What is the waiting period for life insurance?

The waiting period in insurance occurs after you’ve applied and are waiting for your coverage to kick in.

Headshot of Nupur Gambhir


Nupur GambhirNupur GambhirSenior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertNupur 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|2 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

The life insurance application process is a necessary part of getting coverage. However, a typical life insurance application can take about five to six weeks to process. That time period creates a gap between when you need life insurance coverage and when you actually have that coverage. 

But this waiting period doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to risk your family’s financial health due to a lack of coverage. Temporary life insurance coverage and policies with a quicker turnaround time for application decisions offset the risk of a coverage gap.

Key takeaways

  • The waiting period is five to six weeks on average but can be longer.

  • Temporary insurance pays out to your beneficiaries if you die during the waiting period.

  • Accelerated underwriting and final expense life insurance policies offer almost immediate coverage.

What is the waiting period in insurance?

The waiting period in life insurance is the time between when you initially apply for a policy and when your life insurance coverage begins. The waiting period happens because insurers need to evaluate your background and health profile to determine how much you will pay for your policy. 

During this waiting period, you don’t have life insurance coverage and if you die, your beneficiaries won’t receive any life insurance money.

Once you’re approved for coverage, you’ll need to pay your first policy premium and sign your life insurance policy for the waiting period to end. At that point, your coverage will be active and if you die, your beneficiaries will receive the payout. 

Ready to shop for life insurance?

Start calculator

How to avoid the waiting period

You can get a life insurance policy without undergoing the waiting period — here’s how:

The waiting period for insurance payouts

The waiting period also occurs between the time your beneficiaries submit a death claim form and the time they receive the actual payout. Processing the death claim can take as little as two weeks to as long as two months, after which the life insurance company will pay out the death benefit.

If your family will need immediate financial support, consider creating a contingency plan, like a savings account they can immediately access, while they wait for the funds. 

The life insurance waiting period can have some serious consequences for your beneficiaries. But, you can ensure that they’re financially protected by getting temporary life insurance during the application process or opting for a no-medical-exam policy that makes a quicker application decision. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the meaning of waiting period in insurance?

The waiting period in insurance is the time between applying for coverage and getting that coverage. You do not have insurance coverage during this waiting period.

Why do companies have a waiting period for insurance?

Insurance companies generally don’t offer automatic coverage to applicants. The waiting period is in place so they can conduct a thorough evaluation of your background and determine the risk of insuring you.

How long does it take for benefits to start?

Life insurance coverage begins in as little as 24 hours or as long as six weeks after you undergo the application process.

Can I get life insurance with no waiting period?

There are life insurance policies available that offer coverage without a medical exam or waiting period. These policies have different eligibility and coverage parameters than typical life insurance policies.