Life insurance for felons

How to get life insurance if you have a felony on your record.

Logan Sachon

Logan Sachon

Published August 2, 2018

If you have a criminal record, you can still apply for a life insurance policy. In fact, if you have misdemeanors or other lesser infractions on your record, the life insurance company won’t ask about them, and they won’t influence your premium rates. But if you have a felony conviction, life insurance could be more difficult or expensive – or even impossible – to buy.


Why life insurance companies care about your criminal record

Life insurance companies look at applicants in the context of data. They use scientific studies and actuarial tables to make best guess judgements about the likelihood that an individual person may die during the term of their life insurance policy.

Insurers’ data shows that people with criminal records tend to live shorter lives, especially people who have been convicted of felonies. But this evaluation of risk is also why life insurance companies do not look at every crime the same way.

How a criminal record affects your life insurance application

When you apply for life insurance, you will be asked two questions about your criminal history: whether you are currently charged with a felony and whether you have a felony conviction. Your answers could influence whether you will be offered a policy and how high your rates will be.

Should you be honest about your criminal record? You definitely should. Life insurance companies do their due diligence when people apply for policies with them, and if an applicant lies about their criminal record, their insurance provider is going to find out when they do a background check.

Plus: if you lie, the insurance company will decline your policy automatically — and a decline for lying on your insurance record could mean that other insurers in the future won’t consider your application, either.

How your answers to the felony question affect your application:

  • If you are currently being charged with a felony, you won’t be able to apply for life insurance until the charges are dismissed or the trial is over.

  • If you have been convicted of a felony, the insurance company is going to ask more about the timeline and the details of the charges and convictions. Life insurance companies treat each application on a case-by-case basis when it comes to criminal records. They take into account several factors, including the type of crime, severity of the offense, how long ago the crime took place, and the number of offenses on your criminal record.

  • If you’re currently on probation or in jail, you cannot apply for life insurance. Insurance companies won’t look at your application until you have been out of your probation period for a least one year (longer for some companies).


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How to buy life insurance if you’re a felon

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you’ll need to wait at least a year until your probation period is over in order to apply for a life insurance policy. When you do apply you will have to disclose your status, and your rates will be higher than if you didn’t have a criminal record. Here are three guidelines to buying life insurance when you are a felon.

Wait as long as possible

Your best strategy for buying life insurance as someone with a criminal record is to wait as long as possible after your probation period ends to apply for life insurance. If you wait long enough, your premiums won’t be elevated due to the conviction, and you’ll save money year over year. (Your insurance rates will also go up in that time because you’re older, but likely not as much as they would due to the conviction.)

Alternatively, if you need a policy right now, buy it for a short term. This may be worth it if you just had a baby and want to make sure your family is protected, for example. You can reapply and purchase another policy when you’re further away from your probationary period and your rates are lower.

Choose a good life insurance agent

If you have a criminal record, it is important to work with an independent insurance agent or broker like Policygenius who can help you apply to the life insurance carrier who is most likely to grant you an insurance policy. Different insurance companies treat felonies on your record differently, and an agent can help you choose to apply to the company that may be most likely to offer you coverage. It might even be worth seeking out a broker who specializes in high-risk cases to help shepherd your application.

Consider other options

If your life insurance application is declined or you’re unable to apply for term or whole life insurance, there are two other options that you may have in order to get covered:

  • Group life insurance If your employer offers group life insurance, you are eligible regardless of health status. While most group health plans offer less coverage than you may need, you’ll still be able to get some coverage.

Read more about group life insurance.

  • Guaranteed-issue life insurance Guaranteed-issue life insurance is a type of final expense insurance (also known as burial insurance) that doesn’t require a medical exam and doesn’t ask you questions about your health or criminal history. Premiums are steep compared to term life insurance and benefit levels are low (they generally max out at $25,000), but if you don’t have coverage through work and can’t get a personal policy because of your criminal record, it may fit your need.s

Read more about guaranteed-issue life insurance.

About the author

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.

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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