Life insurance for people with criminal records

If you have a felony on your record, you need to wait at least a year after your conviction or until your probation period is over to qualify for most life insurance policies.

Rebecca Shoenthal author photoAmanda Shih author photo

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Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

 & Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an editor and a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

Updated January 27, 2022 | 3 min read

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If you have a criminal record, you can still apply for a life insurance policy. Having misdemeanors or lesser infractions on your record usually won’t change your premium rate. However, if you have a felony conviction getting life insurance will be more difficult and more expensive, especially in the first few years after your conviction.

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.

Key Takeaways

  • Insurance companies view people with felony convictions as higher-risk, but they evaluate criminal records on a case-by-case basis.

  • Misdemeanors have a much smaller impact on your rates, but multiple or recent charges of any severity will raise flags for insurers.

  • Wait until 12 to 18 months post-probation to apply for life insurance for better chances of approval.

Why life insurance companies care about your criminal record

Life insurance companies weigh the risk of insuring you using data — scientific studies and actuarial tables — to make best-guess judgments about the likelihood that you’ll die while covered by your 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 life insurance companies also don’t look at every conviction or criminal record the same way.

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How a criminal record affects your life insurance application

When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked questions about your criminal history to find out whether you are currently being charged with a felony or whether you have a past felony conviction. Your answers influence your eligibility for a life insurance policy and how high your rates will be.

Be honest about your entire criminal record, including less serious infractions. 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 about anything on your application, the insurance company will decline your policy. Other insurers can see your insurance application records in the future, too, and will be less likely to consider your application. 

How your answers to the felony question affect your application if you are:

  1. 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.  Recommendation: Do not apply if you are currently being charged.

  2. Convicted of a felony The type of felony, severity, how long ago it took place, and number of offenses in your history all matter. It’s unlikely you’ll be approved with a serious violent felony or repeated felonies on your record, but insurers may offer some flexibility otherwise. Recommendation: Talk to a licensed agent or broker before you apply to avoid a policy denial.

  3. Currently on probation, on parole, 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 at least one year (longer for some companies). Recommendation: Do not apply until you’re 12 to 18 months out from your probation period.

  4. 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 premiums, unless you have multiple or recent misdemeanors or you have a recent DUI/DWI conviction. Recommendation: Apply for life insurance like normal, but be forthcoming about your background so an agent can give you accurate advice.

How to buy life insurance if you have a felony conviction

Wait at least one year or until your probation period is over to apply for life insurance after you’ve been convicted of a felony. When you do apply, you will have to disclose the details of your conviction and your rates will likely be higher than if you didn’t have a criminal record.

1. Don’t wait too long to look for a policy

While it can be more costly or difficult to get life insurance in the first one to two years post-probation, it’s risky to go without a policy and leave your loved ones without financial protection. 

Each insurer requires a different waiting period post-probation before accepting life insurance applications. Some insurers accept applications in the first one to two years post-probation, others only accept applications five years post-probation, and a few require applicants to be 10 years post-probation.

We recommend applying around 18 months post-probation so that an agent can help you find the best provider and policy option for your situation. You’ll secure coverage for your loved ones sooner and can apply for a rate reconsideration or purchase a new policy in the future when you’d qualify for lower premiums.

2. Choose the right life insurance agent

If you have a criminal record, work with an independent insurance agent or broker like Policygenius. 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. Some agents may also be able to recommend a broker that specializes in high-risk cases.

3. Consider other options

If your life insurance application is declined or you’re unable to apply for term or whole life insurance, you may have two other ways to get covered:

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

  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of final expense insurance that doesn’t require a medical exam and doesn’t have health or criminal record restrictions. Premiums are steep compared to term life insurance and benefit amounts generally max out at $25,000.

If you’re looking for life insurance and have been convicted of a felony, even if it was years ago, talk to an insurance agent. They can help answer any questions you have and find the best policy for your situation.

Frequently asked questions

Can you get life insurance if you have a felony?

It depends on the type of felony and amount of time since your conviction. Your chances of being declined for coverage go up if you have recent or severe felonies or a history of multiple felonies.

Can you get life insurance if you have a misdemeanor?

Most likely, yes. Misdemeanors or minor infractions rarely impact your ability to get life insurance — except in cases of recent DUIs. In most cases, you won’t receive significantly higher rates either.

How can people with a felony conviction get life insurance?

If you can’t get traditional life insurance, you can get group life insurance through your employer or apply for guaranteed issue life insurance until you qualify for a more suitable policy.