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Understanding NRI Life Insurance Claim Process

TeamAckoMay 13, 2024

Making a life insurance claim can be challenging for NRI policyholders residing abroad. However, insurers today offer simplified claiming with enhanced assistance to families in India to expedite due payouts. Understanding the claim procedures, documentation requirements as per policy types, online facilities, and settlement timelines is key. A seamless claiming process brings much-needed financial aid to beneficiaries coping with loss, helping them move forward.

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What are Life Insurance Claims?

A life insurance claim is the process through which the policyholder or the policy's beneficiaries formally notify the insurance provider of an event that triggers the policy payout. This payout is the assured amount that the insurer is legally bound to transfer to the legitimate beneficiaries upon the occurrence of claim-triggering contingencies.

For most life insurance covers, the primary claimable event is the insured person's death during the policy tenure. This could be due to natural causes, accidents, illnesses, etc. In such events, the insured person’s nominee/appointee or family members should initiate a formal claim request with the insurer.

This would involve intimating the insurer of the death through a standardised claim form. Other mandatory documents like death certificate proofs, medical reports, police reports, etc., would also need to be submitted as part of this claims process.

NRI Life Insurance Claim Process: Overview 

NRI means an Indian-born person with an Indian passport who has been living abroad for an extended period. The determining factor is the number of days spent outside India in a financial year. NRI differs from PIO (Person of Indian Origin), a foreign national with Indian ancestry and no Indian passport. 

Example: Rajesh, an Indian citizen living in the US with an Indian passport, is NRI. Sarah, born and raised in London with Indian ancestry, is a PIO with UK citizenship.

Let’s understand NRI life insurance claims with an example: 

Raj, a software engineer in the US, purchased a term life policy in India worth Rs 1 crore at age 30 by paying an annual premium of Rs 10,000. Unfortunately, Raj meets with a fatal accident at age 40. His wife Riya would now have to make a death claim with the insurance company to receive the sum assured amount.

She would inform the insurer of Raj's demise by submitting documents like a death certificate, identity proof, policy bond, and FIR copies as claim triggers. The insurer would validate all documents and launch claim processing protocols.

This involves aspects like verification of the death cause, its circumstances through hospital records, and conducting a post-mortem if required before finalising the claim. After confirming claim validity, the agreed assured amount of Rs 1 crore would be wired to Riya's account in India within 30 days as per the insurer's terms. This payment represents the successful life insurance claim settled by the company to support the deceased's beneficiaries.

The overall claim initiation, compliance, and payment receipt stages involved comprise the standard claim processing procedure whenever the contingency term policy was designed for arises.

How Does NRI Life Insurance Claims Work?

When an NRI policyholder unfortunately passes away during the policy coverage duration, the nominee/beneficiary should initiate the life insurance claim process. One will have to inform the insurer within 90 days and submit documents like purchase proof, death certificate, and identity evidence through online/offline modes.

The insurer then investigates the cause of death, verifies documents thoroughly, and may interview the claimant before processing the request based on merits. Once satisfied, underwriters approve the settlement, and the declared sum assured amount is directly transferred to the claimant's local account generally within 1-2 months, subject to policy T&Cs. Reaching out to overseas assistance desks could expedite this process.

Types of Life Insurance Policies For NRIs

NRIs can buy insurance plans like Term, Endowment, and Money-back policies, which cater to their specific needs and provide flexibility and affordability — alongside financial stability in challenging times.

Term Insurance Plans

  • NRIs can choose Term Insurance plans, which offer coverage for a specific term, ranging from 10 to 30 years

  • Choose a sizable life coverage amount as per family income replacement needs

  • The premium remains unchanged annually based on entry age for the entire coverage duration

  • Perfect for financially securing dependents like children and spouses against loss of income

  • Add-ons like accidental death and disability covers can enhance protection

Endowment Policies

  • Endowment policies combine life insurance and savings, where the policyholder receives maturity proceeds at the end of the term.

