How Long Does it Take to Get Life Insurance?

When it comes to buying life insurance, most individuals will focus on the cost of their plan and the amount of coverage they will have. However, one element to consider is how long it will take to get an insurance policy. 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. Every insurance company has its own rules, and there can be numerous variables to consider. 

So, with that in mind, we’re going to discuss everything that can go into buying a plan and how long it may take. Here’s what you need to know. 

What Goes Into Choosing Life Insurance Coverage?

One of the most crucial factors that can influence the time it takes to get a policy is the type of coverage you want. There are so many plans available that it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Here is a quick breakdown of the core elements of a life insurance policy. 

Coverage Amount

Before signing any paperwork, you should have a good idea of how much you want your beneficiaries to receive when you pass. While there are many different variables, some of the most common can include: 

  • Mortgage payments
  • Number of dependents (i.e., children or elderly parents)
  • Employment status of your beneficiaries
  • Burial costs

Overall, you want to ensure that you provide enough financial support for your loved ones when you’re gone. However, the higher your death benefit, the more time it can take to get approved. For example, it’s relatively easy to get a $50,000 term life insurance policy, but it may be challenging to get $1 million in whole life insurance. 

Policy Type

There are two primary options when choosing life insurance: term and whole. As a rule, term insurance is much easier to obtain, and you may get same-day approval. However, both policies have pros and cons, so you have to weigh them before making a final decision.

Term Life Insurance

As the simplest form of insurance coverage, these plans are the cheapest. All you have to do is pick a specific time period (i.e., 20 years) and a death benefit (i.e., $50,000). Most insurance companies will have tables that outline term insurance costs, based on your age, gender, and health status. 

Premiums for males are often higher than females, and the older you are, the higher your rates will be. You may not have to submit to a medical exam in some cases, but instead, fill out a health questionnaire. 

One of the benefits of term insurance is that your rates are usually locked in for the entire period. If you renew once the policy matures, your rate will be adjusted accordingly. 

Whole Life Insurance

If you want permanent insurance coverage, then whole life insurance is the best option. These policies will stay in effect for as long as you make payments, which means that they can last 40 to 60 years or more, depending on when you start. 

Because these plans don’t have an end date, insurance companies will regularly update your premiums (often every five years or so). So, the older you get, the more you will have to pay each month. 

However, the advantage of whole life insurance is that you get to build a cash value account. A portion of all of your premiums will go into this account, which you can use for various purposes, including retirement. 

Whole life insurance usually requires a medical exam, and you may have to get checked out at various ages to provide up-to-date information. Because of this, the approval process takes much longer than it does for term insurance. 

How Long Does it Take to Get Life Insurance?

On the short end of the spectrum, you could get approved within a day. On the long end, it could take up to 30 days for your policy to take effect. Also, keep in mind that some plans may have a two-year probationary period. This means that if you die within those two years, your beneficiaries will receive a portion of the death benefit, not the whole amount. 

If the insurer suspects fraud, it may cancel the death benefit altogether and simply refund any premiums you paid into the plan. 

The primary reason for such disparity between approval times is the amount of underwriting that goes into a policy. Underwriting is the process of determining your level of risk. For example, if you have a terminal illness, the chances of dying soon are much higher than if you are in excellent health. 

So, depending on the plan you choose and the size of the death benefit, the insurance company may want to get as many details about you as possible. The more information the insurer requires, the longer it will take to get approved.

how long does it take to get life insurance

Factors That Go Into Underwriting

To help you understand why getting life insurance can take days or weeks, here is a brief overview of the various elements that underwriters consider. 


More than anything, your physical health will determine whether you get approved. As a rule, life insurance companies want to cover healthy individuals because they want to mitigate the chances of paying out death benefits. These companies are for-profit, so they want to manage their level of risk as much as possible. 

To assess your health, you may have to answer a few questions or submit to a medical exam. If an exam is necessary, you may be able to get one from your primary physician. Otherwise, the insurance company will send you to a doctor of its choosing. 


As a rule, the younger you are, the healthier you are. As you get older, your body starts to break down, and it’s easier to be susceptible to disease and chronic health conditions. 

However, insurers understand that a person’s health is not always tied to age. For example, a 25-year-old could be in far worse shape than a 50-year-old. 

Usually, age is a defining factor when you don’t have to get a medical exam. Since the insurance company doesn’t know your health status, it will use your age as a guideline instead. 

Medical History

Just because you’re healthy right now doesn’t mean that you aren’t a risk. Typically, if you have to get a medical exam, the insurance company will want to look at your medical history as well. The most critical components underwriters look for include: 

  • Hospitalization – Were you ever rushed to the emergency room or hospitalized for a health condition? 
  • Surgery – Have you had surgery to correct a health problem? 
  • Prescription Treatments – Are you taking any medications to keep your health in check? 

Additionally, insurance companies will want to check out your family’s medical history to see if you are at a higher risk for various diseases. Some examples can include diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. 

Occupational and Lifestyle Risk Factors

Finally, underwriters will want to see how risky your life is on a regular basis. Some occupations (i.e., firefighter) are more dangerous than others, so that can affect your rates and approval process. In addition to looking at your job, insurers want to see if you participate in risky behaviors. These behaviors can include: 

  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Extreme Sports (i.e., skydiving)
  • Illicit Drug Use

In some cases, your habits could prohibit you from getting a policy. That being said, if you have a history of drug abuse but have since come clean, you may be able to get coverage. Overall, the underwriters want to make sure that there is little chance of a relapse. 

How to Expedite Your Life Insurance Coverage

Since the approval process can take up to 30 days, you may prefer to get a policy sooner than that. Here are a few methods you can use to ensure that your coverage starts as soon as possible. 

No Medical Exam

If a policy requires a medical exam, that means you have to schedule an appointment and then wait for results to come in. So, to speed things up, you can opt for a plan that doesn’t need an exam. 

Alternatively, you could potentially provide a recent exam you had with your primary physician. In some cases, this will be sufficient for the underwriters. However, they may still want a second opinion, so keep that in mind. 

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

No matter your situation, you can always buy life insurance. Guaranteed Issue policies work exactly how they sound. You are guaranteed coverage under any circumstances. However, the trade-off is that your premiums will be much higher, and you will have a limited death benefit. Also, these plans usually come with a two-year wait limit.

We typically only recommend these kinds of plans if you have no other options. Some reasons to get guaranteed issue coverage could include: 

  • Smoking
  • Terminal Illness
  • Advanced Age (i.e,. 80+)

Contact NextGen Life Insurance Today

The best way to find the right policy for your needs is to compare multiple insurance companies’ rates and options. Fortunately, you don’t have to do that on your own. Instead, you can rely on NextGen Life Insurance to help. Call us today to see how we can get you the coverage you deserve.