About A Emmerson

Posts by A Emmerson:

Can I get Life Insurance?

Do I qualify for Life Insurance?

There’s a good chance you will, most people have a lot of preconceived notions or misinformation regarding whether or not they will be approved or qualify for Life Insurance.  The way the market is today chances are there will be a policy that you can get even if think you are hard to insure or are hard to insure.  

The insurance companies look at three things when they are deciding or evaluating the risk of insuring you.  People often don’t realize; when you apply for life insurance all you’re really doing is giving the insurance company permission to underwrite the risk of insuring you.  After they have completed evaluating the information you have allowed them to collect they will make you an “offer to insure” When you get the offer you are under no obligation to accept any offer you are made.

After all this is not the Godfather, you CAN refuse an offer



Let’s look at what Life Insurance companies look at when they are deciding on whether or not they will make you an offer to insure.

First they will look at your health

If you are buying $250,000 of life insurance or more there is a good chance they will send a nurse or Health Care Professional as they like to be called to do a Paramedical Exam.  This is not like a full physical your Doctor does annually.  No need to undress and it can be done in your home or your office.  They will check your vitals, meaning your height, your weight, your blood pressure, your pulse etc.  They are also going to ask a lot of health related questions. For example, have you ever had cancer?  have you ever had a heart attack? They cover almost every health category in the questions and will want to know what medication you’re currently on, the dosage, how long you been on the medication and why you’re on the medication.  They will also ask for your doctor’s information.

  • Who is your Doctor?
  • When did you last see your Doctor?
  • Why did you see your Doctor?
  • Were any follow-up visits or examinations needed?
  • Were you referred to a specialist or were further tests or diagnostics ordered?

All these things are to do with your health.  Depending on the face amount or the amount of insurance you are buying and your age they may also ask for blood and urine samples and tests like a resting ECG for example.

Blood and Urine samples are usually but not always a requirement on people buying $250,000 of coverage or more.  This also gives you the opportunity to be offered a better than standard rate, what is referred to as a preferred rating.  When the underwriters have this information and it is determined you have great health or exceptionally good health they are at liberty to reduce your monthly premiums and offer what is called a Preferred Rating or a Preferred Plus rating.

I should mention when they look at your health there not looking to decline you on every single thing, for example you can have high blood pressure and or high cholesterol and as long as it is well controlled by medication, it will not preclude you from getting Life Insurance.  Even for more serious conditions like diabetes for example you’ll probably still get an offer but it will likely be rated, meaning it will be more expensive than standard rates typically quoted by all insurance companies.

If a client is older or there are some health challenges or something that needs clarification that was not satisfied by the nurse the insurance company underwriter may request an APS (attending physician report).  When an underwriter orders an APS they will be communicating directly with your doctor and accessing information in your medical file.  This is most always in the form of written communication. Doctors get these all the time and are compensated by the insurance company for their time.

You might be wondering “isn’t my medical information private?” Isn’t what I tell my Doctor in confidence and to remain private?”  Yes it is BUT remember when you apply and before any underwriting of the risk of insuring you is done there is the application I mentioned at the beginning of this article.  When you apply you are agreeing to allow the insurance company to gather this information in an attempt to evaluate the risk of insuring you.

Next on the list of things Life Insurance companies look at when deciding on whether to insure you is:

Your Lifestyle choices

What you do for fun?  Do you scuba dive? Do you pilot your own plane? Are you a backcountry skier who likes to motorcycle race and car race on the weekends?  Do you BASE jump or engage in extreme sports?  If you do they are going to want to know some more details.  If you are a scuba diver, what training have you had? How deep do you dive?  How often do you Dive? Do you Dive for pleasure or is it what you do for a living?

For pilots they will ask how many hours do you have? How long have you been a pilot? Have you had an incident?

You can count on there being a separate a questionnaire to fill out for things the insurance companies deem as being dangerous sports or activities.

Lifestyle choices also includes things like smoking or tobacco use.  If you are a smoker you will have to pay more than standard rates.  The good news is, since it is a lifestyle choice as the name implies and you manage to kick the habit for at least 12 months, you have a shot at getting this rating reduced and qualifying for non-smoking rates.

Next on the list of things Life Insurance companies look at when deciding on whether to insure you is:

Family Health History

They will want to know general health information on your parents and your brothers and sisters.  They will just ask if any of them have had any major serious illnesses.  If they have, when was the onset of the illness? Are they still living?  And if they have passed away, what age were they when they passed away?  This is a way of uncovering hereditary illness that you may be susceptible to. It certainly does not mean an automatic decline by any stretch but it is all considered when they’re looking at your entire health picture and deciding on whether or not to offer you insurance and at what price.

The final step is underwriting

Now that the insurance company has all this information on you, your policy is underwritten by an underwriter that is employed by the insurance company.  When the underwriting has been completed you will be made an offer (or not), you could be offered standard rates, a preferred rate, a preferred plus rate or on the flip side, worse than standard rates which we call  a rating,  where they decide they want a little bit more than standard rates or no offer at all, a decline.  Even if you are declined there are still options available to get Life Insurance.  There are a lot more policies today offering what is commonly called No Medical Insurance.  It doesn’t mean they’re not going to ask you just as many medical questions but they’re not going to send out and nurse and do traditional underwriting.  Typically the questions they ask are in some form of order and the further you make it through the questions the better the price they will offer you.

