Life insurance and adoption

If you’re adopted or are adopting a child, you won’t see any significant changes in getting a life insurance policy — but there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir


Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Updated December 1, 2021 | 4 min read

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If you’re adopted or are adopting a child, you may be concerned about how this affects your life insurance policy. But for the most part, adoption shouldn’t affect your life insurance coverage. As long as you’re truthful on your life insurance application, your beneficiaries should still receive the life insurance payout.

And if you're buying life insurance for your adopted child, they have all of the same rights to receive the life insurance payout as a biological child would. Read on to learn more about how life insurance works with adoption.

Key Takeaways

  • Family history isn’t taken into account for adopted individuals who don’t know their biological family’s medical background.

  • Although you can technically name your adopted children as your life insurance policy’s beneficiary, you shouldn’t designate minor children as the recipients of the death benefit.

  • You can update your life insurance beneficiaries at any time to include your adopted children.

Buying life insurance if you’re adopted

The only time your adoption will come into play during the life insurance application process is when you are asked about your family history, which is just one part of the robust overview of your health conducted by life insurance companies. Even if you’re in great health now, they want to evaluate if you’re predisposed to any genetic conditions that could affect your health down the road. (And essentially, while you have a policy in force.)

How does adoption affect your family history?

Even though family history plays a role in the life insurance application decision process, you won’t receive an adverse decision if you don’t know your biological family’s medical history. Instead, it simply won’t be included in your health profile.

“If a proposed insured is adopted and does not have any information regarding their biological family history, that can be noted and the underwriter will assume [a] best-case scenario. What is known, however, should be disclosed to avoid any contestability concerns down the road,” says Eloise Spinello, Senior Manager of Life Operations at Policygenius.

If you’re asked about your family history and you are adopted, one of the two following situations may occur:

1. You don't know your biological family’s history and it will be marked as ‘unknown’ in your application

If you don’t know the health history of your biological family, insurers won’t hold this against you on your application. Your family history will be marked as ‘unknown’ and noted that you are adopted.

2. You do know information about your biological family’s history and provide the underwriter with as many details as you are aware of.

Whatever you do know about your biological family’s medical background, you should disclose it to the underwriter.

The most important thing is to answer the questions about your family history — and every other part of the life insurance application — to the best of your knowledge. As long as you are forthcoming on your application, whether you don’t know any information about your birth family or know their full background, you shouldn’t have any issues with your life insurance policy.

But, whatever you do, be honest. Any indication that you intentionally withheld information during your life insurance application is considered life insurance fraud and could result in your policy being canceled by the insurer — meaning they won’t pay out the death benefit to your beneficiaries.

Buying life insurance for your adopted child

If you have an adopted child, they are equally as eligible for life insurance benefits as your biological child would be. Insurance companies can’t discriminate against your child, whether or not they are biological or adopted — your adopted child has the same rights as your biological child, as long as you have legal guardianship.

Additionally, life insurance companies are concerned with insurable interest, or the justification that someone should be the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. If your beneficiary has an insurable interest, that means that they’ll suffer financially in the event of your death.

However, naming a minor as your life insurance beneficiary usually isn’t a good idea in the first place. Life insurance companies can’t pay out the death benefit to anyone who isn’t legally an adult, which is 18 in most states but 19 in Alabama and Nebraska. Instead, you should name a trusted guardian or trust as your beneficiary. They can then disperse the life insurance death benefit according to your wishes.

Buying life insurance if you’re in the process of adopting a child

If you’re in the process of adopting a child, you’re probably considering buying life insurance to ensure their well-being if you die prematurely. In fact, some states (like Mississippi) and agencies require you to have a life insurance policy, though this varies by state and agency.

Whether or not you’re required to purchase a life insurance policy, getting coverage as soon as possible is important to secure the lowest possible rates. Life insurance premiums increase 4.5-9% every year you age, so getting coverage sooner rather than later can secure the optimal amount of coverage at an affordable price.

While you should wait until your adoption is finalized to name your child as the beneficiary, as we said above, we recommend that you name a guardian or trust as the beneficiary instead to avoid any delays in the payout. You can (and should!) update the beneficiaries of your policy at any time, and especially during a big life event like an adoption. Updating your policy during any life change makes sure that it still covers your needs. And if it doesn’t, you can make adjustments accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

While family history is one of many components insurers evaluate during the life insurance application process, it won’t be taken into consideration if you don’t know the background of your biological family. As long as you’re honest, your application won’t be impacted.

Do you need life insurance to adopt a child?

Whether or not you’ll be required to buy life insurance to adopt a child depends on the state you are adopting in and the agency you are adopting from.

Should I buy life insurance for my adopted child?

Yes. Anytime you have dependents who rely on you financially or for care, you should purchase a life insurance policy to make sure they are protected if you die prematurely.