What is the waiting period for life insurance?

The insurance waiting period is the timeline during the underwriting process where insurers review your application and determine your policy premiums.

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Published October 21, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The insurance waiting period is the time between applying for coverage and actually getting it

  • For a traditional life insurance policy, the waiting period can be 4-6 weeks

  • Instant decision, accelerated underwriting, and final expense life insurance policies offer immediate coverage

The life insurance application process is a necessary part of getting coverage. However, a typical life insurance application can take 4-6 weeks to process. That time period, called the life insurance waiting period, creates a gap between when you decide you need life insurance coverage and when you actually get that coverage.

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

What is the waiting period in life insurance?

The waiting period in life insurance is the time between when you initially apply for a policy and when your life insurance coverage kicks in. Typically ranging from 4-6 weeks, the waiting period occurs because insurers need to evaluate your background and health profile to determine how much you will pay for your life insurance premiums. During this time, insurers evaluate your health profile, medical history, family background, and hobbies as a part of the underwriting process.

Most traditional term life insurance and permanent life insurance policies have this waiting period to get coverage. 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.

Life insurance with no waiting period

It is entirely possible to get a life insurance policy without undergoing the waiting period, though this comes with some caveats. Life insurance policies that don’t have a waiting period are only for specific demographics and have some coverage restrictions.

There are two types of policies you can get that don’t have the 4-6 week turnaround time: term life insurance with no waiting period and whole life insurance with no waiting period. Term life insurance policies with no waiting period often offer coverage that is comparable to that of a traditional term life insurance policy, but not everyone qualifies. Whole life insurance policies with no waiting period, on the other hand, generally don’t offer enough coverage for most people and are bought to cover minimal expenses or as a last resort.

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Term life insurance with no waiting period

If you’re in relatively good health, you may be able to forego the life insurance waiting period by purchasing an instant decision or accelerated underwriting life insurance policy.

Policygenius offers instant life insurance policies so you don’t have to experience a coverage gap. These policies don’t require a medical exam and instead look at your previous medical records and prescription history to come to an application decision, allowing for a turnaround time that can be as short as 24 hours as long as the insurer doesn’t need supplemental information.

While an instant life insurance policy may not be suitable for especially high earners, you can still get affordable coverage for a death benefit of up to $1-2 million. Four of our partner life insurance companies offer term life insurance coverage with no waiting period:

Whole life insurance with no waiting period

Some types of whole life insurance are essentially guaranteed acceptance — barring a terminal illness or the inability to pay your premiums. These policies, called guaranteed issue life insurance and final expense life insurance, offer low coverage amounts and don’t require as thorough of an application evaluation. Because of the low coverage amounts, the life insurance company isn’t as concerned with the risk of insuring you, and the application only requires a few preliminary questions. If you’re ready to pay your first premium during the initial phone call, your life insurance coverage kicks in while you’re still on the phone with the life insurance agent.

While a whole life insurance policy with no waiting period is easy to get, it should only be purchased as a last resort. The premiums for guaranteed issue and final expense life insurance policies are steep — and you often end up spending a lot more than you would with a traditional life insurance policy for a much lower amount of coverage.

Although these policies aren’t recommended for the average person’s coverage needs, they can at least cover final expenses, such as your final medical bills and the cost of your funeral or cremation.

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Temporary coverage

Not everyone is eligible for instant life insurance coverage. If you’re required to go through the traditional timeline to get life insurance, you can still secure some financial protection for your family during the waiting period by getting temporary coverage.

Temporary life insurance coverage goes in force while you’re going through the underwriting process and can only be purchased from the insurer you are getting your actual policy from. It only requires one premium payment and pays out if you die before your actual policy goes in force. While temporary life insurance coverage doesn’t offer a death benefit amount as high as a traditional life insurance policy, it still provides some financial protection if you die during the life insurance waiting period. Generally, temporary life insurance only offers coverage amounts of up to $1 million.

There is still a small waiting period to get temporary life insurance coverage. Insurers use the medical exam to set the rate you pay, which means you’ll have to take the exam and wait for the receipt of your lab re before your coverage kicks in. However, three of our partner life insurance companies offer temporary coverage that doesn’t require a medical exam:

Getting temporary coverage from one of these three insurers requires only your payment information and a signature.

What other waiting periods are there in life insurance?

Another common waiting period in life insurance is the time it takes to receive the death benefit. After the policyholder does, their loved ones will need to submit a death claim form and provide a death certificate to the life insurance company. Processing the death claim can take as little as two weeks, but as long as a few months, after which the life insurance company will pay out the death benefit.

FAQ

Does life insurance have a waiting period?

Many life insurance policies have a waiting period to get coverage, which is called the underwriting process. During the underwriting process, insurers evaluate your unique profile to determine how much you’ll pay for your life insurance premiums.

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 a life insurance policy to take effect?

Life insurance coverage kicks in in as little as 24 hours or as long as six weeks.

Can I get life insurance with no medical exam and 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 so consulting a life insurance agent is the best way to decide if they are a good fit for you.

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she has worked in marketing and business development for travel and tech. She has a B.A. in Economics from Ohio State University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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