Death Claim FAQs

Here are a few commonly asked questions about death claims.

What if I receive payment for a participant after his or her death?

It is very common for a periodic monthly benefit to continue to be paid after the death of a participant. This is because John Hancock is typically notified of death during the month after the participant’s passing and a benefit payment has already been released. If this occurs, please call 1-800-624-5155 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time. We will instruct you on how to handle the post-death payments. The handling treatment will depend when the payments were issued and if a continuing benefit is due.

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Why can't I choose a death benefit settlement option?

When the participant completed the Benefit Election Form upon retirement, he or she elected the type of benefit, including whether the benefit was to be payable only to him or her, or whether subsequent payments or continuation of a benefit would be due to a spouse or contingent annuitant upon the participant’s death.

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How can the death of a participant result in no death benefit due?

Whether or not a death benefit is due is based on the terms of the group annuity contract and the benefit option chosen by the participant when he or she commenced retirement benefits. Once a benefit option is chosen, it cannot be changed. As the beneficiary or contingent annuitant, you cannot change or elect a benefit option.

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What if a participant passes away before receiving any payments?

The group contract holder purchased a retirement benefit under the group annuity contract for a specified group of participants. In the event that the participant never elected a retirement benefit and passed away prior to receiving benefits, there still may be a death benefit due. The death benefits are determined based on the contract provisions for this scenario. However, generally, unpaid retirement benefits will be payable to the deceased participant’s estate, or to his or her spouse, depending on the terms of the group annuity contract.

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Can all of the claim paperwork be faxed in?

Yes. Paperwork can be sent to John Hancock via fax at 1-617-572-0355; however, John Hancock reserves the right to require original claim paperwork at any point during the claim process. For security purposes, we cannot accept emailed versions of the claim forms or documents needed to settle the claim.

 
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When do I need to complete IRS Form W-9 versus IRS Form W-8BEN?

As part of the claim settlement process, each beneficiary must submit an IRS Form W-9. If a beneficiary is not a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, an IRS Form W-8BEN must be submitted instead. Please refer to the instructions on Forms W-8BEN and W-9 on how to properly complete each form. You can obtain both forms on the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

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When and why do I have to probate the estate?

When used in connection with probate proceedings, the term "estate" encompasses the total property that is owned by a decedent prior to the distribution of that property in accordance with the terms of a will, or when there is no will, by the laws of intestacy (inheritance) in the state of residence of the decedent. If benefits are payable to the estate of the participant, the participant’s estate may have to be probated. Since every state is different as to what encompasses the total property that is owned by a decedent, it is best to consult a professional.

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What qualifies as a "small estate"?

Small estate affidavits are an alternative to a full formal probate of an estate. They may be available to family members when the assets, liens, and encumbrances of the estate are under a certain statutory dollar amount, which varies by jurisdiction. When available, small estate affidavits are a method of small estate administration for estates ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 or even higher, depending on state law. In some states an affidavit can be executed by the spouse and/or heirs of the deceased and this affidavit can be presented to the holder of property (such as a bank or insurance company) to claim property of the deceased. Other states require the affidavit be filed with the court.

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When will my claim be processed once you have received all of the necessary forms and documents? Will I receive a statement when it's paid?

Claims are generally processed within three business days once all of the necessary forms and documents are received in good order. A confirmation letter will be sent with the claim payment.

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If I am a former spouse of the deceased, why do you require a divorce decree?

If the marital status is "Divorced" on the Death Certificate, we require a complete copy, including any amendments, of the Qualified Domestic Relation Order (QDRO) or Domestic Relations Order (DRO) in order to determine if there is a death benefit due under the group annuity contract.

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