Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?


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ByMark Fitzpatrick
Edited byCasie McCoskey
ByMark Fitzpatrick
Edited byCasie McCoskey

Updated: May 23, 2024

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IF YOU NEED HELP

If you or someone you know is considering self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, resources are available to help. Dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a free and confidential service that can help you find support at any time. Visit 988lifeline.org to chat online or find additional information and resources.

Many life insurance policies cover deaths by suicide, but only after a certain period of maintaining the policy. Coverage of these types of death usually only begins after two to three years of enrollment due to two policy provisions: the suicide clause and the contestability clause. The contestability clause is a period that allows insurers to investigate the cause of death before paying out, and the suicide clause often overlaps with this.

Key Takeaways

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Most life insurance policies cover death by suicide, but only after a set period dictated by the contestability and suicide clauses.

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The contestability clause usually lasts for at least two to three years. This allows insurers to investigate the cause of death and deny benefits within that period.

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The suicide clause allows insurers to deny a death benefit if self-harm caused the death within the contestability period.

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Does Life Insurance Cover Deaths by Suicide?

Generally, life insurance does cover suicidal deaths. However, there are stipulations tied to the timing and terms laid out by the insurance provider. Understanding these is necessary for policyholders and beneficiaries to ensure they are fully aware of the scope of coverage.

Life insurance policies often come with specific provisions that address the topic of deaths by suicide. These generally include two key clauses: the suicide clause and the contestability clause.

The suicide clause typically lasts for the first two years of the policy. It stipulates that if the policyholder dies by suicide during this period, the insurance company will not pay out the death benefit. Instead, the beneficiaries will receive a refund of the premiums paid. The contestability clause allows the insurer to investigate the circumstances of the death and the information provided during the application process. If the provider finds discrepancies or fraud, they may deny the claim.

Insurers can reset these clauses under certain conditions. For instance, if you decide to increase your coverage amount or change insurance providers, the two-year clock for the suicide clause may restart. We recommend reading the fine print and consulting with your insurance advisor when making any changes to your policy.

Life Insurance Clauses for Suicide
Policy Provision
Description
Waiting Period
Why It Exists

Suicide Clause

States that an insurer will not pay out the death benefit if a policyholder dies by suicide within the first two or three years of coverage.

Around two to three years

Aims to prevent people from becoming financially motivated to take their own lives.

Contestability Clause

Gives insurers the right to investigate for intentional errors after death within the first two years of the policy’s enrollment.

Two years

Allows insurers to look for misrepresentations during the application process to avoid fraud. For instance, if a person had a history of depression but purposefully concealed this, they can deny or reduce the death benefit.

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INSURANCE INVESTIGATIONS

To confirm the cause of death, insurers can ask for a death certificate. If a cause of death is deemed inconclusive or questionable, they can ask surviving family members or beneficiaries for additional documents. These include, but are not limited to:

  • An autopsy report
  • A medical examiner report
  • An emergency medical services (EMS) report
  • A copy of the policyholder’s medical records

In cases of death by suicide, life insurance investigations may take longer, which can delay death benefits.

Does life insurance cover physician-assisted suicide?

Life Insurance Policy Types and Coverage of Suicide

Life insurance suicide provisions can vary based on the type of life insurance policy. Review the scenarios below to see the different clauses and when suicidal deaths are covered.

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    If you have term life insurance

    Term life policies typically have an exclusion period, which is the first two or three years of the policy. If a policyholder dies due to suicide after the exclusion period, the beneficiaries will receive the death benefit. However, if a policyholder dies by suicide within the exclusion period, the insurer will not pay out. It's important to understand that while term life insurance does cover suicide, it depends on the timing relative to the exclusion period.

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    If you have group life insurance

    Group life insurance policies, which employers obtain, do not contain a suicide clause. This means that if a covered employee dies due to suicide, their beneficiaries will receive the death benefit regardless of when they got the policy.

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    If you have military life insurance

    Military life insurance policies work similarly to group life insurance in that they do not include a suicide clause. Beneficiaries of policyholders who die from suicide will receive the death benefit regardless of when the policyholder obtained the policy.

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    If you have whole life insurance

    Under a whole life insurance policy, if a policyholder dies within the exclusion period, their beneficiaries might be entitled to the plan's cash value. Beneficiaries can receive the full death benefits after the exclusion period ends.