  • Offer life coverage for pre-defined periods like 10, 15 or 20 years

  • Maturity benefits in the form of lumpsum payouts are guaranteed if the insured survives full-term

  • Built-in savings component that forces policyholders to save systematically

  • A helpful source for financing future goals like children’s global higher education

  • Can be customised with premium paying variants as per affordability

Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs)

  • Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) offer investment and insurance components, allowing policyholders to invest in various funds.

  • Lock-in capital for medium to long-term wealth creation while enjoying life cover

  • Investment fund portfolio includes equity, debts, money markets across cap sizes

  • Returns directly linked to capital market performance over tenure

  • Changing asset allocation between funds allowed to balance risks

  • Ideal for high-risk appetite young earners below 45 years

Whole Life Policies

  • Whole-life policies offer lifetime coverage and may have a monetary value that can be borrowed against or withdrawn.

  • Enable policyholders to achieve financial security across their entire lifetime.

  • Builds up a steady cash value that can be borrowed against in emergencies

  • Useful legacy planning and estate transfer tool for wealthy individuals

  • Premiums structured to suit continuity ease for policyholders

Pension Plans

  • Pension plans help build a retirement corpus with regular investments and provide annuity payments after retirement.

  • Vesting mostly aligned to typical retirement age milestones

  • Systematic vesting withdrawals using in-built savings corpus creation

  • Corpus is also passed on to beneficiaries in case of sudden demise post-retirement

  • Ensure financially independent sunset years of life

Choose wisely based on financial needs, investment goals, and risk appetite, as each policy has advantages and disadvantages.

Documentation for NRI Life Insurance Claim

Here are the documents that may be required to file a claim.

1. Original Policy Document

NRI life insurance claims require the original policy document. The original policy document is the legal contract signed between the insurer and policyholder, proving the existence of active insurance coverage. It captures critical details like:

  • Name of the insured members

  • Assured sum or total coverage amount

  • Premium payment terms

  • Policy validity tenure

  • Claims processing guidelines

  • Exclusion clauses

Submitting this vital document establishes the bonafide of the claimant to proceed with the settlement requests rightfully. It is crucial to keep the documents safe and accessible to speed up investigations and benefit disbursements.

2. Death Certificate

The death certificate is a legally recognised document that confirms the following:

  • The exact date of demise of the policyholder

  • The location where the death event occurred

  • Medical cause and circumstances that resulted in death

  • Photograph of the deceased policyholder

  • Appropriate attestation, if issued by foreign authorities

This document allows insurers to tally policy validity based on the term and assess claim admissibility factors appropriately. Unnatural deaths may require post-mortem reports and FIR. Keep all documents handy during the claims process.

3. Proof of Identity

You need ID and address proof of the deceased and beneficiary to claim NRI life insurance. The proof of identity establishes that:

  • The claimant was rightfully named as a nominee by the deceased account holder

  • Confirm their full legal name and age

  • Supports any relationship declarations with the now-deceased member

  • Enables insurers to endorse payouts to appropriate beneficiary

  • Documents like passports, PAN cards, or driving licenses can be valid KYC proofs.

All documents should be accurate and up-to-date to avoid delays or rejection of claims.

4. Decree Absolute ( if a spouse makes a claim)

The spouse making an NRI life insurance claim may require a Decree Absolute document. NRIs need to be aware of Indian laws regarding who can receive benefits from their life insurance policy after a divorce. Consult with a financial advisor/lawyer to protect assets and ensure funds go where intended. Keep documents up-to-date and accessible for unexpected events like illness or untimely death. 

The decree absolute issued by the court establishes:

  • Date of dissolution of marriage legally

  • Rights of parties post-divorce

  • Any special insurance proceeds considerations

  • This upholds the spouse's authority to claim policy benefits.

