Having a felony conviction on your record can make life difficult in innumerable ways. Your job prospects are more difficult. You lose the right to vote. You can't own a gun. Even after fully paying your debt to society, you can find it difficult to care for your family's needs. When it comes to life insurance, a felony conviction may or may not affect your ability to obtain a policy.
A Question of Risk
Life insurance companies analyze risk in order to determine who to insure, and at what cost. They base their decisions on statistics derived from the "law of large numbers," a concept that states the larger a statistical sample is, the more likely a prediction based on that sample is to be accurate. The data that determines underwriting policy shows that felons, particularly violent felons, are more likely to die early than those without a felony record.
There is no law that states that felons aren't allowed to get life insurance. However, felons are not among the protected classes that may not be denied life insurance either. For this reason, individual insurance companies are left to make their own decisions about whether or not to issue life insurance to felons. Because many life insurance companies use the same sets of data, the policies of one company versus another are often very similar.
Kinds of Crime
One factor that determines whether or not a company will insure a convicted felon is the type of felony. Those who commit violent crimes are more likely to be denied than people who committed property-based felonies. Drugs and alcohol also play a role here. According to insurance executive Courtney Rogers, many companies will deny a policy to somebody with a felony record and drug history, but would approve a policy for somebody with only the felony record or the drug history.
How long it's been since your conviction is another important factor in becoming insured. Each insurance company will have a list of crimes, paired with the minimum waiting period to be approved for insurance. Often, this time frame can be modified by other factors, such as successfully completing treatment or more recent misdemeanor convictions. As a general rule, the longer you go without any legal trouble, the more likely you are to have your policy approved.
- "Exam Cram: Life and Health"; BiSys Education; 2008
- Courtney Rogers; Insurance Executive; AIL. Tigard, Oregon
- "Life Insurance and its Applications"; Irina Kerr; 2001
- Photo Credit barbed wire image by igor_kell from Fotolia.com