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From daycare pickups to family dinners, parenting has its highs (sparkle-covered handprints sent home from school, anyone?) and its lows (OMG why will they not eat broccoli when they loved it last week?).
But the one constant is that you’re constantly trying to navigate tricky waters and protect your family as best as you can.
One way to do that is through life insurance, which would provide your loved ones a financial cushion if you were to pass away unexpectedly. Once you understand how life insurance works and what kind of policy is right for you, the next step is to apply.
But that brings us to a key question: What is on a life insurance application?
Traditionally, you’d have to apply through a life insurance agent who’d often come to your home for a meeting. These days, however, companies like Fabric let you apply online, without needing to talk to an agent, unless you would like to.
Especially if your individual situation is relatively uncomplicated, you could get through the whole application in as little as five or ten minutes, and potentially end up with an offer to purchase then and there.
Life insurance is a contract stating that if you pass away while your policy is active, the insurer will pay a "death benefit" to the beneficiaries you choose. They can use this money to help make ends meet, pay off a mortgage, cover your final expenses and more.
Your needs will depend on your individual situation, but a rough rule of thumb is to aim for a coverage amount that's ten times your current salary.
For a flavor of what’s in store, below are the questions that a typical application asks, along with commentary on what it all means. (These questions come from the application for term life insurance through Fabric.)
Age is a big factor in determining your risk levels—and therefore the price of your policy. That’s because, as you might guess, the older you are, the higher your risk of passing away. This is also a reason that it may make sense to apply while you’re still young and healthy, if you can, as you’ll likely face better prices.
Prices often don’t vary too greatly based on the state where you live, but that is one factor that goes into how much life insurance will cost. Additionally, underwriters (the people who evaluate your application) need to know where you live because insurance laws vary by state.
Your habits and hobbies are relevant to life insurance because they can be an indicator of how much risk you face in your daily life.
These questions include:
In the last 2 years have you, or do you intend in the next 1 year to engage in:
Piloting an aircraft
Sky diving or parachuting
Skin or scuba diving to a depth of greater than 100 feet or cave or ice diving
Motor sport or boat racing traveling at speeds greater than 100 mph
Mountain, rock, or ice climbing greater than 5.0 difficulty
Cave exploration, rodeo, bungee jumping, or heli-skiing
Other questions include:
Have you used tobacco products or products containing nicotine in any form (to include cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cannabis cigarettes, snuff/chew/dip, cigars, pipes, nicotine patch and nicotine gum) in the past 5 years?
In the next 12 months, do you intend to live or travel outside the U.S. or Canada? (This question can vary depending on what state you live in.)
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, pled guilty or no contest to a felony, or been charged with a violation of any criminal law that is still pending?
In the last 10 years, have you been convicted of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or do you currently have a revoked or suspended license?
In the last three years, have you pled guilty or been convicted of three or more moving violations?
Insurers need to ask personal health questions to help the underwriters try to determine your risk of dying sooner than expected. And as you might guess, your health is a big part of that equation.
Generally speaking, women tend to have a longer life expectancy than men, and a lower risk of dying compared to men at the same age. As a result, life insurance rates for women tend to be a bit lower than for men. That’s why, although gender is a complicated construct, life insurers generally are asking what gender you were assigned at birth. (Here’s what you should know about applying for life insurance if you’re transgender.)
Although BMI is not a perfect proxy for your health, it is correlated statistically with mortality and the risk of other problems. That’s why many underwriters use your height and weight for a rough sense of whether you’re overweight, which is often associated with or an indicator of other factors.
They ask this question because it could indicate a medical or lifestyle problem. For example, if you lost 15 pounds due to an illness, the underwriters would want to know about it; if you gained significant weight due to other issues, that’s relevant too.
However, if your weight gain or loss was related to being pregnant, that doesn’t mean your application will be denied. Underwriters understand that it’s normal to gain weight in pregnancy (and to lose it following pregnancy), so they’ll simply ask you a few questions about your pre- and post-pregnancy weight. As long as you’re having a healthy pregnancy, it’s probable you would be approved at the same rate as if you weren’t pregnant.
For obvious reasons, most insurers ask some variant of the following questions:
In the last 10 years, have you been diagnosed or treated by a medical professional for any of the following:
Lung or respiratory
Stomach or gastrointestinal disorder
Kidney, bladder, liver or prostate disorder
Brain or nervous system disorder
Diabetes or other lymph/glandular
Skin, muscle, joint, or bone disorder
Disorder of the eye or ear, any impaired sight or hearing, or allergic reactions
Tumor, cancer, anemia, or blood disorder; AIDS or AIDS-related conditions
Are you now under observation or receiving treatment or counseling by a medical professional?
This catch-all question aims to understand your insurance application history, and whether there might be other issues with your insurability.
Underwriters want a sense of how often you see the doctor, and if you’re having the routine screenings recommended. If you have seen a doctor in the last year, the application will ask for your doctor’s details so the underwriters have the option of asking your doctor for medical records, if needed.
These might include:
Has a biological parent or sibling died or been diagnosed or treated by a medical professional for heart disease, stroke, or cancer prior to the age of 60?
Have you ever received medical treatment or been counseled for alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or addiction?
Have you ever used amphetamines, heroin, narcotics, barbiturates, cocaine, hallucinogens, cannabis or any drugs except those prescribed by a physician?
