Stanley - Preparing today can mean less stress

Thursday, February 13, 2003

A time of personal loss can be devastating emotionally and financially. And while millions of Americans have made providing for their families a principal responsibility by purchasing life insurance, have they done everything they can to make sure things will go smoothly when they die? Probably not.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Prudential Financial revealed that more than 40 percent of those polled indicated that they have either not discussed, or are not sure if they would be able to find important life insurance policy information on loved ones. And one in five of those who had previously filed a death claim with an insurance company felt it was a difficult process at a time of great sadness.

But, there are things policyholders can do now, and loved ones can do later, to expedite the payment of death benefits and make an otherwise difficult time in life a little bit easier.

As a policyholder, you can prepare your loved ones by:

-- Making sure all beneficiary designations are up-to-date and on file with your insurer. Failure to do so will slow down the benefits claim process and may even force your insurer to make the payment to your estate or to someone other than you intended. Keep in mind that life events such as marriage, birth, adoption or death often necessitate a beneficiary change.

-- Keeping premium payments current. Otherwise, a loved one may receive a reduced benefit, or in worst cases, no benefit at all.

-- Understanding your own life insurance portfolio and sharing coverage summaries with selected loved ones.

And as a loved one during a time of loss, you can expedite the claims process by:

-- Being prepared with policy information, including policy number(s), addresses of any beneficiaries and, in most cases, a certified death certificate.

-- Asking the insurer if there are other policies covering the deceased beyond what you have identified.

-- Contacting the individuals licensed insurance professional, financial representative or personal adviser.

-- Consulting the individual's checkbook, bank statements or credit card bills for payments made to insurance companies if you can't find policy documentation and don't know which company to contact.

Talking about, and dealing with, the issues of death and life insurance are never easy. But by taking simple steps now and understanding what you need to know later, both policyholders and their loved ones can be comfortable in knowing that all life insurance benefits will be paid in a timely fashion.

Sharon Stanley is a representative of The Prudential Insurance Co. of America in Cape Girardeau. (334-2603 )

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