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Life insurance premiums are primarily based on your age, medical history and lifestyle, which means that older individuals or those with pre-existing health conditions generally pay more for their insurance than young and healthy people. Because life insurance is priced according to your personal rating factors, it may be tempting to omit health information or make misleading statements. However, being dishonest on life insurance applications could lead to serious consequences, including coverage disqualification or non-payment of death benefits to your survivors. Insurance providers have numerous methods for verifying information so it’s important to understand the impact of your answers.
Lying on a life insurance application
Falsifying information on your life insurance application may seem like a harmless way to get a better rate. However, if you are caught lying on your application, there are a number of consequences you can face, including being charged with committing insurance fraud, which could possibly lead to criminal charges.
Unfortunately, lying on a life insurance application is not uncommon, especially among people who are older or have chronic health problems. Here are a few examples of false claims commonly made on applications:
- Age: Someone may indicate they are younger than their true age.
- Weight: Someone who is obese may report a lower weight than is accurate.
- Family medical history: Someone might fail to share a family history of a critical condition or disease, such as cancer, even if a parent or sibling recently battled with it.
- Personal medical history: Someone may omit details about a significant past health issue.
- Tobacco use: Someone who occasionally smokes cigarettes may intentionally check the “non-smoker” box.
- Drug use: Someone who has abused a drug may omit admission of their drug use.
- Mental health: Someone who has depression or another clinical mental health issue may forego details about their mental health history.
Other common areas of misinformation include details about income, occupation, international travel to war zones, prescriptions and other circumstances related to health or lifestyle.
People tend to lie on their life insurance application to avoid paying a higher premium. Someone who has significant pre-existing health conditions — like cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure — will likely pay a higher rate than someone who is in good health. Additionally, a 50-year-old will usually pay less for their life insurance than a 60-year-old, which is why some people may be tempted to lie about their age. Despite a fear of a higher premium, the best course of action is to truthfully answer life insurance application questions to avoid policy denial or cancellation during the contestability period.
If you are worried about paying a higher rate based on your health status, you can compare multiple life insurance policy types so that you can purchase the coverage you need at a rate you can afford.
How insurance companies verify your life insurance application
After you submit your life insurance application, the underwriter begins the verification process. They assess the findings from your underwriting medical exam (if you took one) or health questionnaire, review your medical records and may even conduct personal interviews with friends and relatives. Since insurers work with multiple forms of documentation, they are more than likely to spot any discrepancies between your application and your medical files.
Life insurance companies also use information from the MIB when verifying life insurance applications. The MIB maintains a database containing a profile on every individual who has previously submitted insurance applications for health or life insurance. If there is any information in the database relating to false statements or misrepresentations, it could prevent approval for a future life insurance policy.
Consequences of lying on your life insurance application
Lying on your life insurance application can be considered a form of insurance fraud and could come with serious consequences and impact future insurability. However, the consequences may vary based on the severity of the omission.
If you are caught lying during the application process, the insurance company can immediately decline coverage. The incident could get logged into the MIB, which means other life insurers can see the incident too if you apply for coverage in the future. If this information is flagged in your file, getting a life insurance policy from another carrier could be more difficult or nearly impossible.
If the lie is relatively minor, you might be able to get approved for coverage, but you could pay a higher rate than you would otherwise or you could face coverage limitations.
If you pass away within the first two years after the policy is issued and the insurance company discovers false statements on your application, your beneficiaries may not receive the full death benefit or could be completely denied benefits. The time when insurers may still investigate statements on the application to determine if misrepresentations were made is called the contestability period. There is usually a two-year contestability period from the time your policy goes into effect, where your beneficiaries’ death benefit can either be denied or decreased if the life insurer discovers misinformation on the application. Typically, the insurer would calculate how much coverage your premiums would have purchased during the contestability period if you had answered the questions truthfully to calculate the death benefit your beneficiaries are eligible for.
What if I make an honest mistake on my application?
Life insurance applications contain numerous questions and completing the process will probably require you to review your medical history over the past few decades. It is entirely possible that you could forget important information or resort to making some educated guesses. If that happens, it generally shouldn’t impact your application or future coverage.
Insurance fraud occurs when someone intentionally lies or reports incorrect information for their own benefit. If you have to guess your current weight or you forget about a medication you took 10 years ago, the life insurer likely won’t penalize you. However, it helps to get a copy of your past medical records before filling out the application to ensure your information is as accurate as possible.