Life insurance comes with a lot of questions. What type you need, how much coverage you should get, and what term length makes sense based on your finances and life stage. Once you’ve figured out which policy is your best fit, you’ll probably be eager to get coverage in place as soon as possible.
But how soon is realistic to expect?
Your life insurance coverage timeline can depend on what type of insurance (and even what type of application) you choose. Here’s how soon you can expect for your policy to be approved and your coverage to go into effect.
When you’re ready to get life insurance, you probably have loved ones in mind you want to protect, and you want that protection to start right this second. Fortunately, while “instantaneous” is a high bar to meet, there are policy options that can offer (almost) immediate approval.
Some life insurance policies available through Fabric use a process called accelerated underwriting, meaning you can “skip the line” of a typical medical exam. You might get approved in a matter of minutes. Accelerated underwriting offers competitive premiums, because the application still gathers health information. The secret sauce is a set of algorithms that can review eligible applications super fast without needing to involve a human underwriter.
As soon as your policy goes into effect, you’re set. Coverage kicks in immediately, and you can enjoy the accomplishment of putting another financial tool in place to protect your family. That said, not everyone who applies for accelerated underwriting can be approved on the spot, so some of them may need to spend more time answering questions or possibly receiving a medical exam after all.
Many traditional policies for term or whole life insurance use full medical underwriting to consider an application. You can expect to go through an in-person medical exam and answer lots of questions about your health history, employment information, driving history and lifestyle habits. A professional underwriter looks over all the information and uses actuarial tables to help translate your overall profile to a particular risk category.
All this analysis means it typically takes a few weeks for an underwriter to complete their assessment of an application and for you to get official approval for your policy. Waiting isn’t fun, but many families feel like it’s worthwhile to secure the best available rates to fit their overall profile.
An underwriter’s job is to determine how the real, unique person represented on a life insurance application fits into actuarial tables and risk categories. As you may guess, there are sometimes people who don’t easily fit the mold. If an underwriter wants to get you the best coverage and premium rates for your risk, they may need to do extra legwork to understand your health or other factors.
If you’re on the border between risk categories, or the underwriter notices a possible discrepancy in information, it can take longer to review your application. Underwriters review public records and the Medical Information Bureau to gather information. They may ask you to provide your prescription history or a statement from your doctor to explain a condition and your treatment plan. Underwriters may even email directly or request a phone call with you to clarify parts of your application.
These extra steps add time before the underwriter can make a decision on your application. You may be able to help by planning ahead when you start your application process. If you know there’s some complexity in your health background, it might make sense to prepare to ask your physician for a statement, and be ready to nudge if it’s taking a while. The sooner you can help a life insurance company gather additional materials, the faster you can get a final decision on your policy.
Certain life insurance policies don’t require underwriting for approval. Simplified issue insurance typically requires you to answer a brief health questionnaire. Guaranteed issue insurance typically doesn’t ask health questions at all. These types of insurance can approve policies lightning-fast—with an important catch. Your actual coverage may not start until years after your policy goes into effect.
Policies that offer coverage to almost anyone are higher risk for the insurance company. One way insurers offset the risk is to charge higher premiums. Another is to have a waiting period before the full coverage kicks in. For certain policies, that means for a period of up to two years, the life insurance company may not pay your beneficiary the death benefit if you pass away. Instead, they typically would repay any premiums you’ve paid into the policy, plus interest. It’s good to know your money’s not wasted, but it’s also important to keep in mind that getting a $25,000 policy a few months before you pass away may not leave loved ones with the benefit you’d hoped.
If you’re buying life insurance, it’s because you see it as a good thing that adds peace of mind and a financial back-up option for your family. Who wouldn’t want a good thing to fall into place faster?
Often, getting life insurance through a faster, more convenient process can truly be the better way to go. If you have the ability to complete an application online rather than print and mail forms, or potentially skip medical exams and get immediate approval, you can get coverage and enjoy a streamlined process.
In other cases, a good thing can also be worth the wait. If underwriters need to take the extra time to consider your particular details, ask questions and work to find you the best coverage and rates they can offer, some waiting can pay off in the long run. Even if another policy might approve you faster (such as a simplified or guaranteed life insurance policy), if there’s a waiting period for full coverage or expensive premiums, you might prefer to wait a few weeks to see if you can get traditional term or whole life coverage.
Various factors play into finding the right life insurance fit. How long it takes to feel protected by a policy is one of them. If you go into your application knowing what to expect, you can feel more relaxed in the process.
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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