Life Insurance 101

We wrote our life insurance 101 guide to help smart consumers better understand the life insurance process!

After all, if you haven’t been through underwriting before, it can be intimidating and confusing.

With RiskQuoter, you’ll know exactly what to expect before you apply.

Life Insurance 101

You made a great decision. You know you need life insurance but want to make sure you get it right.

The first thing to do is ask yourself is How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

After you’ve read the above, how long do you need life insurance for?

And while most of our clients choose term life insurance, there are all different types of life insurance to choose from.

Life Insurance Underwriting Process

Underwriting is the evaluation of your medical history, personal background, height, and weight history.

In addition, other factors below are used to determine the life insurance underwriting classes available.

Current Health

How’s your current health?

With some life insurers, you may qualify for accelerated underwriting, while other companies may require you to take a paramedical exam.

With accelerated underwriting, life insurers review your application, credit history, prescription databases, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), motor vehicle records.

If you are in good overall health you may get approved quickly with no further exams, etc.

Medical History

As part of the underwriting process, underwriters want to know about any medical conditions you’ve had.

If you’ve had a high-risk medical condition, underwriting requires details about your history before approving you.

High-risk health conditions include:

  • Cancer History
  • Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders
  • Heart Conditions
  • HIV Positive
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Mental Health
  • Prostate Disorders
  • Respiratory
  • Brain Disorders
  • Other Medical

Insurers will get copies of your records from your doctors or use a process called Human API to obtain records electronically.

If you’ve been denied life insurance previously, let us know. Many times it’s just a matter of getting to the right company in order to get approved.

Family Medical History

Something you may not be aware of is that life insurers consider your parents’ and siblings’ medical history when underwriting you.

Our guide – Don’t Let Family History Ruin Your Life Insurance Rate! shows you what to look out for.


Most occupations are not a problem with underwriting.

On occasion, commercial divers, professional athletes, marijuana workers, miners, may require an additional expense called a flat-extra, but others like police, fire, etc. typically do not.

Income and Financials

Life insurance carriers want to make sure the amount of coverage you seek is justifiable.

Underwriters may ask about:

  • Annual Income
  • Household Income
  • Unearned Income
  • Net worth
  • Credit History

For unique situations when you need more life insurance than would typically be expected, a good cover helps.

An example of this might life insurance in divorce settlements if the amount of coverage sought seems excessive.

Bankruptcy may have to wait until it is discharged.

Ownership and Beneficiaries

As part of underwriting, you will indicate who will be the owner and beneficiary of the life insurance policy.

It’s an important decision so make sure you take a few minutes to read about life insurance beneficiaries.


Life insurance companies may charge you more if you participate in any of the following activities:

  • Scuba Diving
  • Rock or mountain climbing
  • Skydiving
  • Motorized racing
  • Private Pilots

Some companies will allow an aviation exclusion rider for private aviation.

Commercial airline pilots are not affected unless they also participate in private aviation.

Do you travel internationally?

Countries on the U.S. State Department travel warnings site may result in additional premiums…

Or postponement of life insurance until your return.

Driving Record

Life insurers use a points system to determine if your motor vehicle record will negatively affect you.

A single violation such as a speeding ticket is usually a non-factor.

Multiple moving violations within a 2-3 year period of time may result in higher premiums.

Reckless driving and DUI’s typically follow criminal rules.

Criminal History

The most common history we see is for drunk driving arrests.

Most rates are based on the time since your DUI arrest and court outcome.

The availability of life insurance depends on the crimes committed, convictions, and your current status.

Underwriting FAQ

The following are the most common questions we receive.

How long does life insurance underwriting take?

It may take from several days to a few months depending on the various types of underwriting available. It all depends on the type of policy, insurance company chosen, your medical history, and more.

What are life insurance underwriting guidelines?

Each life insurer has its own set of general life guidelines that are used to determine your eligibility and price for life insurance.

What does fully underwritten life insurance mean?

Fully underwritten life insurance requires the most comprehensive review when compared to other types of underwriting mentioned later.

What is no medical life insurance underwriting?

No medical life insurance is a great option if you are in good health, like convenience, do not like paramed exams, and you are in a hurry to complete your life insurance.

What is guaranteed issue life insurance underwriting?

With guaranteed issue life insurance, few if any questions are asked. The main reason why any health questions are asked is to determine if you will receive a level or graded death benefit.

Underwriting Decisions

After your file has been reviewed, the underwriter determines if you are eligible for life insurance, and at what rate.

Approved As Applied – You received the price you were expecting.

Approved Other Than As You Applied (AOTA) – You may receive approval at a more or less favorable rate class.

Postponed – If you were recently diagnosed or just completed treatment, you may be postponed for a period of time.

Denied – You may be denied by the life insurance company. When this happens, we’ll discuss the next steps.

Are Life Insurance Offers Negotiable?

Yes and No.

If there is a health issue involved and you received a table-rated offer, we should discuss it.

There may be times when we can get the company to reduce or eliminate the rating.

If not, we can potentially move to another company for a better rate.

If you have other positive factors that we can point out to underwriting, that will help.

Will you qualify for the preferred best rates?

Keep in mind that 20% of all applicants qualify for the preferred best life insurance rates.

If you meet the criteria, you’ll get the rate.

Will my upcoming birthday affect my rate?

Most life insurers consider you to be the next age once you are within 6 months of your next birthday.

Companies do allow you to “backdate” your policy for the younger age, but…

You’ll need to pay premiums from the backdate forward.

Do medications affect life insurance rates?

It depends on the medication and the control of the medical condition.

Many companies still allow their best rates if you take blood pressure or cholesterol medication.


The best way to get started is to submit your quote request today.

When we receive your request, we’ll provide you with accurate quotes from the best companies available.

We’ll show you each term company’s life insurance conversion privileges.

There is never any pressure or obligation with our service.

Thank you.

We’d love to chat.

Do You Need Help With Something?

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