They will start by asking medical questions that deal with the most severe medical conditions first, for example have you had a heart attack in the last 2 years?  Are you currently suffering from cancer?  You likely are still going to be able to get some Life Insurance even if you are suffering from these serious illnesses but the price will be higher than normal.  Also there may be other restrictions on the policy whereby they only cover you for accidental death in the first two years.  Once you survive past two years then you are fully covered for not only for accidental death but also death as a result of an illness.

In Conclusion

Each insurance company has different tolerances for different conditions and it is important to apply with the right company from the onset.  An experienced insurance agent will know which company to apply with considering your specific issues.  Most people can get some type of Life Insurance and over-think the fact that they may not get coverage.  The insurance companies want clients.  That is their business, their bottom line.  They are not running all over town declining everybody for no reason.  It is not the way it works so give it a shot see what offer you get!    Remember it’s not like the Godfather, you can refuse their offer, so getting back to the initial question Can I get Life Insurance? Or Do I qualify for Life Insurance?  

The answer is yes you probably can and you probably do and there is no cost or obligation to try.



How to Avoid a Declined Life Insurance Payout to Your Beneficiary during the 2 Year Contestability Period.

A common clause found in most insurance policies is the 2yr Contestability Period.


Insurance companies reserve the right to re-examine or investigate your policy in the first two years.  When applying for life insurance there are many questions on the application asking about your health, lifestyle choices and the health of your immediate family (meaning your parents and siblings only)  These are typically “Yes” or “No” questions with extra room to explain or fully answer questions that are answered with a “YES”.

It is quite common for the insurance company to also send a nurse or Healthcare professional to your home to take Vitals like height, weight, blood pressure as well as blood and urine samples.  The amount of information they need usually depends on your age and the amount of insurance you are applying for.  All the information is collected and used to underwrite the policy.  Insurance companies need this information to be able to understand the risk of insuring you.  Once they have made a decision and all goes well, they will make you an “offer to insure”. You are then covered once you accept the offer and your first month premium is paid.  You will remain covered for the type and term you have applied for as long as you continue to pay your monthly or annual premiums.


Insurance companies have the right to reinvestigate how you answered the questions on the application anytime during the first 2 years.  If the insured dies from a non accident–meaning they died as a result of a medical reason in the first 2 years of the policy they will reopen your file and look at how you answered the questions on the application.  Insurance companies are all about assessing the risk of insuring a person.

If someone was that sick or such a high risk that death was immanent in the first few years they would definitely have taken a pass on insuring you.  This strategy keeps premiums lower overall and maintains the insurance company’s bottom line.  They don’t want to be in the business of collecting a few hundred dollars in premiums for a Term 20 policy and then paying out 500,000 in the first year or two.  It just doesn’t make good business sense.  This is why they are so diligent when underwriting the policy.  They ask a lot of questions, send a nurse and really take a detailed look into your health, your lifestyle choices (do you smoke or engage in extreme sports to name a few) and they even ask about your immediate family and their overall health.  

So if someone dies during that 2yr window they reserve the right to have a second look at your file.  Did you disclose everything? Were you diagnosed with Cancer and neglected to mention it?  Were you having heart issues?   Before paying out the death benefit to your named beneficiary in the insurance policy they will contact your doctor, request your medical file and pour over it to see and confirm the answers on the application were answered honestly.

Misleading an insurance company in an attempt to get better rates or approval by  not fully disclosing health issues, lifestyle choices etc is called Material Misrepresentation.  During this investigation, if the insurance company discovers there has been misrepresentation they can cancel your coverage or deny a claim and withhold a benefit payment to your beneficiary.

Here is an example of a 2yr contestability clause found in an RBC Insurance, Term 20 Life Insurance policy:


We have the right to contest the validity of this policy, or the payment of the Death Benefit or any other Policy benefits, if you or any Life Insured under this Policy have incorrectly stated, misrepresented or failed to disclose a material fact in the application for insurance, or any medical examination, or in any written or electronic statements or answers provided as evidence of insurability

Except in the case of fraud, we will not contest this Policy for misrepresentation after it has been in force for two (2) years during the lifetime of every Life Insured, from the later of the Coverage Date or the last date of reinstatement. If the Designated Life Insured dies during this two (2) year period, we can contest at any time.

When there is an indication or fraud, we can declare this Policy void at any time.  Fraud includes but is not limited to a material representation of the smoking habit of any Life Insured.  If the Policy is declared void for fraud, we will not refund Premiums paid.”


It is very simple to make this clause a non-issue when purchasing a life insurance policy.  Disclose everything you can possibly think of with regards to your health and answer all questions you are asked honestly.  Give the underwriter all the details and let them decide whether or not it is important “yes I broke my leg and was in the hospital when I was 7” or yes I did have some tests a few years back but I don’t really remember what they were for” If the underwriter wants more information they will contact your doctor directly.  The important thing is, you were honest and disclosed everything.

Here is a very interesting article called “The Life Insured’s Duty to Disclose and the Consequences of Material Misrepresentation and Non-Disclosure” https://goo.gl/nSkuy2  written by John A. Vamplew, a lawyer at Whitelaw Twining Law Corporation in Vancouver.  There are some very interesting cases that actually went to trial and the resulting decisions after trial.

Disclaimer: As we are not lawyers, this blog post should not be misconstrued as giving legal advice.  Do not rely on the information in this post as an alternative to legal advice from your lawyer or professional legal service provider and you should always consult your lawyer about a specific legal matter.