Life insurance is regulated according to the state in which it is purchased, and policy specifics vary from one insurance company to another. For most insurance companies, suicide may be perceived as an attempt to generate funds for the surviving family members and ruled out as insurance fraud, particularly if the policy was taken out shortly before the suicide. For this reason, insurance companies are reluctant to pay any claim that resembles suicide, and you may need to provide convincing evidence that suicide was not intended before they will settle the claim.
Some life insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for suicide. Those insurance companies regard suicide as a way of defaulting on the contract, effectively taking a shortcut to receive the proceeds of the policy rather than allowing your life to take the natural course. Since the insurance company calculates risk based on a natural lifespan, suicide effectively cheats the insurance provider.
Most life insurance policies will pay for a suicide if it occurs after the policy has been in effect for a specific period of time. This period is usually 2 years, but each company can define the time period differently. How long the policy has to be in force before a suicide is covered will be detailed in your policy. If the person commits suicide before that time has elapsed, the policy is voided and the payout will be denied.
While it is uncommon, most suicide methods can occur through accidental death, even such events as accidental hanging or cutting a major artery. The family can either try to convince the adjuster that the death was not suicide or appeal the case after the claim has been denied, which usually amounts to convincing the adjuster and a panel of experts after the denial decision has been made.