A death benefit can be described as a lump-sum payment that is given to the surviving family members upon the death of a relative. These payments can be secured through either an employment agreement or an insurance contract, and by the laws of the state or federal government.

Death benefit payouts can include money that comes from the deceased’s pension plan, retirement account, and proceeds from life insurance or casualty insurance policies. Some of these benefits, however, may be subject to taxes.

In addition to employment-related death benefits, there are numerous government programs that provide family members with certain death benefits as well. For example, the social security administration may payout $255 to the beneficiary recipients. Death benefits may also be provided to the families of deceased welfare recipients.

Another example permits the survivors of veterans to collect various amounts of lump-sum payments, which will be contingent on the deceased veteran’s status (e.g., active duty versus retired). The government will also pay for a deceased veteran’s funeral and burial expenses.

One other instance where the family members might be entitled to receive lump-sum payments after a relative passes away, is when the deceased relative is considered a government worker, such as railroad or postal workers.

Lastly, some states will even provide death benefits to the survivors of victims of certain crimes.

What Should I Do If I Am Denied Death Benefits That Were Promised to Me?

When a surviving family member has been denied death benefits, the first thing that they should do is determine why they were denied. The answer will serve as a guide for which agency has to be contacted, or whether the decision can even be appealed. Thus, it may also be helpful to understand the appeals process and how to begin it.

Next, the surviving relatives should gather up any evidence that will support a reason for reversing the denial. This may include documents, such as death certificates, insurance policies, receipts for payments or contributions to different plans, and other various items that are connected to the specific claim. 

Although hiring a lawyer is not a necessary step, it is strongly recommended. A lawyer can assist with any of the above processes and may be able to find other ways to have the decision overturned.

Finally, it is important to remember to not only file the appeal, but also to continuously follow-up with the party that is responsible for making the final decision (i.e., to payout the death benefits). 

What are Some Reasons Why My Death Benefits Could Be Denied?

In some instances, the government may deny a deceased’s family members death benefits. This can be especially hard on a family who lost their loved one because they were serving their community (e.g., soldiers, police, or firefighters). 

During a period of hard economic times, both state and federal governments are more likely to attempt to avoid having to pay out the entitled death benefits as a way to save some money. In such cases, the government will read the deceased employee’s contract very closely in order to discover the slightest of reasons to use as a basis for terminating the employee’s death benefits. 

The following are some examples that demonstrate specific scenarios in which the government may attempt to deny surviving relatives the death benefits owed to them. This includes:

  • Denial on the Basis of Duty and Uniform: This refers to the rule that the deceased must be killed in the line of duty, or else their relatives may not be allowed to collect their death benefits.
  • Denial on the Basis of Conception: This denial concerns the law that determines whether or not the deceased’s children (surviving children) can collect.
    • In this case, the child or children may only collect if they were already alive during the deceased’s lifetime. For example, an unborn child may be barred from recovering death benefits if they were not alive before the pertinent relative became deceased.
  • Denial on the Basis of Invalid Marriage: If the government finds that the marriage was coerced, a sham, or entered into due to fraudulent misrepresentations, then the government can decide to terminate the surviving relatives’ death benefits. 
  • Denial on the Basis of Type of Death: If the deceased passed away in a manner that is not covered either under some type of insurance policy or employment contract, then the government may deny the beneficiaries death benefits.

Should I Hire an Attorney for Help If My Death Benefits Have Been Denied?

If you are a family member who is entitled to receive a loved one’s death benefits, but they have been denied, then it may be in your best interest to speak with a qualified business attorney for assistance.

Regardless of whether it is a matter of having to file an appeal, or alternatively, needing to bring a lawsuit against the parties responsible for the denial, a business attorney can help with either process.