Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

Full Bio →

Written by

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insur...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Sep 8, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident life insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one life insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our life insurance industry partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

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

The Brief

  • Not all life insurance policies have a waiting period, but those that don’t have higher premiums
  • No matter the policy, your insurance company can deny paying your beneficiaries for several reasons
  • Although it’s never too late to get life insurance, the younger you start a policy, the better

A life insurance policy is the best way to protect your loved ones after your death, but how long do you have to have life insurance before you die? The answer can be complicated and depends entirely on the policy in question.

There are many considerations when it comes to getting life insurance. For example, getting life insurance for 30-year-olds is a different process than it is for older adults.

However, whether its buying a policy when you’re 25 or 85, it’s never too late to buy life insurance to ensure the financial stability of your loved ones in the future.

Don’t let your beneficiaries miss the payout that will take care of them – find out if dying right after getting life insurance will affect what your loved ones get paid. Enter your ZIP code into our free comparison tool to start finding the right insurance for you.

Types of Life Insurance

According to the Insurance Information Institute, over 9 million people bought life insurance in 2018 alone. There are two main types of life insurance: term and whole (or permanent). The type that’s best for you depends on what you need life insurance for.

Before wondering how long do you have to have life insurance before you die, you should understand how life insurance works.

Term Life Insurance

Term life offers coverage for a specified period, such as 10 or 20 years. Once the term is over, the policy ends.

This is beneficial for people like parents who want their kids covered in case of an untimely death. It’s also great for people looking to spend less on life insurance.

There are two types of term life. Level term keeps your death benefit the same throughout the entire term. Decreasing term does the opposite: your death benefit lowers as the years go by.

An advantage to term life is that the monthly premiums are cheaper, and they never change. However, your insurance company will not pay out if you die after the term ends.

Whole Life Insurance

Whole life does as its name suggests: covers your whole life. Even if you live past 100, whole life will payout when you die – hence why it’s called permanent life insurance.

Traditional whole life offers premiums that stay the same for the entirety of the insured’s life. Companies do this by averaging costs throughout your life. You pay more initially than you would with term life, but it prevents life insurance from being unaffordable in your elder years.

Because it covers a person’s entire life, whole life is usually more expensive. It can also be complicated. There are several types of whole life, such as universal and variable. Because of the financial complexities involved with these types, it’s best to speak to an agent.

The benefits of life insurance are clear – but how long do you have to life insurance before you die?

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Do All Life Insurance Policies Have a Waiting Period?

While most policies have a waiting period, it depends on what you purchase. Typically, you have to wait a few weeks after submitting your application. This allows the insurance company to process your application and verify any interviews or examinations regarding your health.

During this gap, your beneficiaries would receive nothing if you were to suddenly die. Once you’ve signed the policy and paid your first premium, your life insurance is officially active.

However, that doesn’t mean your family will be paid upon your death. The standard life insurance model includes a waiting period. This waiting period is the time between the activation of your policy and when your life insurance company pays out. On average, this period is about two years.

Insurance companies do this to prevent fraud and protect themselves financially. Think of it this way: if they paid you out for a death a month after your policy activates, they’d be paying thousands of dollars when you only put in a few hundred.

Life Insurance That Starts Immediately

All that said, there are types of insurance that go into effect immediately. These usually require little to no medical examination and come with higher premiums.

  • A guaranteed issue policy asks no questions about your health. There is no interview or medical examination. Simplified issue policies ask a few questions about your health but require no testing. This is a good option for older adults without debt.
  • Fully underwritten policies require a health exam, but it becomes active as soon as you pass that exam. This is an excellent option for people who are in relatively good health.
  • Some policies have an early effective date. All policies have a start date – your insurance agent can help you understand yours.

Reasons Life Insurance Won’t Pay Out

Even after buying a life insurance policy, there are times when your insurance company could refuse to pay your beneficiary. There are several reasons for not paying out, but they all boil down to the same points – fraud prevention and financial protection.

  • Extreme sports. Most policies will not cover your death if you die doing something like base jumping. This is considered high-risk behavior, and if you regularly participate in dangerous hobbies, you’ll need life insurance for extreme sports.
  • Criminal activity, especially anything that involves weapons. If you’re killed doing something illegal, your insurance probably won’t cover it.
  • Misrepresentation on your application. If you lie to your insurance, they can justifiably deny a claim, even if you were initially approved.
  • Alcohol or drug use. Using alcohol or drugs you weren’t prescribed can nullify your coverage.
  • Suicide. Contrary to popular belief, most life insurances do cover successful suicide attempts. However, there is usually a period of about two years where beneficiaries will not be paid.
  • Homicide. Insurance companies won’t pay beneficiaries proven to have murdered or conspired to murder the policyholder.

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What’s the Best Time to Get Life Insurance?

The best time to get life insurance is when you’re young. Life insurance isn’t usually something young people concern themselves with, but having a good policy can protect your future.

It’s a fact of life – no one knows when they’re going to die. Life insurance can protect young people and their families against accidents and illnesses.

There are many reasons for young people to consider life insurance:

  • Young people tend to have more debt than older people, and life insurance can protect their loved ones from being saddled with it.
  • Youth usually comes with better health, which means lower premiums for you.
  • When you know your loved ones are protected, you can build your future without worry.

The earlier you’re covered, the sooner you can stop wondering how long do you have to have life insurance before you die.

Life Insurance Waiting Periods

If you end up dying right after getting life insurance, it might not pay out.

Before you sign up for any policy, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. If you’re in good health, you can probably afford some waiting time. If your health isn’t the greatest or you don’t mind paying higher premiums, you might want to skip the wait.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to ask your insurance agent to clarify anything you’re concerned about.

So, how long do you have to have life insurance before you die? Enter your ZIP code below and get started with some free life insurance quotes to find out.