A common question in settling the affairs of a loved one, is how long it generally will take after that person dies for the life insurance company to pay out the death benefit. As a follow-up, what happens if the beneficiary doesn't know about the life insurance policy? The more information you have about the life insurance policy, the quicker you can get the payout.
If you have a copy of the life insurance policy and a copy of the death certificate when you file a claim, it will expedite the process. If you have these items available, it can take as few as five business days after filing the claim to receive the payout. If the beneficiaries don't have any idea that they are coming into money from the life insurance policy, the insurer may track them down, but not always.
The Social Security Death Master File will usually have deaths reported. Some state laws also require insurers to compare their files against those records and make contact with the beneficiaries when a death is reported. Some insurers will do this voluntarily.
If you believe the deceased had a life insurance policy but don't know the insurer, you might review their financial records and check for canceled checks, and contact any insurers or agents mentioned. You can also make a request of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' policy locator service. This service asks many life insurance companies to check their records for the policies. You can also consult with the American Council of Life Insurers for more tips on locating a policy.
Reference: Kiplinger (June 7, 2017) “How to Speed Up a Life Insurance Payout”