Note that societal norms around marijuana have changed a lot in recent years, especially as it’s become legal in many places. There’s no standard procedure for how insurers view pot use, but many insurers are starting to adapt their underwriting processes to update how they view marijuana use. (Here’s more on how smoking pot might affect your ability to get life insurance.)
Life insurance underwriters ask about your employment for a few reasons. First, statistically, having stable finances is associated with a reduced risk of mortality. Second, they want to know about what you do for a living because some professions are physically riskier than others.
Are you currently employed?
What’s your occupation?
What is your annual salary?
Knowing how much you make can help life insurance underwriters determine what amount of coverage you’re financially eligible for. In particular, many experts recommend a coverage amount of around five to ten times your annual salary. (Here’s more on how much life insurance you might need.)
Insurance providers are often required by law to ask you about any existing life insurance policies or applications.
Do you have any pending or existing life insurance policies or annuity contracts?
Do you have any applications for life insurance now pending?
Do you intend to replace, discontinue or change any existing life insurance or annuity contracts with the applied-for policy?
What is the purpose of the insurance?
When it comes to the “purpose” of the insurance, you have the opportunity to select whether you’re applying for insurance in order to protect your family, or whether you’re doing it to protect your business. If you are applying for insurance to protect your business, you’ll be asked additional questions such as the details of how you’ll use the insurance—for example, “key man” insurance can cover a business partner or a top employee whose loss would deeply hurt your company—and your company’s financial situation.
These questions are primarily intended to help validate your identity—that you are who you say you are.
Do you have a valid driver's license?
If you don’t, they’ll want to know why. For example, if you can’t drive because your license got revoked or your medical condition prohibits you from driving, that’s info that underwriters will need to know. Alternatively, if you do have an active driver’s license, underwriters may take a look at your driving record. After all, safe drivers have a lower risk of mortality.
Other questions include:
Are you a U.S. citizen?
Social Security number
This is the person (or people) who you’re getting insurance to help protect in the first place.
An underwriter needs to confirm that your beneficiary has an “insurable interest,” which means that they’d suffer a financial loss if you, the insured, passes away. (In other words, no, you couldn’t just randomly take out a life insurance policy on Beyonce even if you’ve never met her.)
If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance the beneficiary is your spouse and/or children, both of whom pass the “insurable interest” test.
So, on the application, you’ll be asked for your beneficiary’s full name and that person’s relationship to you. You’ll also be asked to add their date of birth and Social Security number in order for the insurance company to confirm that the death benefit is being paid to the right person.
These may seem like a lot of questions, but many people can actually get through them all in about ten minutes—especially if they have a relatively uncomplicated personal situation.
One crucial point: You must be totally honest on your application. If you fudge any of your personal information or misrepresent yourself, your policy could be voided.
That means that if, for example, you were to pass away from emphysema but said you were a nonsmoker on your life insurance application, the insurer could launch an investigation. If they found out that you had intentionally misrepresented yourself on your application, your family might not receive the death benefit you’d been hoping for. Insurers typically have a two-year "contestability period" in which the life insurance agency can investigate claims.
Weighty stuff, we know. But as long as you’re honest, the claims process should be a smooth one if you were to pass away. As long as your cause of death is covered (for example, many term policies have limitations on paying a benefit for suicides within the first two years), your loved ones should receive their benefit—and receive that much more breathing room.
Yes. In fact, the questions above come from Fabric's term life insurance online application!
Many companies, including Fabric, now let you apply online rather than through an agent. In some cases you might need to hop on the phone or answer an email from an underwriter who has questions about your application. There's also a chance you may need to take an in-person health exam.
The time it takes to be approved for life insurance can vary from person to person. That said, Fabric has the ability to make an offer to many applicants immediately online, without an exam.
In most cases, applications will go through life insurance underwriting, the process of figuring out how much risk your profile represents. That will let the underwriters determine whether the insurer can offer you a policy, and if so, for how much.
Many term life insurance policies are medically underwritten, which means that they take your health situation into consideration. This could mean taking a life insurance health exam, though it's worth noting that many companies are now offering no-exam policies that give you a chance to skip the health check while still receiving competitive rates.
If your term life insurance online application is approved, you'll have the opportunity to purchase and start coverage. If the underwriters determined that you're at a different health class than the one you expected, your rate might differ from any quotes you've received. That could be the result of the application and the underwriting process of learning more about you.
If you applied through Fabric, you should feel free to reach out to customer support, where our licensed agents can talk to you about your options. If you accept your offer, you'll receive the terms of the agreement, and you'll be able to access your policy details through Fabric's online portal and mobile app, as well.
If the insurer can't make you an offer of coverage, you have a few options. First, you can try applying with a different company whose underwriting guidelines are more liberal.
You might also have to pay more for a pricier policy in order to secure coverage. In some cases that might include guaranteed issue insurance, which costs more and may have more fine print but doesn't take your health into consideration in the underwriting process.
Whether you can receive coverage and at what rate will depend on a lot of factors. Some of those include but aren't limited to:
Any dangerous hobbies
The policy term and coverage amount you choose
At the end of the day, applying for life insurance is important. If you can get through another fight about whether your kid will eat his vegetables, you can do this.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.
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