Life Insurance Underwriting Overview

When you apply for a life insurance policy your file will be reviewed by an underwriter at the insurance company. All insurers have life insurance underwriting guidelines to follow. Each company has slightly different standards. An independent life insurance agent should be generally aware of how each company treats the main underwriting concerns outlined below.


During the first review, the underwriter will evaluate your medical history, family medical history, paramedic exam and lab results. Here are some important factors that can affect your rating:

  • Height and weight
  • Your medical conditions
  • Your medications
  • Parents or siblings who died of cancer, heart disease, or with some carriers diabetes before the age of 60
  • Your lifestyle- do you participate in extreme sports? How is your driving record? Do you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse?

If the insurance company feels that more information is needed for a decision, they will order records from your physician and/or hospital records. You may have to complete a questionnaire, or an interview. It is very important to be honest on your application and any follow up questioning. If the insured dies during the first two years of a policy, the carrier can deny a death claim for fraud in the application.

When the additional information is received, your file will go back to the same underwriter for review. Hopefully the questions are answered fully and underwriting can be completed. What happens if the outcome is not favorable? This is where using an independent life insurance agent can be especially beneficial. As they represent many carriers, they can approach other insurance companies for quotes. In addition, some agents have access to an in-house underwriter who can review the file and assist in placing the case at the proper insurer. They same exam can be used; all that is required is a new application!

Important Point: Every company has different underwriting guidelines and an independent agent can get you to the right carrier for your best value.