Life insurance with a criminal record
Having a criminal record doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting life insurance. The availability of coverage depends on when you were convicted—each different company will be concerned about different timeframes. If you are declined traditional life insurance, there are alternative options! In all cases, it’s crucial to be honest about your criminal history during the application process, as lying can lead to rejection or denial of benefits.
Life has a lot of twists and turns—maybe you’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Thankfully, a few wrong turns in your past won’t bar you from life insurance completely. Insurance companies want to know a lot of information about your life, both now and in the past, including information about your criminal record. Some companies will want to know if you’ve been convicted in the last two, five, ten years, or ever before.
Luckily there are life insurance options for you, whether your record was in the last few years or decades ago. Read on to find out your best life insurance options when you have a criminal record.
Can I get life insurance if I have a criminal record?
Yes. You can get life insurance if you have a criminal record. However, getting your application approved and by which company will depend on how long ago you were convicted. Some companies will ask about your criminal history in the last two, five, ten years, or ever before. If you are declined for traditional life insurance, there are other options for you as well (more on that below).
What will they ask me on a life insurance application?
Life insurance companies collect information about your personal and health history to decide the financial risk to insure your life. They will ask about:
- Your family’s health history
- Your health history
- The name and dosages of any current medications
- A list of diagnosed physical health conditions
- A list of diagnosed mental health diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
- Name and address of your current doctor
- Your weight and history of major weight gain/loss
- Dates of any surgeries or procedures in the last 10 years
- Your lifestyle
- About your travel history in the last 2 years and any upcoming travel plans
- Your driving history (if you’ve been charged with reckless driving, suspended license etc).
- History of drug, smoking, or alcohol offences (and general drug/alcohol history)
- If you’ve been found guilty of any crimes or if there are criminal charges pending
- If you engage in skydiving, racing, parachuting, scuba diving, mountain climbing, backcountry skiing, or any other high-impact/high-risk activity
- If you’ve flown as a pilot or student pilot
Some insurance companies will ask specifically how long ago you were found guilty and if you are still on parole because of the conviction.
A question on your application might be posed like this:
“In the last 10 years, have you been charged with or convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offence or financial services regulatory offence (including securities regulators), or are any criminal charges pending?
If yes, follow-up questions might be:
1. Nature of offence
2. Date charged (month and year)
3. Sentence details (including imprisonment, fine, suspended sentence, conditional discharge, probation):
4. Date of sentence (month and year).”
Can I get life insurance if I’m in jail?
It may be possible to get life insurance if you are in jail, but it is highly unlikely. Most insurance companies will automatically decline you if you’re in jail, awaiting trial, or on probation. In a majority of cases, the insurance company will have wanted at least one year to pass since the conviction, and even then, they might decline you.
In order to apply for life insurance while in jail, you will need to provide evidence that you have the financial means to pay for coverage and prove that your health is stable. Additionally, you must satisfy all of the requirements necessary for any other applicant seeking life insurance, including providing medical records, a detailed history of drug/alcohol use, and other personal information. Even then, many insurance companies would be hesitant to cover you on a traditional life insurance policy.
Can I get life insurance if I’m on probation?
It’s possible, but not likely to get life insurance if you are on probation. The approval process will depend on several factors including the length of your probation period and the type of crime and severity of that crime. For example, people with felony convictions may have a harder time getting insurance than those with a misdemeanor charge. Your application may be approved but with a higher premium or a shorter term due to the risk associated with your criminal record. In some cases, you may even need to have a third-party guarantor (such as an employer) vouch for your good behavior during your probation period in order for the insurance company to consider you for coverage.
How long do insurance companies consider criminal records?
Many insurance companies that PolicyAdvisor works with will accept your application if you have a criminal record, but it depends on how long ago. Some companies will ask about the last 12 months while some will want to know if you’ve ever been on the wrong side of the law. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will still approve you, but here is a list of the periods that each company asks about for traditional policies.
This list is based on general application questions and does not mean that these insurance companies will accept your application if you were convicted before the period they asked about. Any mention of a criminal record at any time may mean the insurance company will ask for a criminal record check.
Will life insurance companies do a criminal record check?
Life insurance companies usually don’t run these criminal background checks themselves. However, if you have a criminal record, they may require that you submit one with your application. This document will give them information about the time of your conviction and the severity (like the type of felony or misdemeanor) in order for them to assess the risk to insure you (this is called the “underwriting process”). For example, if you’ve had many convictions in the past, the life insurance provider sees that as a risk factor—you may live a high-risk lifestyle that may lead to premature death. It sounds judgemental, but the insurance company is looking to protect its bottom line—it is a business after all.
What kind of life insurance can I get if I have a criminal record?
If you have a criminal record you are considered a “high-risk applicant” and you may have trouble getting traditional life insurance coverage, but you still have options. Here are the different types of life insurance you may be eligible for if you have any kind of criminal history.
