Does Life Insurance Pay for Suicidal Death?

A life insurance policy will only cover a suicidal death if the suicide and contestability clause has expired. For most policies, this happens after two to three years. Policies have these provisions to prevent people from enrolling and committing suicide soon after to allow their beneficiaries to get the death benefit.

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Last Updated: 10/21/2022
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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. Visit 988lifeline.org to chat online or find additional information and resources.

Many life insurance policies cover suicidal deaths, but only after a certain period. Suicide deaths are not usually covered until 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.

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Key Takeaways

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Death by suicide is covered by most life insurance policies, 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 it's caused by self-harm within the contestability period.

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Policy Provisions for Suicidal Deaths

While life insurance covers suicidal deaths, every policy has its unique suicide and contestability clauses that determine when the death benefit can pay out. Changes and lapses in a policy can reset these clauses, depending on the types of changes made. Even if the death benefit is deemed void due to suicide, the beneficiaries may still receive the sum of their premiums.

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Life Insurance Clauses for Suicide
  • Policy Provision
    Description
  • Suicide Clause

    Waiting Period: Two to three years, depending on the insurer.

    Description: The suicide clause is a provision that 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.

    Why It Exists: The suicide clause in a life insurance policy is designed to prevent people from becoming financially motivated to take their own lives.

  • Contestability Clause

    Waiting Period: Two years

    Description: The contestability clause gives insurers the right to investigate for intentional errors after death if it occurs within the first two years of the policy’s enrollment.

    Why It Exists: The contestability clause 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.

When Does Life Insurance Cover Suicidal Death?

Life insurance suicide provisions can vary based on the type of policy. Review the scenarios below to see the different provisions 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.

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    If you have group life insurance

    Group life insurance policies, which are obtained through employers, 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 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 a suicidal death 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 You Be Denied Life Insurance if You Have Mental Health Issues?

Insurers can deny an application for life insurance based on a person's health, be it physical or mental. If a person has severe mental health complications, for instance, 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 medical exam policies do not include health exam requirements.

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

Does Life Insurance Cover Alcohol or Drug Overdose?

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

How Overdose Affects Life Insurance
  • Cause of Overdose
    Effect on Life Insurance
  • Prescribed Medication

    Insurers would cover death by an accidental overdose of a prescribed medication if the medication and reason behind it are disclosed during the application process. If it was not disclosed, insurers could contest the claim within the exclusion period.

  • Illegal Drug Abuse

    A claim related to an illegal drug overdose will typically be denied within the contestability period. If the death occurs after the exclusion period, the payout will still depend on the insurer. If a history of drug abuse was disclosed during the application, the beneficiaries may be able to receive the death benefit.

  • Alcohol Abuse

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

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Frequently Asked Questions

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 suicide.

About the Author


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Mark Fitzpatrick is a senior content manager with MoneyGeek specializing in insurance. Mark has years of experience analyzing the insurance market and creating original research and content. He graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts and Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Arts.