If you want to buy term life insurance, you’ve got a few options. You could work with an agent in your area if you’d prefer a face-to-face interaction, or you can buy online if you prefer the convenience of an electronic process.
However, not all online life insurance agencies are created equal. If you’re shopping around for term life quotes, it’s important to understand what to look for to help you get the best value.
What to expect when you’re applying for coverage
Anyone who has gone through a life insurance application in the past could tell you that life insurance carriers are some of the most thorough and careful companies in the world. This is because life insurance policies are priced based on the applicant’s risk of death.
However, the process of applying has come a long way, and it’s actually gotten pretty simple – especially online. Nowadays, most of the heavy lifting is done behind the scenes.
If you add a good agency into the mix, applying for life insurance is practically painless, since it will handle almost everything that doesn’t require your signature or further clarification from you.
Generally, buying a life insurance policy will take between two and six weeks, and the process tends to follow a consistent format.
Step 1: Submit an application
When you find a price you like, you can choose a carrier to submit a formal application with. Choosing a carrier to apply with isn’t a binding decision, and you’re always free to back out of an application to go a different direction.
Step 2: Take a medical exam
Life insurance carriers will require you to take a medical exam see how healthy you are. This is free for you and the examiner will even come to your home or office to make things convenient.
Step 3: Wait for your medical records
The carrier will order a copy of your medical records from your doctor, which could take anywhere between hours and weeks, depending on how well-organized your doctor keeps their records.
Step 4: Tie up loose ends
After the exam is completed, medical records have been received, and any other questions the carrier needs answered are out of the way, your application will be reviewed. Once you get the final OK from the carrier, your policy will be approved, and you’ll be on your way to getting coverage!
Let’s look at each of these steps in a little more detail.
Submitting your application
Starting your life insurance journey will often begin with getting a quote, which will show you prospective prices based on a few key factors, like the amount of coverage you’d need, how long you want it to last, and a few health and lifestyle questions.
Interested? Check out a few prices. Quotacy has an online quoting tool you can use – no commitment required.
Taking the medical exam
After applying for coverage, the life insurance carrier will require you to take a quick medical exam in order to be approved for coverage. Because life insurance pricing is based on your mortality risk, the carrier needs to verify your current medical situation.
The medical exam is a free mini-physical performed by an examiner and scheduled by the carrier. It can happen anywhere, even in your home or office, whenever you can spare half an hour.
- Typical exams consist of:
- A few questions about your medical history
- A list of any medications you’re taking
- Height and weight measurements
- Pulse and blood pressure check
- A urine sample
- A blood sample
Preparing for your exam
The measurements that are taken during the exam are extremely important, and being prepared is your best bet to ensure a good outcome. In the time before your exam, you should remember to:
- Fast for 6-8 hours – this will reduce your blood sugar. Scheduling your exam in the morning can make this easy if you skip breakfast.
- Don’t smoke for at least one hour prior – smoking temporarily raises your blood pressure.
- Don’t drink coffee for at least one hour prior – caffeine can increase your blood pressure and raise your pulse.
- Avoid alcohol for 8 hours prior – it’s high in calories, and can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Avoid overly salty and sugary foods for one day beforehand – both salt and sugar raise your blood pressure.
- Drink lots of water – this hydrates you to help make the blood draw a lot easier and less painful.
- No strenuous exercise the night before or the day of your exam – as your body repairs from exercise, your blood pressure and pulse rise slightly.
- No sexual activity for one day beforehand (for men, at least) – gettin’ freaky lowers the PSA levels in your blood, which is one of the ways that carriers evaluate your prostate health.
- Get a good night’s sleep – being well-rested lowers blood pressure. As an added bonus, if you’re afraid of needles, having a full eight hours can help your body negate the physical effects of your phobia.
Waiting for your medical records
Before your life insurance application is approved, insurance carriers order copies of your medical and driving records to help them get a better idea of any insurability risks you might have. Just like with the medical exam, the carrier orders these records behind the scenes on their own dime.
Because the laws protecting a patient’s medical records are extremely strict, you will need to sign a form authorizing your doctor to release your records to the insurance company and agency you’re working with.
At this point, all you’ll need to do is sit and wait for the records to arrive. Depending on how efficient your doctor is at sending them along, waiting for this step to be completed can either happen overnight or take a few weeks.
Answering additional questions
In addition to everything else that happens during your application, the carrier will sometimes have follow-up questions for you which will help them get to know you a bit better. These questions can be about anything from medical conditions to your hobbies to your travel plans.
A lot of the time, the questions a carrier asks can be pretty scary to someone trying to protect their family. Many clients see a questionnaire about their sleep apnea, or their diabetes, or their battle with cancer, and assume that the carrier will decline them on the spot.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though there are many factors that can affect your rate during this time, you’ll likely be able to get coverage. The whole reason that insurance carriers have flexible prices is because they want to offer coverage to as many people as possible, regardless of the circumstances.
Here’s a quick list of example questions you could see during an application, depending on your circumstances.
If you have a medical condition:
- How severe is it?
- How is it being treated?
- Is the treatment effective?
If you have a risky hobby, like hang gliding or rock climbing:
- What level of experience or certification do you have?
- How often do you participate in your hobby?
- How much time have you dedicated to your hobby?
This isn’t a comprehensive list, by any means, but hopefully it will give you an idea of what the carrier is looking for.
Waiting for approval
Once the carrier has everything they need, your application will enter the approval process. This is when the carrier’s underwriters will review everything they’ve collected as a whole, and evaluate where the final price of your insurance policy should be set.
If you’re approved for coverage, you’ll be sent a packet containing your policy itself as well as a few documents that you’ll need to sign and return so the carrier can finalize your coverage. This step is also when the carrier will collect your payment information so that they can set up your billing on their end.
Depending on the carrier you apply with, you will either be sent digital forms or a physical policy booklet. Regardless of the format, you should store your policy securely and have a plan in place to help your family find it in the event of your death, so they can claim your death benefit.
After a bit more processing by the carrier to wrap up any loose ends, you’ll receive a notification that your policy is inforce. That means that everything’s in place on the carrier’s end of things, and your coverage has been activated! All that’s left for you to do is make your premium payments according to your payment plan, and your family will be covered.
Eric Lindholm is a writer for Quotacy, and he’s personally guided hundreds of people through their own life insurance journeys since joining in 2016. Eric lives in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where he’s busy paying off his student loans and making the most of his time as a 20-something. You can connect with him and see what he’s up to at EricLindholm.biz.