Collecting On Life Insurance Policies
When a permanent life insurance policy lapses, most insurance companies switch its status from permanent insurance to one of two options:
"Extended term": The insurance company uses the cash value of the policy to buy a term life insurance policy for the same death benefit using the cash value of the policy. The death benefit will continue for the longest period the cash value will purchase.
"Reduced paid up": The insurance company will keep the policy in force permanently, but will reduce the death benefit.
If the policy lapses, and the extended-term period expires before the insured dies, the policy is worthless and the life insurance beneficiary will get nothing. If the insured dies before the extended-term period is up, the beneficiary will receive the death benefit. If the policy lapsed because the insured died (thus ending premium payments and causing the insurance to be placed in extended-term status), the beneficiary will still collect the full death benefit, regardless of when the extended term was up. The beneficiary always needs to supply the insurance company with a death certificate to verify the date of death.
There is no time limit during which a life insurance beneficiary must step forward to collect the money. If a person shows up 30 years after the insured's death, the company will still make good on it.