How does the application process work for life insurance?

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The application process to buy life insurance consists of several steps:

Step 1: Submit application paperwork

  • Complete a 2-page application with your basic information and employment status.

  • Provide proof of income, for example your most recent tax return or a letter of employment.

  • Sign a release for the insurer to review your health records.

You will submit all of this to your broker or directly to the insurance company.

Step 2: Set up appointments for interview and paramedical exam

After you've submitted your initial application documents, a representative of the insurance company will contact you through email or over the phone to set up two appointments at your convenience:

  • a phone interview

  • a short medical exam conducted at your home or place of work

Step 3: Complete the phone interview

Your broker or agent should prepare you for this interview by telling you what sorts of questions to expect, but in general you'll be asked about:

  • your hobbies and lifestyle

  • your health history

You should also have the name, address and phone number of your primary care physician on hand for this call.

Step 4: Complete the paramedical exam

A paramedical technician will come to your home or workplace to measure your height, weight, blood pressure and pulse. You'll also be asked to provide a blood sample and a urine sample as part of the exam. (Note that not all policies will require a paramedical exam.)

There are some simple steps you can take in the 24 hours before your exam to ensure optimal results.

Step 5: An underwriter reviews your application

At this point the insurer will review your application, phone interview, and medical exam results, as well as your credit history. You may be asked to provide additional information during this step. The insurer may also ask your doctor for additional health records.

Step 6: The application is approved

Once the application is approved, the policy will be finalized and delivered to you. You'll have to sign a delivery receipt and authorize the payment method to activate the policy.

Step 7: The policy goes into effect

When the insurer receives your signed copy of the policy, it will notify you to request payment. It may also give you a binder, which is a certificate of proof that the policy is in effect while you wait for the official policy to arrive.

Once you receive your official policy, be sure to store it and a copy of your application alongside your other important documents, so that you'll be able to reference it in the future.

Also be sure to let any beneficiaries know about the policy so that they're aware of it if you die while it's in effect.