The death of a parent is unavoidably hard. Even if the death was expected, or even a relief as is sometimes the case with long illnesses, the emotional blow is real and sometimes debilitating. Beyond grief, the logistics of a parent's death can be overwhelming, especially with sorrow putting you at less than your resourceful best. Claiming your parent's life insurance is one logistical detail, which, fortunately, can be very easy if done right.
Find a copy of the insurance policy. If you can't find one, call the insurance company. The company will be able to send you a new copy, although this process might require you to jump through a few hoops.
Confirm that you are the beneficiary of the policy. A beneficiary is the person who gets the insurance payout. Some policies are written with "estate" as the beneficiary, in which case the insurance payout is added to your parent's estate and handled the same as the rest of the assets.
Contact the insurance company. Most insurance companies have an entire department that serves policy claims. The company will have a specific procedure for you to follow in order to prove your parent has died and that you are the person who gets the money. If your parent worked with an insurance agent, contact that agent directly. He will be able to help you navigate this process.
Gather any documents the insurance company requires. This will often include personal identification for you and some kind of proof of death. In some cases, this will mean your parent's death certificate. In others, the company will have a special form. Some companies require both.
Fill out any forms the company requires. Fax them in or turn them in personally to your parent's insurance agent. Keep dated copies for your records. If faxing, call in to confirm that the fax was received and complete.
Wait for your payment. Each company will have a window, sometimes a few weeks or even a few months, it commits to for paying out benefits. As you reach the end of that window, make phone calls every week to confirm that the payment is coming.
This whole process will go much easier if you know where your parent's insurance policy is. This is a conversation best held while your parent is still healthy and alive. Better yet, make a photocopy of the policy and keep it in your records.