5. Succession Certificate

NRIs must apply to court and provide relevant documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates to prove their claim. In situations without explicit beneficiary nomination or disputes, the succession certificate by the court clarifies the following:

  • The accurate heir hierarchy as per the relationship

  • Seniority for considering claim eligibility

  • Resolves conflict between claimant groups

  • Ensures settlement as per legal heir chronology

Claim Settlement Process for NRIs

Before choosing an insurance policy from an Indian company, evaluate the tax consequences, advantages, and other considerations.

1. Intimation of death to the insurance company

Be aware of specific timelines for intimation and documents required by the insurer, such as a medical certificate or police report. To avoid complications, familiarise yourself with policy terms and conditions and ensure smoother claims.

2. Submission of necessary documents and forms

The following documents may be required to file a claim.

  • Claim form: A completed and signed form submitted to the insurer.

  • Original policy document: The original and a photocopy. If lost, an indemnity bond is needed.

  • Death certificate: An original or attested certificate from a local authority.

  • Medical certificates: Submit copies of hospital records and medical certificates (if applicable) showing treatment given before death.

  • Employer certificate (if applicable): For accidental death cases, submit a copy of the FIR lodged with the police station and the employer's certificate stating no negligence by the employee.

  • Postmortem report (if applicable): Submit a postmortem report in case of sudden or accidental deaths.

  • Address and identity proof: Provide current address proof and valid ID proof such as passport, driving licence, or PAN card copy.

  • GST exemption form (if applicable): Relevant documents to get a refund for taxes paid in India.

  • Questionnaire (if applicable): Additional questionnaires to be filled out by nominees/beneficiaries providing necessary information.

3. Claim investigation by the insurer

The process can take up to three months, and additional documents may be requested for clarification.

4. Approval and disbursement of the claim amount

 Here are key points to remember.

  • Claim amount: The insurance company disburses the claim amount to the nominee/beneficiary within a stipulated time frame, in Rupees or foreign currency as per policy terms.

  • Deductions: The insurer may deduct charges such as service tax, CESS, or any outstanding dues the policyholder owes at death.

  • Multiple nominees: With multiple nominees, the claim amount will be divided based on their respective shares as per the policy document.

  • Verification: If discrepancies or inconsistencies are found, the insurer may request additional documents/information from the nominee or beneficiary.

  • Payment options: The insurer may offer lump-sum payment, instalments, or annuity payouts based on policy terms and conditions.

Remember, timely submission of required documents and accurate information can help expedite the NRI life insurance claim settlement process.

Tax Implications On Life Insurance Claims For NRIs In India

NRIs can claim tax benefits on their investment in life insurance policies in India. Still, checking tax provisions at each stage of the policy life cycle is crucial. 

Life Insurance Death Benefit and maturity proceeds are exempt from taxation for Indian citizens, regardless of their country of residence. NRIs can claim tax benefits on life insurance premiums under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, up to Rs.1.5 lakh per annum. Death benefits beneficiaries receive are also tax-free under Section 10(10D). 

  • If the NRI themselves are both the proposer and policyholder who paid all premiums, then life cover claims up to Rs 1 crore are tax-exempt as per rules. However, if the total premium paid by NRI exceeds 50% of the sum assured for policies issued before 2020 or 30% for newer ones, only the premium deposit surplus amount would be tax-free, whereas the balance is taxed.

  • For resident relatives who were policyholders and had assigned policy rights to their NRI family members, the entire claim proceeds may be taxable by the NRI assignee or claimant.

  • Additionally, for traditional instruments, if the deceased NRI owned endowment or money-back plans for over 3 years and bonuses get paid to the claimant, the maturity benefits are not taxed until a gain threshold. For unit-linked policies, capital gains tax exemptions may apply if withdrawal is post 3 years or on route to the financer.

Therefore, parameters like policy ownership, residency status, premiums paid, sum assured ratio, and holding periods of instruments determine the incidence of taxes, if any. Availing 80C deductions on contributions to aids tax efficiency. NRIs must assess factors before finalising instruments.

