to pay some or all of the benefit to the deceased’s Personal Legal Representative (their Estate) although that usually only occurs where there is no valid claim by a dependent or interdependent.
The fund trustees must have regard to the wishes of the deceased such as their Last Will and Testament or non-binding nomination, but they are not bound to follow those wishes. They also have a discretion to pay out multiple claimants in proportions deemed appropriate.
What about life insurance held outside of super?
You may also have life insurance through private policies or through your employer. These benefits are usually paid to a nominated beneficiary, the deceased’s Personal Legal Representative or policy owner (if it’s not owned solely by the deceased).
And remember, claiming on life insurance policies can get tricky, especially when you consider that terms and conditions vary between insurers, so it’s important to make sure you are familiar with all fine print.
If you or someone in your family needs to claim death benefits, reach out to your closest Maurice Blackburn office today. Maurice Blackburn’s life insurance lawyers are experts at working out the fine print in life insurance policies and they will fight to obtain every last entitlement you and your family deserve.
Do life insurance claims cover terminal illness?
In short, yes. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and you hold a life insurance policy in your name you can absolutely make a life insurance claim.
You can make a claim for the tax-free early release of a superannuation death benefit if you are suffering from a terminal illness. That is a medical condition that two medical practitioners certify you are unlikely to survive more than 24 months.
Our team of life insurance lawyers understand that your life insurance claim may be the most difficult claim you have to deal with. While getting you the best possible result is our priority, we will also ensure that you feel supported, respected and have peace of mind that your claim is in the most capable hands so that you can focus on feeling better.
Disputing the insurer’s decision
If the insurer declines the claim for terminal illness or a death benefit, you can challenge that decision. We often see terminal illness claims declined on medical grounds or death benefit claim declined because of technical policy fine print.
The amount of payout you or your dependents receive will depend on your policy and may also be a cause of dispute. Deciphering exactly how much you’re entitled to can be tricky, but Maurice Blackburn’s experienced team of insurance lawyers can help you get to the bottom of how much you are owed and then make sure you receive every last cent.
Disputing the Fund trustees’ decisions
If the super fund trustees decide to pay the benefit in a way that you are not satisfied with, you can challenge it by lodging a complaint. These disputes are often determined by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority and can make it all the way to court. There are strict time limits for lodging complaint so its important to get advice as early as possible if your claim is contested.
Why Maurice Blackburn?
When you are in the middle of an emotionally draining time, the last thing you need is to be dealing with a life insurance company who is doing their best not to pay you. Maurice Blackburn’s life insurance lawyers are ready and willing to help you successfully lodge your life insurance claim. Our team has over 100 years of experience in Australia and we are prepared to take on the burden of:
- Combing through the fine print in your policy
- Advising you on how best to present your claim
- Dealing with insurance companies, doctors and other professionals
- Fighting for your full death benefits and making sure you receive them
Plus, our team can also explain and advise you on a number of other insurance types that your life insurance policy might cover you for, including:
- Critical illness or trauma insurance
- Income protection insurance
- Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance
- Funeral insurance
We even offer 'no win, no fee'* arrangements for these types of cases. This means that you don’t pay if we don't win. We have also have business insurance lawyers across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and throughout Australia.
Contact us today to receive a free life insurance claim check and find out how we can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Life insurance usually covers suicide but only after a specified exclusion period. Exclusion periods vary across different insurers and policies so it’s important to check the fine print in your policy to find out what your exclusion period might be.
Yes, you can claim against as many life insurance policies as you have as long as your situation complies with the terms and conditions of each policy. For example, if you have multiple superannuation accounts you may also have multiple life insurance policies.
Group insurance policies, such as those through your super, usually give some automatic cover without health questions.
Other types of private policies have health questions you need to answer before you can be covered.
Under some (but not all) life insurance policies you have to tell your insurer about any pre-existing health problems or other relevant information it asks for in your application. If you don't, your insurer might try not to pay you. But, often with our help we can help you receive what you’re owed.
Yes, for example some policies exclude war-related deaths or intentional actions. You will need to check if the PDS of your policy includes any other exclusions.
Claim as soon as you are able but don’t lose hope if you think you’ve waited too long. You might still be able to claim after a long period of time. Get in touch with us today and we can advise you on whether you still have a valid claim.
Your first step should be speaking to the person or company you opened a policy with, i.e. your insurer, insurance broker, superannuation fund or employer.
They will explain how the claims process works and what forms you need to complete. From there you may need to provide your insurer with:
- Medical reports and test results
- Details about your work duties
- Payslips and tax returns
- A death certificate
Once your insurer has all the information they will process your claim and give you a result within a timeframe governed by the Life Insurance Code of Practice.
If you would like help making the claim, feel stuck, confused or bullied at any stage of this process, get in touch with your local Maurice Blackburn office and we can help you get the result you deserve.
Yes, there are important time limits that apply for claims – usually 6 years from the date of death. However we have been successful in some claims lodged after that time which is why it’s always worth getting in touch even if ten years have passed. It costs you nothing to find out where you stand.
An experienced life insurance lawyer can help you by:
- Advising you on how to present your dispute in the most convincing way
- Having difficult discussions with insurance companies
- Fighting for your full death benefits and making sure you receive them
- Making sure you adhere to the very strict time limits regarding insurance disputes that vary from policy to policy