Life Insurance

Life Insurance Waiting Period: 5 Things to Know

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When you purchase renters or auto insurance, your coverage typically takes effect immediately. When you buy life insurance, however, there’s often a waiting period before your coverage officially begins. This is called the life insurance waiting period. It’s common with many new policies, but there are ways to get life insurance with no waiting period.

What is the waiting period in life insurance?

In a nutshell, the life insurance waiting period is the duration of time between submitting your application and when your coverage begins, also called the effective date.

Most life insurance companies institute a waiting period to review your medical history and look for signs of fraud on your application. They may also check your credit score to better understand your financial situation, which tells them how much coverage you can afford.

As soon as your application gets approved by the insurance underwriter, your coverage takes effect, and the waiting period ends. The length of the waiting period is not fixed, and it depends on your insurance company, the type of policy you’re buying, and the amount of coverage you're applying for.

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5 things to know about the waiting period for life insurance

We’ve gone over the basics of the life insurance waiting period, but there are other important factors to keep in mind. If you’re getting ready to apply for a life insurance policy, here are the facts about the waiting period.

1. You don’t have any coverage during the waiting period

The biggest thing to know about the life insurance waiting period is that you do not have any coverage during this time, unless you receive a conditional receipt by submitting an initial premium along with your application. Simply applying online or speaking to an agent does not guarantee coverage until your policy is formally approved by an underwriter. You’ll be notified when your coverage takes effect. 

As a result, that means if you pass away during the life insurance waiting period, your loved ones will not be eligible to receive the death benefit. Until you pay the first premium, your policy is not in force. If you pass away before your policy is approved and paid for, there are no benefits available to your beneficiary.

2. No-waiting period life insurance is often guaranteed

If you don’t want to take a medical exam or you have pre-existing health conditions, a guaranteed issue policy (like the ones Ethos offers) is easier to get approved for because the policies are not medically underwritten. Like all policies available through Ethos, these also don't require a waiting period. 

Guaranteed acceptance life insurance with no waiting period can be a good option for seniors or people who have struggled to qualify for life insurance in the past. Ethos offers no waiting period life insurance for seniors between the ages of 66-85 years old, with no medical exam required (just answer a few health questions). You can get approved in minutes, regardless of your medical history.

3. The length of the waiting period can vary

The answer to the question, when does coverage begin for life insurance, really depends on your insurance company, the type of policy you applied for, and whether a medical exam is required.

If your insurance carrier requires an in-person medical exam, the waiting period will end after the exam is complete and the underwriter has reviewed the results. Typically, this takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If you need coverage sooner, your best option is to find a company (like Ethos) that offers life insurance policies with no waiting period.

4. The waiting period is not the same as the contestability period

The contestability period is usually the first two years of your life insurance policy. If you pass away during this time, your insurance company is allowed to investigate your death. If they discover fraud on your application, or other factors that are excluded from coverage based on your policy (such as suicide or misstatement of age or gender), your death benefit can be withheld.

The contestability period and the waiting period are two separate things. The waiting period is usually much shorter and is generally used to give underwriters enough time to review your application and determine your insurability. 

5. You can get term and whole life insurance with no waiting period

Dealing with a life insurance waiting period can be frustrating. The good news is that you can purchase traditional life insurance with no medical exam and no waiting period.

Through Ethos, you can get term life insurance with no waiting period or whole life insurance with no waiting period and get approved in minutes. Many applicants get same-day coverage. 

To get a quote online, you’ll provide some personal information, answer a few health questions, and see your estimated rate. If you’re ready to buy, you can pay the first month’s premium and activate your coverage instantly.

You can start applying on our website anytime, anywhere. Our customer service team is available if you have questions or need help with your application.

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