If the last policy payment was missed before your spouse passed away, you will need to know whether or not the policy has lapsed. There are safety measures in place known as NFOs (Non-Forfeiture Options) that begin when a premium isn’t paid. If you have a permanent policy, then the NFO could include something referred to as an applied premium loan. That type of action results in the cash value of your policy being used to pay for the monthly premium; therefore, preventing the policy from lapsing. Another safety mechanism that may be utilized is that of a waiver of premium. The waiver or premium must be activated by a spouse before their death, and would also require that no premium be paid.
Beyond those measures there are other options for spouses, even if the policy has been unpaid or lapsed. Most policies will require that the provider at least pay the amount of cash that has accrued in the policy. If you are still uncertain about what all this means to you, then contact the insurance company and explain your concerns. Be prepared to offer them a copy of the official death certificate so that they can add it to their records as well. If your name is not on the policy, the insurance company will most likely not give any information to you until they know for sure that your spouse has passed away.