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How to get life insurance if you have a felony on your record.
Updated September 28, 2020
If you have a criminal record, you can still apply for a life insurance policy. In fact, if you have misdemeanors or lesser infractions on your record, that will rarely change your premium rate. But if you have a felony conviction, life insurance could be more difficult, more expensive, or even impossible to buy.
Depending on your record, we have specific recommendations for when you should apply for life insurance and when you should wait or explore other options.
Insurance companies view people with felony convictions as higher-risk, but they evaluate criminal records on a case-by-case basis
Talking to a professional agent or broker before you apply for life insurance can help you find the best policy for your unique situation
If you are currently being charged with a felony, on probation, or in jail, you’re better off waiting to get life insurance
Life insurance companies look at applicants in the context of data. They use scientific studies and actuarial tables to make best-guess judgments about the likelihood that a 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.
When you apply for life insurance, you will be asked two questions about your criminal history: whether you are currently being charged with a felony and whether you have a past felony conviction. Your answers could influence your eligibility for a life insurance policy and how high your rates will be.
Should you be honest about your criminal record? You definitely should. Life insurance companies are thorough in their application review, and if you lie about your criminal record, the insurer will find out when they do a background check.
Plus: if you lie on your application about anything, 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.
If you are currently being charged with a felony, you won’t be able to get life insurance until the charges are dismissed or the trial is over. → We recommend you do not apply if you are currently being charged.
If you have been convicted of a felony, the insurance company is going to ask 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. → We recommend you talk to a licensed agent or broker about your unique situation before you apply to avoid a policy denial.
If you’re currently on probation or in jail, you cannot apply for life insurance. Insurance companies won’t approve your application until you have been out of your probation period for a least one year (longer for some companies). → Again, we recommend you do not apply if you’re in this situation.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or smaller infraction you can apply for life insurance. A misdemeanor or other similar or lesser charge is unlikely to affect your insurability or your premium rates. → We recommend you apply for life insurance like normal, but talk to a licensed agent or broker about your unique situation if you’re unsure about your record.
If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you’ll need to wait at least a year or until your probation period is over to apply for a life insurance policy. When you do apply you will have to disclose your status, and your rates will likely be higher than if you didn’t have a criminal record.
Here are three guidelines to buying life insurance when you are a felon:
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.
Each insurer requires a different waiting period post-probation before accepting life insurance applications. Of the insurance companies that offer policies through Policygenius in 2020, some accept applications 1-2 years post-probation, others only accept applications 5 years post-probation, and a few require applicants to be 10 years post-probation.
If you wait long enough and find the right insurer depending on how long you’ve been off probation, your premiums won’t go up due to the conviction, and you’ll save money year over year. Waiting to buy life insurance is not something we typically recommend because your insurance rates increase as you age,, but likely not as much as they would due to a criminal 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 or other life event and want to make sure your family is protected. Then, you can reapply and purchase another policy when you’re further away from your probationary period and your rates are lower.
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 company that is most likely to grant you an insurance policy. Different insurance companies treat felonies on your record differently, and an agent who knows the market can help you choose the company most likely to offer you the most affordable coverage. It might even be worth seeking out a broker who specializes in high-risk cases.
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 to get covered:
Group life insurance If your employer offers group life insurance, you are eligible regardless of health status or criminal record. While most group 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 amountsare 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 needs. → Read more about guaranteed-issue life insurance.
If you’re looking for life insurance and have been convicted of a felony, even if it was years ago, the first step – before you apply – is to talk to a professional insurance agent. They can help answer any questions you have and find the best policy for your specific situation.
It depends on the type of felony and amount of time since your conviction. A felony conviction might disqualify you from life insurance from certain companies, but insurers all treat criminal records differently.
Most likely, yes. A misdemeanor or minor infraction will rarely impact your ability to get life insurance and in most cases, it won’t increase your rates.
If you can’t get traditional life insurance, you can wait and reapply for insurance after a period of time (1-10 years depending on the insurer), get life insurance through your employer’s group life insurance, or apply for guaranteed-issue life insurance.
Rebecca Shoenthal is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked as a nonfiction book editor. She has a B.A. in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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