1. Traditional life insurance
Depending on how long ago your charge was, you may still be eligible for traditional life term life insurance or whole life insurance. The outcome will depend on the underwriting process. With traditional life insurance, the application asks a detailed series of questions to flag any high-risk clients. If the life insurance company sees you as leading a high-risk lifestyle that puts you at risk of premature death, they will likely decline your application. As mentioned above, every company has a different standard of years of criminal history they are concerned about. However, there are other life insurance policies that have a less rigorous application process, known as “no-medical life insurance”.
2. Simplified issue life insurance
With simplified issue life insurance, the application questions are, well, simple! They usually don’t require as much detail and can be a little easier to get approved. However, some simplified issue policies may still ask you about your criminal record, but the “years since a criminal conviction” may be longer than those questions on a traditional policy application. There may still be a qualifying question like the length of time or severity of the charge, but it depends on the policy. That being said, simplified issue life insurance can be expensive. Because the life insurance carrier isn’t taking as many precautions during the underwriting process, they simply increase the premium rates to cover any potential risk that comes with insuring you.
If you have had a criminal conviction, here are your best simplified life insurance options:
Within the last one (1) year have you been found guilty of a criminal offence (including offences associated with driving under the influence – DUI) or of a criminal offence awaiting trial?
In the last three (3) years, have you been convicted of a criminal offence or a criminal act (including impaired driving), or have charges of a criminal offence or criminal act (including impaired driving) been laid against you?
In the last five (5) years, were you incarcerated for more than 48 hours?
Within the last ten (10) years, have you been convicted, incarcerated, on probation or parole, or are you awaiting sentencing for a criminal offence, or within the last 2 years have you been charged with driving under the influence or impaired driving?
3. Guaranteed issue life insurance
You know those, “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of policies? Guaranteed issue is kind of like that. With guaranteed issue life insurance, you are asked only basic questions like your age and residency status and there are no medical exams. Some companies, like CPP, will still ask the question on their guaranteed acceptance applications, but they are concerned about recent convictions—if it’s in the past, it’s in the past.
You are most likely to be approved for guaranteed issue life insurance if you have a criminal record, but it will cost you. Again, because there is minimal underwriting, the insurance company charges higher for these kinds of policies to protect themselves from financial loss.
Within the last five (5) years, have you been convicted, incarcerated, on probation or parole, or are you awaiting sentencing for a criminal offense, or within the last 2 years have you been charged with driving under the influence or impaired driving?
|No specified questions about criminal offenses.
Will my criminal record affect the cost of my life insurance?
Yes, having a criminal record will usually affect your life insurance rates. The cost of life insurance will fluctuate based on your health and lifestyle. With traditional life insurance, the company may put a rating, meaning a scaled price increase, depending on how long ago your charge was and the severity of it. If you’re declined by traditional life insurance, you can apply for simplified or guaranteed issue life insurance, but the base costs of these policies are higher than traditional ones.
How to apply for life insurance if you’ve had a criminal conviction
If you have a conviction on your record, it’s always best to speak to one of our licensed life insurance experts on the PolicyAdvisor team. When you book a call with one of our team members, we can take a look at your recorded criminal history without judgment and find the best possible solution for you and your family. We understand that everyone just wants to look out for their family’s future, and we’re here to help you do that, no matter what!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get life insurance if my charges were dropped?
If your charges were dropped, you should be able to get life insurance. The life insurance company may still want to know more information about the charge and the circumstances surrounding the case. However, you only have to declare if you were actually convicted on an application.
Do vehicle-related convictions count with life insurance?
When a life insurance application asks you about convictions, they mean all convictions including vehicle-related ones. So, you would need to provide more information about any DUIs or other convictions involving a vehicle on your driving record. You may be required to submit a motor vehicle report that has more details about your traffic convictions. This report will also list your moving traffic violations (running a stop sign, not signaling, etc.) as well as non-moving violations (seat belt tickets, registration tickets, etc.). The life insurance company may then use this information to assess the risk to insure you. In their eyes, someone who has a ton of tickets, as well as criminal convictions, may be seen as someone who is “high risk” for them to insure.
Can I lie about my criminal record on my life insurance?
We would never recommend that you lie on a life insurance application. Call us sticklers, but if the insurance company finds out you’ve had any criminal convictions and you said you haven’t had any, they may decline your application or decline your family the life insurance death benefit money after you die. After paying for life insurance premiums, you wouldn’t want your family to come out at the end of it with nothing! Additionally, most policies have a two-year contestability period. The contestability period of an insurance policy lasts two years from the date the policyholder was approved for coverage. This means an insurance company has two years after it issues the policy to void the coverage or adjust the premiums if it discovers an error in a material fact in the application.
- Having a criminal record does not necessarily mean being barred from obtaining life insurance.
- The information required by life insurance companies includes personal and health history as well as criminal record history.
- Some insurance companies may have specific time frames for criminal convictions and different options may be available if traditional life insurance is declined.