Obtaining life insurance with a felony on your record might be a tough undertaking. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get approved. There are many factors that add to the complexity of getting a life insurance policy—for instance, a serious health condition, hazardous activities (i.e., diving, parachuting), and even a felony.
Most major insurance companies view applicants with a criminal record as presenting a higher risk. Depending on the nature of the conviction, though, along with the amount of time that has passed since, you may still have some options.
We’re an independent life insurance agency that has expertise with high-risk individuals. We are able to shop around with all the insurance companies on your behalf to make sure you get the best coverage based on your circumstance.
Why a Felony Matters to a Life Insurance Company?
Many insurance companies associate individuals with a felony on their records with higher risk. Each individual who applies for life insurance presents a set of potential risks to the carrier, and the carrier must decide to either approve the policy without restrictions, approve it with higher rates, or deny it. Which of these outcomes takes place will be based on the nature of the risk that the applicant poses to the company.
In considering an individual with a criminal history, an insurance company has to consider the impact incarceration might have had on the person’s wellbeing. Incarceration is undoubtedly a traumatic experience, one that can take a toll on mental and physical health. But there’s also a higher chance of contracting certain diseases while in prison, which could ultimately result in death years later. Even more, drug use is sometimes closely related to incarceration. Any of these occurrences may result in premature death.
What the Underwriter Will Ask?
- What type of a felony were you charged with?
- How long ago was it?
- How severe was the crime?
- Were you incarcerated? How long?
- How have you turned your life around?
- Was there a probation period?
What Other Options Do You Have?
If you are a felon who has been declined for life insurance, you have 3 choices for a more accessible policy:
- Group life insurance through your employer. If you work for a company and they provide life insurance, you could get life insurance through that program. Keep in mind that the coverage is effective as long as you work for them. Typical coverage amounts range from $25,000 to $50,000.
- Accidental death policy. This policy pays benefits for death caused by an accident. A death resulting in a heart attack or stroke won’t be covered. This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
- Guaranteed issue. This policy has a 2–3 years graded benefits clause, which means that, if you die within 2–3 years, no death benefit will be paid. The max amount on these policies is $25,000.
Can I Get Life Insurance while on Probation?
Unfortunately, that’s not usually an option. Life insurance companies require a 1- to 5-year waiting period after probation has ended to obtain coverage with a standard rating class. (It all depends on the company’s underwriting.) The further back your criminal activity happened, the better.
Many life insurance companies don’t want to insure a person on probation because there is a higher likelihood of returning to jail. The criminal justice system is still monitoring someone on probation, and any small violation can place him or her in prison once again.
If you would like to buy life insurance and you have been convicted of a felony, the best advice is to be honest—don’t hide it. The first thing the carrier does when they get an application is a background check. If you lied on the application, they will deny your application without giving you a chance. And keep in mind that being denied for life insurance with one carrier will open the doors for others to follow suit.
How to Get Life Insurance with a Felony Conviction?
The reality is that it isn’t easy for people with felony convictions to get life insurance. It can be very frustrating, and the underwriting process might be longer than the usual 4–6 weeks. The way I see it, there are 2 routes you can take:
1. Call and apply with all the carriers out there and hope to get your application issued. Lots of time and trouble go into this.
2. Call one broker who deals with all the carriers, and be honest about what happened. Then, you will get a clear answer on your chances of getting a life insurance policy and how to accomplish it. (Once again, the type and severity of the conviction, along with the period of time that has passed since, will have a major impact on the kind of coverage you’ll be able to get, how much you will pay, or whether you will get one at all.)
An independent broker can advise you about other options you may have if your application for a conventional policy is declined.
The One Most Important Tip
The most effective suggestion I can provide is that you write an excellent cover letter describing your situation. Tell the company what happened, and take full responsibility for your conviction. If you can show a stable workplace, some education, and connection to service and local community, you will have a far better chance of getting your life insurance policy than you would applying without a cover letter.
Insurance companies want your business, but not for any price. The underwriting method provides them with time to perform their groundwork and get to know you before deciding whether or not you are a good match for them.
What Carrier Do I Have the Highest Chance With?
As I mentioned before, every carrier will look at your situation differently. However, the most aggressive carrier I would go with is Prudential.
Prudential uses “underwriting credits.” In plain English, that means that, if someone is overweight and between the ages of 18 and 59 and has no other medical issues, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes, he or she could get a policy for a preferred table instead of a standard table. They give customers “credits” for overall health and don’t concentrate too much on weight.
The same goes for a felony. If you can show an outstanding recovery and rehabilitation, you may get a better rate. I highly doubt this would be preferred, but a standard to table 4 would be the norm. (You would expect to pay 2–3 times as much as someone who has preferred table ratings.)
Keep in mind that underwriting guidelines are changed frequently, and what is true now may not be accurate in a few months. If you have a felony conviction on your record, talk to a broker who is familiar with the underwriting guidelines of every carrier out there. It costs you nothing, and you have someone on your side who wants you to have a policy because this is how they make their living.