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Life insurance helps provide valuable protection when a family member dies. But it can take time for coverage to take effect. This means your loved ones might not be protected during the life insurance waiting period.
So, how long does it take to get life insurance, and how can you get coverage relatively quickly? Here's what to know.
How Waiting Periods Work
Insurance companies pay out death benefits when an insured person dies. Because of this, insurers evaluate policies carefully to better understand the risk of death and prevent insurance fraud. Waiting periods provide time for your insurance company to review your health and other factors before approving your policy.
In addition to any delays in coverage, exclusions may apply. For instance, death by suicide or self-inflicted injuries is typically not covered within the first two years after a policy is issued.
How Long Does It Take to Get Life Insurance?
The timeline for buying insurance depends partly on what type of policy you buy. Some policies offer coverage almost immediately after you pay a premium, while others delay coverage.
Life insurance policies often require thorough underwriting. The insurance company will review your health history, motor vehicle record and other factors that inform pricing and approval. If you're in good health, that process might be worth the wait because you may get approved with premiums that may be more affordable.
After submitting an application and paying your first premium, you might qualify for temporary conditional coverage immediately. But you need to meet specific requirements for this benefit. If you don't meet the criteria, you'll typically have to wait for the insurer to conduct a review, although you can explore alternative types of insurance with faster coverage.
Full underwriting can take some time. If the insurer finds anything that disqualifies you, your coverage does not take effect, and your beneficiaries would not get a death benefit if you die during this waiting period.
Different Forms of Coverage
Some insurance policies do not involve a health review or detailed questionnaire, so in some cases, you can get coverage quickly. You can often buy these policies yourself online, by phone or by mail. Life insurance may also be available through your job.
With simplified issue policies, you may only need to answer a relatively short list of health questions and pay the first premium to qualify for coverage. However, the insurance company does not have complete visibility into your health. As a result, you may pay higher premiums than a healthy person would pay for a fully underwritten policy.
Policies that offer accelerated underwriting may have other limitations — which makes sense, given the fact that they may appeal to those with health issues. For example, the maximum death benefit might be relatively small. For the biggest death benefits, you may need to undergo a full health review.
You need to satisfy eligibility requirements to get life insurance through your job. In some cases, you may be covered as soon as you begin working. In other cases, your employer may use a life insurance waiting period of up to 90 days.
The Bottom Line
Life insurance provides critical protection for you and your loved ones. It can be helpful to buy coverage when you're young and healthy, which typically results in the lowest premiums you can qualify for. That approach also provides plenty of time for insurers to review your health.
Whenever you buy coverage, be mindful of any waiting periods, and consider the form of coverage that will suit your needs and those of your beneficiaries. If you're wondering how long it takes to get life insurance, it's probably time to take the next step. Speak with a financial representative to learn more about your options and determine what might be a good fit for your family.