Anyone can start a claim. This does not make you entitled to the payout though, unless the policy names you as a beneficiary.
Usually those closest to the deceased deal with any financial matters. If there are no family members and you are a close friend you could start the claim on their behalf.
To start the claim, find out which company holds the life insurance policy, then call them.
Look for life insurance paperwork, but if you cannot find any you could still look for direct debits from old current account statements.
If you can find a monthly payment going out each month, check if the company is a life insurer. If so, call them to confirm the policy exists and start the claim.
Life insurance companies do not outline a timescale, so you can start a claim after a few weeks or more if you need the time to grieve.
When you call to make a claim, the insurer will have trained staff to deal with your situation sympathetically, making it easier to start a claim soon after the death.
Most insurance companies will ask for the following:
The name of the deceased
The cause of death (find this on the back of the death certificate)
The life insurance policy number
Who you are, and your relationship to the deceased
The insurer will send out a claim form for you to complete, and a list of all documents they need you to send them to process the claim, e.g. a copy of the death certificate.
If the policy was set up in trust: The payout will go to a nominated person named on the policy. This may not be a family member.
If the policy was not set up in trust: This is how most policies are set up; the payout will go to the deceased person's estate, making it liable for inheritance tax.
However, if the life insurance policy was in joint names, or the spouse/civil partner of the deceased is still alive, they will get the payout.
The money usually goes into the deceased person's estate.
If there is no will, the estate usually passes to the spouse or civil partner.
If there is a will, it will specify who gets what from the deceased person's estate.
Ask the insurer why, but the most common reasons for rejected claims are:
Issues with non-disclosure: This is when the policyholder may have not given an honest account for their medical history, or family's medical history.
The policy had already ended: If the policyholder had a term life insurance, it would only have lasted a set duration, e.g. 30 years. If the policy term has already ended, you cannot claim.
You have not given the insurer everything they need: The insurer will be clear in what information and documents it needs to process your claim. If you cannot provide them with everything they need, they could reject the claim.
If you think the insurer rejected your claim unfairly, contact the Financial Ombudsman who may be able to help.