Posted on 29 Jun 2010
Paying for an unexpected funeral would be a financial hardship for two out of three Americans, according to a recent national survey by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. To help consumers during one of the stressful points in their lives, The Hartford on Monday is launching Life Conversations Express Pay, a new program that accelerates payment of death benefits for consumers protected by group life insurance policies.
Beneficiaries who use Everest Funeral Planning,a service available to consumers who obtain The Hartford's group life insurance through their employers, can receive death benefits in as little as 48 hours from the date of death. In this innovative new process, The Hartford will accept a certificate of death from a funeral home in lieu of a traditional death certificate, which speeds up the payment of death benefits by several weeks.
"Consumers have told us that they need life insurance to pay for funeral expenses. However, many people don't realize that the traditional payment of death benefits could take a month or longer. We developed a simple but innovative program that combines our quality life insurance products and service with Everest's expertise to deliver real value to consumers," said Ron Gendreau, executive vice president of The Hartford's Group Benefits Division. "In this tough economy, The Hartford is doing what it can to help consumers maximize their benefits. We've updated our group life insurance so that Americans get help when they need it most."
The Hartford's research shows that most people estimate the average cost of a funeral is $8,800. Nearly half of those surveyed (46 percent) said they anticipate using life insurance to pay for an unexpected funeral, and 42 percent said they would use personal savings.
The new expedited death benefits payment process is offered through The Hartford's Life Conversations, a comprehensive suite of end-of-life resources that includes funeral planning, will preparation, estate planning, as well as emotional, financial, and legal support services to beneficiaries. Operating out of a call center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Everest's trained advisors take beneficiaries through the process of planning a funeral and filing a life insurance claim, including the availability of Life Conversations Express Pay.
The death benefit can be expedited in instances where the insured died from natural causes, such as an illness, and the cause of death does not need to be investigated. At the beneficiary's request, the death benefit proceeds can be placed into a Safe Haven account(3)created for the beneficiary, and then a draftbook (similar to a checkbook) is mailed overnight to allow immediate access to funds.
"In a pilot of our new death benefits payment program, consumers told us that they valued our fast turnaround. They said we saved them time, money and stress, and that without our help they would have a difficult time financially," said Gendreau.
Everest's funeral planning offers consumers and their families the resources, information and assistance they need in order to make informed decisions about the funeral process. Everest's advisors can negotiate funeral costs on behalf of the bereaved which can result in $1,250 to $5,500 in savings per funeral, based on the average saving realized by Everest consumers.
"We are pleased to partner with a true innovator and industry leader," said Mark Duffey, president and chief executive officer of Everest. "Together with The Hartford, we are ready to help ease both the emotional and financial burden of losing a loved one."
Additionally, The Hartford's survey found:
-- 53 percent of consumers have obtained life insurance
-- 36 percent have not started end-of-life planning
-- 27 percent have prepared a will
-- 20 percent have created a living will
-- 5 percent have made funeral plans/arrangements.
"Our research indicates consumers continue to need assistance with end-of-life planning. In the year since we successfully launched Life Conversations with Everest, we've listened closely to employers and their employees," Gendreau said. "Based on their feedback, we've designed our group life insurance product and services to help alleviate worry and complexity at a difficult moment in a person's life."