Does Life Insurance Cover Suicidal Death?

Losing a loved one to suicide is never easy. In the sad aftermath of a self-inflicted death, your first thoughts are probably not about whether life insurance will cover your loved one's untimely death.
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Does Life Insurance Cover Suicidal Death?

Written by Brian Greenberg
CEO / Founder & Licensed Insurance Agent

Last updated: November 25th, 2022

Reviewed by Rebecca Thrift
Licensed Insurance Agent

You may find yourself with questions as to what life insurance actually covers in this situation.

Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?

Life insurance does pay benefits after the death of an insured person due to suicide, but only if all requirements are met. Most life insurance policies contain a suicide clause or provision that outlines how the policy works in the event of suicide. Typically, this provision prevents any payout of benefits if the suicide occurs within the first 2–3 years of the policy. However, this time frame may vary from one insurer or policy to another.

If a medical examiner or law enforcement officer rules that a policyholder’s death was a suicide, and if that death occurs during the 2–3-year exclusion period, the insurance company will likely deny any claim for life insurance benefits. If a death by suicide occurs after that exclusion period, the company is likely to pay the benefits due.

Some life insurance policies also require the policyholder to report any mental health issues or any problems with addiction. If those issues existed but weren’t reported, the policy may be voided in the event of suicide.

How Is Mental Health Assessed When Applying for Life Insurance?

When you apply for life insurance, the insurance provider will ask for a full medical history, including your mental health history. The insurance company will also look at your list of medications to determine your health condition.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, the insurance company won’t necessarily disqualify you for life insurance. Each application is considered individually, so the company looks at the specifics of your diagnosis and what treatment you received. It’s harder to get life insurance with certain mental health diagnoses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Life insurance companies are also more likely to deny coverage to someone with a history of suicide attempts, hospitalization for mental health issues, or co-occurring addiction issues.

While a risky medical history may result in a denial of life insurance, you could still be approved. However, you may have to pay higher premiums than someone without your mental health history, or the policy may come with various exclusions. In some cases, an insurer may ask you to postpone your application.

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What Is a Life Insurance Suicide Clause?

Life insurance policies contain a standard clause that establishes what’s known as an exclusion period. During this period, the policy doesn’t have to pay benefits if the insured person dies by suicide. After the exclusion period, the policy must pay out. The standard exclusion period is 2–3 years, though Colorado, North Dakota, and Missouri all have a 1-year exclusion period.

What Is a Life Insurance Incontestability Clause?

A life insurance incontestability clause prevents the insurance provider from canceling the policy if the policyholder made a misstatement of fact on their application. Like suicide clauses, incontestability clauses also have an exclusion period, typically 2 years. That means that after 2 years, the insurance company cannot cancel the policy if you make a misstatement on your application.

An incontestability clause protects policyholders who may have inadvertently misstated or omitted a fact on their original application for life insurance. However, it’s not a protection against the consequences of deliberate fraud.

How Does Suicide Work Under Different Types of Life Insurance?

Different types of life insurance treat suicide in different ways. Take a look at how suicide is handled under group, term, and whole life insurance policies.

Group Life Insurance and Suicide

Group life insurance that you receive as an employer-paid benefit at your job typically doesn’t include a suicide clause. That means it will pay a death benefit even if an insured person commits suicide. If you’ve purchased your own life insurance through a group, however, that 2-year exclusion period is likely to apply.

Term Life Insurance and Suicide

Term life insurance policies come with a 2–3-year exclusion period. If the policyholder dies by suicide after that period, the insurance company will pay the death benefit. If the policyholder dies during the exclusion period, some companies will refund the premiums already paid on the policy.

Whole Life Insurance and Suicide

Whole life insurance policies also have a 2–3-year exclusion period regarding suicide. If the policyholder commits suicide after this exclusion period, the beneficiaries receive the full death benefit in addition to the policy’s cash value. If the policyholder dies by suicide during the exclusion period, the beneficiaries will not receive the death benefit. Depending on the terms of the policy, they may receive the policy’s cash value.

How Do You File a Life Insurance Claim When Suicide Is Involved?

To file a life insurance claim after a policyholder dies, the beneficiaries should gather the death certificate and the life insurance policy and contact the insurance company. The insurance provider can help beneficiaries fill out the request for benefits form, which may take several weeks to process.

When beneficiaries file a life insurance claim after the death of an insured person, the insurance provider asks for the death certificate. If the death certificate states that the death was self-inflicted or if the cause of death is questionable, the insurance company may ask for other medical evidence, which may include an autopsy or medical examiner’s report. Whether death benefits will be paid out is determined largely by whether the suicide exclusion period has passed.

How Long Do Life Insurance Payouts Take When Suicide Is Involved?

The investigation required when someone dies by suicide may lengthen the time needed to process the claim. In most cases, if death benefits are owed to the beneficiaries, the insurance company will pay out within about 2 months.

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Key Takeaways About Life Insurance Covering Suicide

  • Life insurance policies may pay death benefits if the policyholder commits suicide as long as certain requirements are met.
  • If a policyholder commits suicide during an exclusion period of 2–3 years, no death benefits are due.
  • Group life insurance policies paid for by an employer don’t have suicide exclusion periods.

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