What is the waiting period for life insurance?


quick Facts

  • Insurance companies need time to issue medical exams and review medical information, and for this there is a waiting period for life insurance
  • There are options to avoid the waiting period, such as no-exam insurance policies or accidental death benefits
  • Some applicants may be rejected on underlying health grounds, which is when guaranteed insurance with no waiting period is beneficial

What is the waiting period for life insurance? Unlike auto insurance, most life insurance policies do not take effect right away.

The best life insurance companies like to assess how much risk you have to insure, so your insurance company will carefully assess your health before calculating the rate and assigning you the insurance policy.

This time gap between the time you apply for a life insurance policy and the time the policy is approved and goes into effect is known as the life insurance waiting period. Read on to learn more about the life insurance waiting period, how to avoid it, and more.

Does life insurance take effect immediately?

Most life insurance policies will not take effect immediately, as insurance companies will review your information and assess your risk before underwriting. While there are ways to get around the waiting period, it’s usually more expensive because you skip the life insurance medical assistant exam.

Read our guide on what to expect at a paramedical exam for more information. We dive deeper into why life insurance has waiting periods and ways to avoid waiting periods.

What is the waiting period for life insurance?

While most people want to start their own life insurance policy right away for instant financial protection, there are many reasons why life insurance policies take some time to be approved.

Most commonly, insurance companies need to look at your health and medical background to assess how much the policy will cost. Your insurance company may require a background medical history and medical examination to be completed before it issues a policy. Often the waiting period is longer than a week or two because it can take time to make an appointment and fill out paperwork.

Once everything is evaluated, the insurance companies will either approve or reject you and give you the policy rate. In general, if you are younger and in good health, you will get much cheaper rates than older people in poor health. Insurance companies may even choose to deny life insurance to high-risk individuals.

What happens if I die while waiting for life insurance?

You are not covered by life insurance during the waiting period, as the company reviews your information to decide whether or not to insure you. Since you have not yet officially signed up for a life insurance policy or paid any premiums, you are not covered by life insurance yet.

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How to avoid the life insurance waiting period

If you want life insurance coverage right away, there are a few different life insurance options available with no waiting period.

Expedited underwriting companies

Some companies offer express life insurance underwriting. For example, you may be able to get life insurance the same day. Although limited coverage in most cases comes into play until you can complete a medical exam and the company reviews your information more thoroughly.

For example, a limited coverage policy may only provide accidental death coverage, which pays death benefit to beneficiaries if you die in an accident. Once you complete all the necessary exams and paperwork, the policy will transition to a full coverage policy, or you can keep the limited coverage policy.

Life insurance policies without exam

Some insurance companies will offer policies that do not require you to complete and pass a medical exam to qualify for coverage. This is also known as guaranteed life insurance. It is more expensive because no medical exam is required, but you are more likely to be approved.

However, this means that it is a good life insurance coverage for those with more serious health problems that may be denied by insurance companies.

Accidental death benefits

Life insurance covers accidental death if you die as a result of an accident. Like no-examination life insurance, these policies do not require medical examinations so you can get an accidental death compensation policy right away.

However, the catch is that only accidental deaths are covered. If you die of natural causes, the death benefit will not be paid to your beneficiaries. However, this coverage is good for those who cannot qualify for regular life insurance due to health conditions or those who work in high-risk jobs.

What is the waiting period for life insurance? bottom line

In most cases, waiting periods for life insurance are unavoidable. This is because insurance companies need time to review your health information and perform a medical exam.

However, there are some options for those who want life insurance right away, such as quick underwrite life insurance, no-test life insurance, and accidental death life insurance.

If you want to start shopping around and see your life insurance options, you can use our free life insurance price comparison tool. It will sort through rates from companies in your area to find the best deal and coverage for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the waiting period for insurance?

The waiting period for life insurance is the time between you applying for coverage and the time the insurance company issues a policy. Most insurance companies require you to complete a medical exam before issuing a policy, and approval can take a few weeks.

Why do companies have a waiting period for life insurance?

Most companies require a medical examination before a life insurance policy can be approved. They also need to review your health history to assess your insurance risks. The waiting period allows companies time to make the necessary risk and health assessments for potential clients.

How Long Until Life Insurance Coverage Starts?

It depends on whether you choose a life insurance policy that takes effect immediately or has a waiting period. Your coverage can start as early as the next day or it can take up to a month.

Can you get life insurance without a life insurance waiting period?

Yes, it is possible to obtain a life insurance policy without a waiting period. There are usually good options for those who have been denied life insurance policies due to underlying health issues or dangerous occupations. However, these policies are usually limited in terms of coverage, and rates are higher if you opt out of the medical exam.

Is term life insurance effective immediately?

It depends on whether the company requires a medical examination. If no medical exam is required, you can usually get a policy that goes into effect within a day. However, if you need a medical exam, it can take up to a few weeks for the policy to be issued and for your benefits to take effect.

Life insurance quotes are always free.

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Editorial Tips: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about life insurance. Our goal is to be an objective third party source for all things life insurance. We update our website regularly, and all content is reviewed by life insurance experts.

Rachel Brennan has been in the insurance industry since 2006 when she started working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she held her property and casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her expertise in the insurance field, and was licensed in health insurance and AD&D insurance as well. I worked for a small health in…

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Rachel Brennan
Licensed insurance agent
Rachel Brennan

Benjamin Carr has worked as a licensed insurance agent at State Farm and Tennant Special Risk. He sold various lines of coverage and advised his clients about their life, health, and property/accident insurance needs. Assessing risk and helping people find the best coverage for their needs is his passion. He appreciates that insurance is designed to protect people, especially in times of…

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Benjamin Carr

Former state farm insurance agent

Benjamin Carr



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