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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

If a policyholder has a whole life policy and dies from suicide within the exclusion period, their beneficiaries may instead receive the plan’s cash value. Once the exclusion period is over, beneficiaries can receive the full death benefits.

Can Life Insurance Deny Coverage Due to Mental Health?

Insurers can deny an application for life insurance based on a person's health, be it physical or mental. If a person has serious mental health complications, then insurers may reserve the right to deny life insurance coverage as the policy would be deemed high risk.

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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

If a life insurance provider denies your application due to a mental health condition, you can still opt for a no medical exam, simplified issue or guaranteed acceptance policy. Unlike most life insurance policies, no-exam policies do not include health exam requirements.

Simplified issue life insurance has minimal health questions but higher premiums. Guaranteed acceptance policies are the same, but grant a policy immediately — no questions asked.

Life Insurance Coverage After an Overdose

Whether life insurance will cover an alcohol or drug-related death depends on the circumstances and the policy’s inclusions. Check out the table below to view different scenarios and whether a provider would cover them.

How an Overdose Affects Life Insurance
Cause of Overdose
Effect on Life Insurance

Prescribed Medication

Insurers will cover death by an accidental overdose of a prescribed medication if the policyholder discloses the drug and the reason behind it during the application process. If the policyholder did not disclose it, insurers may contest the claim within the exclusion period.

Illegal Drugs

Providers will typically deny a claim related to an illicit drug overdose within the contestability period. The payout will still depend on the insurer if the death occurs after the exclusion period. If the policyholder disclosed a history of drug abuse during the application, the beneficiaries may be able to receive the death benefit.

Alcohol

Alcohol-related deaths are often handled similarly to fatalities related to illegal drug abuse. If the policyholder disclosed an alcohol use disorder or other information during the application period, then insurers will typically pay out the death benefit.

How to File a Claim After Death by Suicide

Below, we outline the steps to take to file a life insurance claim after a death by suicide to prepare you and help ensure a smooth process:

1
Obtain the Death Certificate

Secure an official death certificate from the local vital records office. This is the foundational document for initiating the claim process, which is essential in cases where life insurance does cover suicide.

2
Contact the Insurance Provider

Notify the insurance company about the policyholder's death and request the necessary claim forms.

3
Complete the Claim Forms

Once you're sure that the life insurance does cover suicide, fill out all the required forms accurately. Errors or omissions can result in delays or outright denial of the claim.

4
Submit Supporting Documents

Alongside the claim forms, submit the death certificate and any other documents the insurer may require.

5
Wait for Approval

After submission, the insurance company will undertake a review process, which can vary in duration.

6
Receive the Payout

If the claim is approved, the beneficiaries will receive the death benefit specified in the policy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Claim

Avoiding common mistakes can significantly improve the chances of your issuer approving your claim. Here are some to look out for:

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    Incomplete Paperwork and Insufficient Documentation

    Double-check all forms for completeness and accuracy before submission. Submit all required documents, including any additional evidence that could strengthen your claim.

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    Delay in Filing

    Time is of the essence. File the claim promptly to avoid complications related to deadlines.

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    Ignoring Follow-Ups

    Maintain open lines of communication with the insurance company and swiftly respond to any requests for further information.

What to Do if the Insurer Denies Your Claim

Sometimes, the insurance provider may decide to deny a life insurance claim. In such instances, there are actionable steps you can take to challenge the decision:

1
Review the Denial Letter

Thoroughly read the denial letter to understand the insurer's reasons for rejecting the claim.

2
Gather Evidence

Assemble all pertinent documents, such as medical records and correspondence, that can support your case.

3
Contact the Insurance Company

Engage with a claims representative to discuss the denial and explore your options.

4
File an Appeal

Submit a formal appeal with all supporting documents to the insurance company.

5
Seek Legal Counsel

If the appeal is unsuccessful, consulting with an attorney experienced in insurance claims may be advisable.

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FAQ About Life Insurance Coverage of Suicidal Deaths

Understanding when life insurance pays out can be confusing — especially if you are already going through a tumultuous time. Review the most frequently asked questions below about life insurance and deaths by suicide.

Does life insurance cover suicide?
Does term insurance cover suicide?
What is the purpose of a suicide provision within a life insurance policy?
Does life insurance cover alcohol or drug overdose?
Does life insurance cover physician-assisted suicide?
Does suicide void life insurance?
Can a spouse collect life insurance if the policyholder dies by suicide?

About Mark Fitzpatrick


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Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.