What is temporary life insurance?

Temporary life insurance is coverage you get during the life insurance application process before your actual policy goes into effect.

Zack SigelNupur Gambhir

Zack Sigel & Nupur Gambhir

Published March 18, 2020

When you apply for life insurance, the process can frequently take a long time. That’s because many of the steps require third parties to act on your behalf, in a portion of the process called underwriting, and waiting for them to find time in their schedule may take many weeks. If you’re concerned about having life insurance coverage during that time, ask your life insurance carrier or representative if they offer temporary life insurance.

(Our agents can help you through every step of the application process, including temporary insurance. You can get started by comparing life insurance quotes.)

Temporary life insurance is coverage you get during the life insurance application process before your actual policy goes into effect. The coverage amount – meaning the amount the life insurance carrier will pay out to your beneficiaries if you die – may be equal to the amount of coverage you’re purchasing for the full policy.

Read on to learn more about:

What is temporary life insurance?

Term life insurance, a life insurance product that lasts only for a predetermined number of years, is also called temporary life insurance because it has an expiration date. While term life insurance is technically a temporary form of life insurance, there’s a separate concept called temporary life insurance that has nothing to do with the type of policy you’re purchasing. Temporary life insurance is not a distinct product, but a way to begin receiving coverage before receiving the product you purchased.

During the underwriting process, you may need life insurance coverage. Temporary life insurance is coverage that lasts until the end of underwriting, after which the temporary life insurance ends and your actual policy goes into force. Not every life insurance company offers temporary life insurance, but when they do, coverage amounts may be roughly the same as the amount of coverage you’ll be taking out when you complete the application process. But always check with your insurer to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need, as some companies limit temporary coverage to an amount lower than your actual coverage.

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Be prepared to write a check for one month’s premium along with your life insurance application. If you’re approved, your temporary life insurance coverage will seamlessly segue into your actual policy’s coverage at the end of underwriting. You’ll receive a temporary insurance receipt indicating that you have coverage during the underwriting process.

Your temporary life insurance coverage begins after you receive the temporary insurance receipt. You may also get temporary life insurance coverage for each person you intend to purchase life insurance for under the policy. These “proposed insureds” may be limited to a number set by the life insurance carrier.

Temporary life insurance coverage ends after one of the following occurs:

  • A certain number of days passes after the application is filed, which is spelled out in your temporary insurance receipt but could be between 60 and 90 days.
  • Five days after you request a refund for the premium or terminate your proposed coverage.
  • You get declined for coverage.
  • You get approved for coverage and your policy goes into force.

The life insurance company may also reserve the right to revoke temporary life insurance coverage at any time.

Additionally, when applying for temporary life insurance coverage, you’ll be asked questions about your physical health, just as you are for coverage under the base policy. Sometimes, answering yes to any of those questions will disqualify you for temporary coverage, even if you’re still eligible for coverage under the main plan.

As with the actual life insurance policy, if you commit suicide during the temporary life insurance period, your beneficiaries may be denied benefits. The same is also true if you misrepresent your health and die due to a condition that would’ve otherwise made you ineligible for temporary life insurance coverage.

How much does temporary life insurance cost?

When you apply for life insurance, you receive a quote for coverage, based on your personal characteristics, your medical history, and your coverage needs. However, this quote is not necessarily what you’ll pay for coverage. That rate, called a premium, is determined at the end of the life insurance application process during the stage called underwriting.

Based on the results of your medical exam and information from your doctor (see below), your premium may go up or down, although it should be fairly close to your original quote. (Don’t like your quote? Compare quotes from many different life insurance companies here.)

However, because you receive temporary life insurance coverage before underwriting is completed, your rates are based off your initial quote. Once your premium is determined, the payment you made for temporary life insurance will be applied to the first month’s premium. Temporary life insurance doesn’t cost anything beyond that one payment.

How long does the life insurance application process take?

From start to finish, it can take between four to six weeks on average to get life insurance coverage. You can get a quote and fill out an application in an afternoon. The process takes longer after that. Underwriting involves all these steps:

The medical exam

You’ll have to undergo a medical exam, also called a paramedical exam, where a medical technician will make sure the information you provided about your health is accurate. He or she will also check for any health issues you didn’t list. This part of the process may take a while to schedule as you’ll have to make an appointment, although if it saves time you may be able to have the tech meet you at home or at the office.

The attending physician's statement (APS)

The underwriter will ask your doctor for an APS to get more information about your health that wouldn’t be observed by the medical tech. This could include information about what prescriptions you’re taking or other reasons you’ve seen the doctor. Because doctors are very busy, this process is one of the longest periods of the life insurance application.

Final approval

This part may only take a few weeks. It’s when the underwriter will return with your final premium amount. After you sign the policy and pay your first premium, your temporary life insurance coverage will become you’re the actual coverage spelled out in the policy.

During this time, you may be asked to speak to a representative on the phone to clarify any details about your health.

Some life insurance companies offer no-medical-exam life insurance, which could speed up the application process. But these policies may not offer the coverage you need, or you may be not eligible for one due to health issues or age.

Temporary coverage and coronavirus

If you are applying for life insurance during the current COVID-19 outbreak and want to postpone the medical exam, you can opt-in for temporary coverage until the outbreak subsides and you resume the underwriting process.

Most life insurance companies still require the completion of the medical exam for temporary coverage to go in force, but Policygenius works with three life insurance companies that offer this supplementary coverage without a medical exam:

To activate temporary coverage with either of these insurers, you’ll simply need to provide your payment information and sign the application for the broker.

Here is the type of coverage you can get from each life insurance company without taking a medical exam:

LIFE INSURANCE COMPANYTEMPORARY COVERAGE POLICY
Banner LifeOffers up to $1,000,000 in coverage but not available on life insurance applications over this amount
Lincoln FinancialOffers up to $500,000 in coverage but not available on life insurance applications greater than $3,000,000 or for applicants over the age of 70
Pacific LifeOffers up to $1,000,000 in coverage but not available in NY or KS
If you’re opting to take the medical exam but simply want to ensure you have coverage in place while you await an application decision, a temporary policy will pay out the death benefit to your beneficiaries as long as you were honest on your life insurance application.

During the coronavirus outbreak, you’ll want to disclose all travel plans, doctor visits, and medical diagnoses with the underwriter. If you die from the coronavirus and any records demonstrate that you failed to disclose pertinent information during the application process, the life insurance company can refuse to pay out the death benefit from your temporary policy.