Think you can get life insurance with a “get out of jail” card? Can having been in jail be a barrier to getting coverage? Read on and find out.
[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 8, 2009, and has been completely revamped and updated.]
Nobody wants to spend time in jail. But some unfortunately do. For a variety of reasons. It goes without saying that some people who have been incarcerated have difficulty getting back on their feet once they’ve been released. Some have trouble finding employment. Some even experience awkward first-date conversations that typically begin with: “So…ever been in jail?”
But things can’t be all bad. I mean, ex-cons can still get life insurance, right?
Well, maybe. As they say: “The devil’s in the details.”
If you’ve ever played the game of “Monopoly,” you know that if you’re lucky, you might win a “get out of jail” card. With this card, you got a free “pass” that got you out of the slammer if you got pinched.
But, alas, in the real world…if you’ve spent time in the hoosegow, life insurance companies will probably not accept this “get out of jail” card when you apply for a policy. After all, life’s not that simple.
So if you do want to buy a life insurance policy after you’ve served your time behind bars…how do you win over your potential insurer? Put simply, what are the odds of getting insured after being incarcerated?
Well, first off…it depends on what you did time for? Did you commit a violent crime? Or did you get caught shoplifting? Or did you just kidnap your neighbor’s cat? (Hey, we don’t judge.)
As a rule, violent people tend to have higher mortality rates than non-violent people. Makes sense, right? Insurance companies get nervous at anything that reeks of risk. So skydivers, race car drivers, and bungee jumpers also cause insurers to have indigestion.
So the bottom line is, if you’ve committed a violent crime, the insurance company’s $64,000 question will probably be: “Are you still violent?” If you can truthfully and convincingly answer “no” to that question…that can go a long way to helping you get insured. Because the good news is…IF you are no longer violent, you still might be eligible for coverage. And if you’ve given up a life of crime, you’ll probably live longer too.
Some of the questions you might be asked are:
• Did your offense require jail time?
• If there was jail time, how long was the incarceration?
• Did you ever get probation or parole?
• How long ago were you paroled or got probation?
• If you got probation, how long ago did it end?
You should be aware that if you’re still on probation, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain coverage, as those on probation are just one false move shy of heading back to the big house. And mortality rates of those who spend long stretches in jail or are repeat offenders are simply much too high for life insurance companies to be comfortable with.
Of course, underwriting guidelines varies among life insurance companies. But most insurers will do their darndest to give each applicant a fair evaluation.
So while there might not be a real “get out of jail” card…if you’ve turned a new leaf, life insurance companies will make a goodwill effort to get you back into the game. And that’s the first step in “winning the game” of life insurance.