What is the process for how to get life insurance?

The process for how to get life insurance starts by filling out a life insurance application. From there, your application will undergo a process called underwriting.

This is when a life insurance expert known as an underwriter decides whether to offer you life insurance and at what cost. Approval and costs are based on your risk class.

There are two types of underwriting:

  • Traditional underwriting. With traditional underwriting, you fill out a life insurance application and undergo a medical exam.
  • Simplified underwriting. With simplified underwriting, you typically fill out a quick online life insurance application. A medical exam is not required.

Keep reading for more in-depth information about the traditional underwriting process and the pros and cons of both traditional and simplified underwriting.

  • The application. You’ll usually fill out the life insurance application with help from your insurance agent. Your agent will then submit it to the insurer’s underwriting department. (Quick word of caution: Insurance fraud is a felony in every state, so be truthful when answering each question!) While you wait, your agent may request a check for the first premium payment in order to “bind” your coverage. This gives you and your beneficiary interim coverage while you wait to hear back from the insurer.
  • The medical exam. Commonly referred to as the “paramedical exam,” the life insurance medical exam typically involves taking your vital signs, collecting blood and urine samples, and gathering information about you and your family’s medical history. Sometimes a treadmill test or EKG is required. All told, the exam should take less than 30 minutes. The insurer usually picks up the tab.
  • The review process. The underwriter will carefully review your life insurance application and medical exam results. He or she will also consider several other factors like your driving record, hobbies, credit history and more. It usually takes at least a few weeks to find out if you’re offered coverage.



You can usually get a higher coverage level than you can with simplified underwriting.

Coverage typically costs less, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, than coverage from simplified underwriting.

There are more options to customize your policy to your exact needs.

You usually work closely with an agent, who can help you calculate how much coverage you really need to protect your loved ones.


It can take several weeks to get a coverage decision.

You must undergo a medical exam.

There’s usually a lower approval rate than there is for simplified underwriting applications.

The Simplified Underwriting Process

  • The application. Typically this type of coverage is offered online. You’ll answer a few health-related questions to see if you qualify for coverage and, based on your answers, you may be offered immediate life insurance coverage.
  • No medical exam. This part appeals to many people. There is no medical exam, no blood or urine sample, and no lag time waiting on test results.
  • Additional background. By signing the application and agreeing to the terms, you typically give the life insurance company permission to run your personal information through several databases, including the Medical Information Bureau. The databases may flag anything that looks out of the ordinary.



The application is often a quick, convenient online process with an instantaneous decision.

If instantaneous coverage isn’t offered, it usually only takes days instead of weeks to get a coverage decision.

No medical exam is required.

There’s typically a higher approval rate than there is with traditional underwriting.

It’s a viable option for anyone who can’t get life insurance through traditional underwriting.


It’s difficult or impossible to get higher limits of coverage that you may need.
Coverage typically costs more, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, than coverage from traditional underwriting.
There’s no way to customize your policy to your exact needs.
It can be harder to know if you have the coverage level you need if you don’t work with an agent.

How to Apply for Life Insurance

One of the best ways is to work with a licensed insurance agent who can walk you through the entire process. If you don’t have an agent or advisor to work with, check out our agent locator. You can also work directly with an insurance company. Here are company partners that support our non-profit mission and can assist you in getting coverage directly or through one of their agents or advisors. The key is to start today.

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