The life insurance application process is a necessary part of getting coverage. However, a typical life insurance application can take about four to six weeks to process. That time period creates a gap between when you need life insurance coverage and when your coverage officially starts or is in force.
But there are ways to protect your family financially during this waiting period. Temporary life insurance coverage and policies with a quicker turnaround time for application decisions offset the risk of a coverage gap.
The waiting period for a standard life insurance application is four to six weeks on average, but it 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’ll pay for your policy. This evaluation process is called underwriting.
During this waiting period, you don’t have life insurance coverage and if you die, 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.
How to avoid the waiting period
You can get a life insurance policy without undergoing the waiting period — here’s how:
Purchase temporary coverage while you wait for your actual policy to become active. The cost of temporary coverage is based on your quoted premiums. So, if you were quoted $30 per month for your policy, you’d pay $30 for temporary coverage.
Buy a no-medical-exam life insurance policy that skips the medical exam, which speeds up the application process.
Get a policy with no waiting period by purchasing accelerated underwriting life insurance, which offers an application decision almost immediately.
→ Learn more about how to buy life insurance
The waiting period for insurance payouts
The waiting period also can refer to the time between when 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 and as long as two months, after which the life insurance company will pay out the death benefit.
Most payouts happen less than 30 days from when you file the claim. 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 take steps to ensure that your family is financially protected.
If you choose to get temporary life insurance during the application process or opt for a no-medical-exam policy, your coverage will begin much more quickly.
More about the life insurance application process
Why do life insurance companies need my Social Security number?
Everything you need to know about the life insurance medical exam
Why does a life insurer need an attending physician statement (APS)?
What is a modified life insurance offer or approved other than applied?
Buying life insurance and disability insurance at the same time
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 in force. You do not have insurance coverage during this waiting period.
Why do companies have a waiting period for insurance?
The waiting period is in place so the insurance company can conduct a thorough evaluation of your background. This allows the company to determine the risk of insuring you before they make you a formal offer.
How long does it take for benefits to start?
Depending on the policy you apply for, your life insurance coverage can begin immediately after you apply. For some companies, it can take six weeks or more for you to receive an offer of coverage.
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. A licensed advisor can help you determine your eligibility.