By the end of 2019, there were 1,430,800 people comprising the prison population of the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that from 2018 to 2019, nearly half of federal prisoners were either the parent, step-parent or guardian of a minor child. With so much risk surrounding their status as a felon, it can be difficult for convicted felons to obtain the life insurance coverage they need to protect their loved ones’ financial interests after their passing.
While certainly more difficult, securing life insurance coverage as a convicted felon is not impossible. There are steps that prisoners can take to obtain life insurance coverage so they can provide their family members with the financial protection they need in the event they pass away.
How to buy life insurance as a felon
The first step to buying life insurance is to understand your perceived risk to insurance carriers. You also need to understand what factors are considered by insurance providers who offer life insurance products to felons so you have a better chance of securing coverage from a provider that is able to meet your needs.
Reducing your risk
Individuals who are incarcerated are normally considered high-risk liabilities and many insurance carriers are hesitant to take on such policyholders as clients. However, each insurance company assesses risk differently, and there are ways in which you can reduce your risk by having the details of your incarceration readily available. Usually, a felon’s risk is determined by the following factors:
- The severity of the crime committed
- The number and frequency of crimes committed
- The time that has passed since the crime occurred
Depending on the type of crime that occurred, you may be able to secure coverage shortly after incarceration from a lenient carrier. Showing proof that you have changed your lifestyle, such as evidence of a stable job and no further charges, may help to improve the odds of being viewed more favorably by life insurance companies.
Finding a carrier
As mentioned above, not all insurance carriers weigh risk equally. It is important to research each carrier before inquiring about a policy. Be sure to solicit companies who have experience providing life insurance coverage to felons as it may be more likely that they will offer coverage.
Alternatively, you may be able to find a carrier by searching for those who specialize in providing coverage to high-risk applicants. Be sure to get quotes from multiple carriers before making a final decision.
Selecting a policy
When it comes to obtaining a life insurance policy as a felon, a guaranteed issue policy may be the best option. A guaranteed issue life insurance policy provides coverage to policyholders regardless of medical history — and the same goes for criminal history as well. However, because guaranteed issue life insurance policies are guaranteed, they are generally more expensive than other types of life insurance, such as term life, and may not be an ideal solution if you are living on a limited budget.
How a felony impacts your life insurance
It is important to note that life insurance companies generally only consider candidates who are not presently imprisoned. If you are in jail or awaiting trial, you will not likely be able to obtain coverage.
However, insurance companies do review risk on a case-by-case basis. This means that each applicant will be reviewed based on their individual scenario. It is best to speak with an agent to further understand how you can obtain coverage.
When applying for life insurance, be open about your felony conviction. Insurance agents frequently cross-check the data you provide with public records. Any information you provide that ends up being false will likely result in an automatic denial of your application.
Other options for coverage
In addition to the guaranteed issue life insurance option mentioned earlier, felons may be able to obtain life insurance with the following alternatives:
- Group life insurance: If you are able to find an employer that offers life insurance through its employee benefits package, you may be able to take advantage by signing up for a policy. These policies do not typically require the same medical or criminal history disclosures that individual policies do, so felons can easily sign up for coverage. Plus, group insurance rates are often much lower than individual policies since the rate is shared among a group of individuals. However, it is important to note that group life insurance coverage is usually limited in its offerings and only covers you for the duration of your employment with the company providing the coverage.
- Accidental Death & Dismemberment: While not a life insurance policy, accidental death and dismemberment policies may provide a way for felons to offer financial relief to family members if the event of their death or serious injury. However, beneficiaries will not receive a death benefit if you die from illness, disease or underlying medical conditions.
Finding life insurance as a felon is difficult, but it is not impossible. By taking the time to do thorough research, reduce risk and select the right policy, felons can provide their families with the financial protection they need following their death. Even if they cannot obtain an individual policy, a guaranteed issue policy may offer a great way for felons to secure coverage.
Frequently asked questions
Can I apply for life insurance coverage if I am in jail?
Unfortunately, if you are in jail or awaiting trial, you probably will not be able to qualify for life insurance coverage. You will likely need to wait until the charges are dismissed, the trial is over and you are no longer incarcerated before you are able to successfully apply.
What questions do life insurance agents ask felons?
When shopping for a policy, it is important to be prepared for the types of questions you will be required to answer when submitting your application. Insurance agents will usually ask the following questions:
- What type of felony were you charged with?
- How severe was the crime?
- How much time has passed since the crime?
- Did you go to jail? If so, how long were you incarcerated?
- Did you serve a probation period?
- What steps have you taken to rehabilitate since the felony?
- Have you committed other crimes either before or after the felony in question?