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  • Thinking about the unthinkable

    Finances may be the last thing you want to think about when you lose a loved one. But having a sound plan can help address financial worries — allowing you to focus on what’s truly important for your family at this difficult time.

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Learn about
  • Dealing with immediate expenses

    Your financial professional may help you find ways to pay for immediate expenses using a life insurance loan or other sources.

  • Filing a life insurance benefits claim

    Three steps that you’ll need to take.

  • Collecting Social Security survivors’ benefits

    Understanding eligibility requirements and navigating the application process.

Topics and resources

Dealing with immediate expenses

You’re not alone

Your family and friends are there to provide love and support. You may also want to turn to a number of others to help you through this difficult time:

Attorney — Can help begin estate settlement procedures

Funeral director — A good source of information; can help with Social Security benefits applications and death certificate

Life insurance professional — Can help with your insurance claims

Financial professional  Can aid in the overall organization of your finances

Funeral costs alone can be substantial, in addition to other unforeseen expenses.  If there's a delay in the processing or payout of death benefits from your spouse's life insurance policy, one way to avoid using high-interest credit cards or your savings to meet funeral costs is to borrow against the proceeds due from the policy. Ask your life insurance professional to see if the policy allows for this, and to help with the loan process.  But keep in mind that the insurance company will charge you interest on the loan.

The bottom line

As challenging as losing a spouse may be, it’s important to take steps as necessary to help address your ongoing financial stability.

Claiming life insurance benefits

The payout of your spouse’s life insurance is not automatic — you have to file a claim. Thankfully, it’s generally a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Notify the insurance company, agent or employer that the policyholder has died as soon as you can. If the policy was purchased from AXA Equitable, click here for information about filing a claim.
  2. File a claim form and certified copy of the death certificate for every beneficiary on the policy. (Your insurance agent can do this for you.)
  3. Decide how you want to take payment. You may be able to choose either a lump sum or a graduated payout option. Either way, the proceeds are not subject to income tax.

IMPORTANT: You should check to see if your spouse was covered under any additional policies, some of which you may not be aware.

Look for additional life insurance policies

Individual policies — If you’re unsure what kind of individual policies your spouse might have had, cancelled checks may help you find the company. Or contact your state insurance department for the names of companies that, for a fee, may help you find the policy.

Group policies — These may be from an employer, bank, credit agency or other professional or social organization. Look for a certificate of insurance or check directly with those groups.

Employer-based insurance — Some companies routinely offer life insurance. Call your spouse’s employer to see if he or she was covered.

Accidental death and dismemberment — Your spouse may have this coverage from an employer, credit card or bank (as part of a loan package or a free benefit by banks, or a rider to an employer-issued insurance policy). Check with the employer, bank or insurance company.

Travel accident insurance — If your spouse was killed while traveling by air, boat or train, there may be benefits from a policy purchased when buying the tickets. And you may automatically be entitled to a benefit if your spouse died because of an accident while using tickets purchased with a credit card.

Mortgage life insurance — Contact your mortgage lender to see if your spouse is covered under mortgage life insurance.

Credit life insurance — This insurance pays off the outstanding balance of a loan or account. A few dollars are simply added to the monthly payments to pay the premiums, so there may be no obvious indication that your spouse had this coverage — check with the credit issuer.

Buy-sell agreements — If your spouse co-owned a business, he or she may have entered into a buy-sell agreement with his or her partner. These agreements name the partner as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy to allow the buyout of your spouse’s share of the business. Speak to the partner to see if such an agreement was in place.

Take the next step

Is my beneficiary required to take a lump sum payment?

Will my beneficiaries have to pay taxes on the proceeds?

The bottom line

As challenging as losing a spouse may be, it’s important to take steps as necessary to help address your ongoing financial stability.

Collecting Social Security survivor’s benefits

If you have children under the age of 16, or if you are disabled or older than 59, you may begin collecting Social Security survivor’s benefits, as long as your spouse had accumulated enough work credits. The rules can be a little confusing, so speak with a Social Security Administration representative.

Take the next step

Social Security survivor’s benefits

Beneficiary resources

Additional information and support resources for beneficiaries of life insurance policies and annuities can be found here.

The bottom line

As challenging as losing a spouse may be, it’s important to take steps as necessary to help address your ongoing financial stability.

Death of a spouse

Getting married

Getting married

Disability/Serious illness




Caring for aging parents

Caring for
aging parents


Life insurance contains exclusions, limitations, and terms for keeping it in force.  For costs and complete details contact a financial professional.

This information is provided for informational purposes only. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues.

Please be advised that this document is not intended as legal or tax advice.  Accordingly, any tax information provided in this document is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.  The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transaction(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (New York, NY) issues life insurance and annuity products. Securities offered through AXA Advisors, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC. AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company and AXA Advisors are affiliated and do not provide tax or legal advice.

GE 120498 (12/2016)

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