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Life insurance underwriting process

Apr 26, 2021 5 Minute Read

Life insurance is there to provide a financial cushion for your family to protect them from the unexpected. Every person’s situation is different, which is why life insurance policies aren’t one-size-fits-all, either.

That’s why life insurance companies use a process called underwriting to get a clear picture of your background, your health, and your lifestyle when you apply. Underwriting helps companies understand the risks involved in insuring you, so they can determine if you’re approved for the policy and set your final rate.

Underwriting may sound complex, but it’s become quicker and easier over the years – some underwritten policies can even start the same day you apply.

While each company has slightly different guidelines, insurers generally consider a few main criteria when evaluating your policy. Here’s what to expect during the underwriting process.

What factors do life insurance companies consider during underwriting?

The goal of underwriting in life insurance is to understand your overall life expectancy. If you lead a healthy lifestyle, this can mean more life insurance options and better premiums, or rates. On the flip side, anything that could make you more likely to die during the life insurance policy can mean higher rates or denial for your application. Insurers’ underwriting guidelines typically consider your health, your lifestyle, and your finances, among other factors.

Medical Factors Include:

  • Your height and your weight
  • Whether or not you smoke
  • Whether or not you use any prescription or recreational drugs, including marijuana
  • A history of medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and depression
  • Your family’s medical history

Lifestyle Factors Include:

  • Your driving record
  • Any adventurous hobbies, like scuba diving or flying a private plane
  • Foreign travel
  • Criminal history

Financial Factors Include:

  • Your current occupation and income
  • Your past financial history, including any bankruptcies

How does the life insurance underwriting process work?

There are a few steps involved once you apply for a term life insurance or permanent life insurance policy:

  • Reviewing your application. First, the life insurance company thoroughly checks your application to make sure that all the information provided is complete and correct, including your occupation, your date of birth, your life insurance coverage needs, your travel history, and any other behaviors or activities that could impact your life insurance coverage.
  • Taking a medical exam. Some policies require a medical exam to determine how healthy you are. This typically includes checking height and weight, blood pressure and obtaining a blood and urine sample.The insurance company covers the cost of the exam so there is no charge to you. Learn what to expect during the exam and how to prepare.
  • Checking additional databases. Along with your application and medical exam, life insurance companies will look at a few third-party sources for information, including your driving record and prescription records over the last few years. Insurers also check the Medical Information Bureau records to see if you’ve applied for another policy within the last few months.
  • Requesting an attending physician’s statement. This is typically only needed if you’re older or applying for a large amount of coverage. In those cases, your insurance company will ask your medical provider to issue a statement certifying your health.

Based on this information, the insurance company assigns you an insurance classification. There are four basic classifications that determine your rate and eligibility for a policy:

  • Preferred Plus. Also referred to as Preferred Best or Preferred Elite, this is the best possible life insurance classification you can receive (which means you’ll get the lowest rates available).
  • Preferred. This classification means that you are in fairly good health, but you might have some minor health problems. You can typically receive affordable premiums with this rating.
  • Select. If you receive the Select classification, you might have some red flags, like a history of previous illness, but you are still a fairly good candidate for life insurance.
  • Standard. The Standard classification means that you have a family history of health problems, as well as other potential health issues. You’ll likely pay high premiums, but you are still eligible for life insurance coverage.

Every life insurance company’s underwriting criteria is different, so it can pay to shop around. eFinancial can connect you to multiple term life and permanent life insurance options at various prices that make sense for your situation.

How long does the life insurance underwriting process take?

In the past, the underwriting process of life insurance could take up to eight weeks. Now, it’s quicker and easier to get life insurance coverage. At eFinancial, you can apply by phone and get an answer the same day in some cases. eFinancial offers quick approvals, including no exam options if needed.

Still have questions or want more information about life insurance underwriting guidelines?

We’re here to help. eFinancial works with top-rated life insurance companies to help you find the right coverage for you and your family. Call us or start your quote online today.


At eFinancial, our goal is to make life insurance simple, affordable, and understandable for everyday families. This content is intended for educational purposes only. Each post is carefully fact-checked, reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the information is as relevant as possible.