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Step-By-Step Guide to Applying for Life Insurance

As you get older, you may find life insurance on your mind. A life insurance policy gives your loved ones access to a lump sum payout upon your death, giving your loved ones financial assistance as they transition to life without you.

Before settling on a policy, you must compare quotes from multiple companies, determine your death benefit amount, and undergo medical underwriting. Following key steps to narrow down your policy options and prove your insurability will help you quickly secure affordable coverage that meets your family’s needs.

Step 1: Fill Out the Application Forms and Questionnaires 

Once you have found a favorable quote and settled on an insurance company, you must complete various application forms and questionnaires to determine the risk of insuring you and calculate your monthly premiums.

Factors that can significantly affect the life insurance application process include your current health status, medical history, lifestyle, hobbies, the size of your death benefit, and supplemental policy riders or endorsements.

Health and Medical History 

Most life insurance applications request the following personal details:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Date of birth
  • Family health history
  • Current medications
  • Medical records
  • Net worth and annual income

Younger people, individuals with congruent height and weight ratios, and others with no existing medical conditions have a much higher likelihood of securing lower premium payments. 

Conversely, many insurers will deny coverage for applicants with family histories of disease, pre-existing medical conditions, or incomes incapable of covering their projected premiums. Most companies will ask for copies of your medical records, prescription receipts, pay stubs, family death certificates, and other relevant documents to verify the information included in your application.


Next, insurance companies use information about your lifestyle to calculate your risk of an early death, including:

  • Exercise routines (or lack thereof)
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Recreational drug use
  • Driving habits, frequency, and existing violations
  • Travel plans and frequency
  • High-risk hobbies
  • Career

People living safe, predictable lives pose less of a financial threat to insurance companies. For example, avid rock climbers may encounter difficulty securing affordable coverage due to their higher likelihood of accidental injury and death. Similarly, office employees pay lower life insurance premiums than deep-sea fishermen.

DMV violations, such as DUIs, speeding tickets, and reckless driving charges, also indicate patterns of risky behavior that can result in costly or denied coverage.

Policy Needs 

When applying for life insurance, you must indicate your desired coverage level. If you require a sizeable death benefit to support your family long after you die, you must pay significantly higher monthly premiums. On the other hand, you can select a lower payout for a lower premium if you have fewer or generally self-sufficient beneficiaries.

People who purchase term policies also secure lower rates, as these plans only guarantee a payout for individuals who die within a predetermined period. Likewise, accelerated death riders, long-term care riders, return of premium life insurance, and other policy endorsements that increase the likelihood of an insurer distributing money before or after your death will impact your required premium contribution.

Step 2: Undergo Medical Underwriting 

All life insurance applicants must undergo a medical underwriting process in which companies analyze their health and determine whether or not to offer coverage, at what costs, and with what limits or exclusions. Following a medical questionnaire, a paramedical examiner will meet with you in person to check your blood pressure, heartbeat, and BMI before extracting blood and urine samples.

Depending on your age and the type of policy you want, other requirements for life insurance may include EKGs, chest X-rays, and treadmill evaluations. If underwriters determine you to be a healthy, low-risk individual, you will likely get approved for coverage at a lower monthly premium.

How No-Exam Policies Work 

Occasionally, tentative life insurance customers decline benefits due to privacy issues, application delays, and the simple inconveniences presented by medical underwriting. To account for this, some insurers offer “no-exam” policies, allowing members to withhold medical records and bypass testing in exchange for slightly higher premiums and a cap on their death benefit.

No-exam policies specifically benefit younger, healthier applicants with no pre-existing conditions, expediting their application process while still generating relatively competitive rates.

Step 3: Await Results

If underwriters can quickly procure your medical records and schedule an exam, your application can spend anywhere from a few days to 6 weeks in processing. However, delayed tests, delinquent physician reports, incomplete submissions, bureaucratic errors, and document transfers can all postpone a policy’s delivery.

If you have not heard back beyond the specified waiting period, contact your doctor, affiliated laboratories, and any other institution involved in your case that might help mitigate underlying complications.

What to Do If Your Application Is Denied

If your medical underwriting results lead to high policy premiums or denied coverage, explore the following alternatives:

  1. Purchase the marked-up policy and request a medical re-evaluation after quitting smoking, losing weight, or switching careers.
  2. Pay higher premiums for a no-exam term policy or guaranteed issue whole life insurance.
  3. Pursue group term life insurance through your employer.
  4. Apply for a policy through a competing insurer with looser underwriting guidelines.
  5. Apply for accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage. Though these policies only benefit families of qualifying accident victims, they cost less and impose less stringent enrollment criteria.
  6. Apply for a graded death benefit policy. While more expensive, this coverage incrementally raises your death benefit for every year you defy medical underwriting predictions and continue living.

All in All 

Life insurance can buy your loved ones years of security while grieving your death and planning for the future. To find an affordable policy that meets your family’s needs, compare quotes from multiple insurers and ask about their application and underwriting process.

If you cannot secure coverage due to a pre-existing health condition, a high-risk career, or other lifestyle factors, research an AD&D policy, graded death benefit riders, group term life insurance, and other alternative protections with less stringent eligibility criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Only slightly. Because term policies eventually expire, you must select your desired contract length. The shorter the term you choose, the cheaper your premiums should fall. Likewise, due to the lack of a guaranteed death benefit, term policies have a higher likelihood of approval and occasionally do not require a medical exam.

However, term policies put you and your family at risk of a total loss on prior premium investments and zero financial protection after you die. Therefore, if you must secure term coverage, shop for policies with permanent conversion riders that would allow you to draw out coverage beyond the intended expiration date.

Insurance quotes are online, typically instantaneous policy comparisons from competing companies. These estimates only require consumers to answer a few short questions before generating results, allowing them to gauge prices and benefits before investing more time and money on a formal application.

On the other hand, applications require in-depth information about a customer’s personal life, habits, medical history, and existing medical conditions. Likewise, applicants must agree to release their medical records and undergo an examination to accurately calculate their insurability and premium dues. Initial quotes save you the trouble of repeatedly going through this process.

Employ any of the following strategies to reduce your life insurance costs:

  • Switch from a permanent policy to term coverage.
  • Compare quotes and apply for coverage through a different insurer.
  • Eliminate supplemental endorsements, such as waiver of premium riders, accidental death benefits, and guaranteed insurability clauses.
  • Shop for “no-load” or “low-load” policies that reduce or eliminate an insurance agent’s sale commission.
  • Review your Medical Information Bureau (MIB) file to ensure it contains accurate information, as errors can increase premiums.
  • Curb unhealthy eating habits, exercise regularly, reduce your alcohol intake, and quit smoking.
  • Drive safely and avoid traffic violations.
  • Give up high-risk hobbies such as rock climbing, hang gliding, deep sea diving, and anything with similar implications of risk, injury, or death.

Lying on your life insurance application to secure lower premiums can have significant consequences. For example, claiming not to drink when you do can result in an insurer raising your premiums, canceling your policy, or withholding your death benefit. More extreme discretions – like claiming not to smoke when you smoke an entire pack of cigarettes every day – could constitute insurance fraud, triggering fines and even jail time. 

Furthermore, getting caught lying about a medical condition like cancer or heart disease can lead an insurer to flag your name, notifying other companies of your falsified application. Flagged individuals often struggle to secure viable coverage and must pay substantially inflated premiums to any remaining carrier still willing to insure them.

Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

Get a quote

Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

Get a quote