Benefits of Life Insurance to NRIs

Here is a list of benefits offered under life insurance policies to NRIs.

  • Maturity Benefits: Endowment or money-back plans provide a sum assured (plus bonuses) at maturity, serving as a long-term savings vehicle for financial goals.

  • Flexibility in Payment Options: Most insurers offer flexible payment options for premiums, making it helpful for individuals without regular income streams.

  • Guaranteed Returns: Traditional life insurance policies with guaranteed returns provide a secure way to grow wealth without risk.

  • Continuation of Cover: NRIs can continue paying premiums and renewing their Indian life insurance policies even after moving abroad.

  • Multiple Currency Options: Some insurers offer policies where premium payments can be made in foreign currencies, eliminating the need for conversion rates or remitting money back to India.

  • Life Stage Planning Riders: Critical illness cover or accidental death benefit riders provide additional coverage during specific stages in one's life.

Investing in Indian life insurance policies while residing abroad is brilliant, as policies often come with attractive features tailored for NRIs.

Conclusion

Life insurance is pivotal for NRIs in comprehensively securing families' financial interests. Selecting suitable policies after informed evaluation of aspects like tenure, riders, premium flexibility, and ownership-linked tax implications is key. Streamlined overseas assistance across purchase, servicing, and claims processes by insurers also aids protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about the NRI Life Insurance claim process.

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What is NRI life insurance?

NRI life insurance is a type of life insurance policy designed for non-resident Indians (NRIs) who want to protect their families financially in case of their untimely death.

How long does it take to process an NRI life insurance claim?

According to the Insurance Regulation and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), for death claims, if an investigation is not required, the claim should be settled or rejected within 30 days of receipt of the last necessary document. If an investigation is required, it should be completed within 90 days of receipt of claim intimation and the claim should be settled within 30 days thereafter.

Can an NRI claim life insurance in India?

Yes, NRIs can claim life insurance in India. However, they need to ensure that they have a valid policy and all the required documents to file a claim. It is also important to note that the claim process may take longer for NRIs compared to residents of India.

What documents do NRIs need to file life insurance claims from abroad?

Key documents needed are death certificates, purchase proofs, claimant identity/age proofs, legal heir certificates, and medical/police reports as applicable per company guidelines.

How can NRIs buy life policies while residing overseas?

Online purchases, visit-time direct purchases, and authorising India-based relatives are convenient channels to buy NRI-focused life plans from abroad.

Do life insurance riders also cover disability or critical illness risks for NRI policyholders?

Yes, riders for accelerated benefits offer additional coverage for risks like disabilities, accidents, or the diagnosis of major illnesses.

Is tax applicable on NRI life insurance claim settlements in India?

Parameters like ownership, premiums paid, and sum assured ratios determine taxability. Submissions like 80C proofs also impact incidence guided by prevailing rules.

Can documents be emailed to process NRI life policy claims?

Many insurers today offer email submission of scanned documents and online tracking of claims status for faster processing.

How does buying life insurance aid NRIs in managing assets in India?

Adequate covers help repay outstanding debt or taxes to enable the smooth transfer of property assets to legal heirs.

Do NRIs require medical check-ups to purchase term insurance plans?

Basic term plans may only need declarations beyond age thresholds, but higher covers may require medical test submissions.

Can NRI term policy tenure be extended after purchase?

Certain insurers allow tenure extensions on renewals to align with new responsibilities. Premium costs may differ based on attained age.

Is the life insurance maturity amount taxable income for NRI policyholders?

Tax exemptions can apply to the maturity benefits of traditional plans held for over 3 years or ULIPs beyond 5 years of tenure, meeting norms.

How does buying life insurance overseas compare with health insurance?

Both serve different roles. Life insurance enables financial aid to dependents on demise overseas. Health policies mitigate hospitalisation costs locally.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on industry experience and several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes.

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