Lauren Lewthwaite Last Updated On: May 16, 2024

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Life Insurance for Suicide

Life Insurance

Suicide. It’s an emotionally-loaded word. 

Life insurance and suicide have one thing in common: no one wants to think about it if they don’t have to. However, every American should have life insurance to help protect their beneficiaries from being burdened with final expenses or money struggles while dealing with their grief. 

So, if every American adult should have life insurance, it means that at some point, they ought to explore their life insurance options. As much as “suicide” is a triggering word, there may be life insurance provisions if the cause of death is ruled suicide that every policyholder should be aware of.

Read on, and we’ll help clarify whether life insurance covers suicide.

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Important Statistics on Suicides in the U.S.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 45,979 Americans died by suicide in 2020. That same year, 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide, while 12.2 million people considered taking their own life.

Here are some more facts you should be aware of:

  • The rates of suicide are highest among Non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • Men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
  • Certain ages have greater rates of suicide: 25-34, 45-54, 75-85, and 85+.

These statistics aren’t meant to scare you, but to bring to light the importance of life insurance for suicide. Next, we’ll explore how that works and what you should know.

Life Insurance Suicide Provisions

Due to high suicide rates, insurance companies are trying to deter people financially from considering taking their lives via suicide clauses or provisions. This means that life insurance will offer a death benefit to your beneficiaries in the event of suicide in some scenarios.

If you have a new life insurance policy and you’re within the exclusion period (which is under 2 years of coverage), the suicide provision stipulates your beneficiaries will not receive a death benefit if your death is ruled a suicide.

Also, the exclusionary period occurs if you make significant changes to your life insurance, like transitioning from term to whole life. So, new life insurance policies or significant changes to your plan will put you into this exclusionary period.

Suicide Clauses Per Life Insurance Coverage

Not only do insurance companies have suicide provisions during the exclusionary period, but there may be additional stipulations unique to the provider and your life insurance coverage policy.

If you’re curious about your life insurance policy’s suicide provisions, ask your provider for more details.

Here are the suicide clauses unique to different types of life insurance coverage:

  • Group Life: Group life insurance, otherwise known as employer life insurance that you get through your work, doesn’t have suicide clauses, so the death benefit won’t be affected if the policyholder dies by suicide.
  • Term: Term life adheres to the exclusionary period in that if the policyholder dies within this window, their beneficiaries will likely receive only the premiums they’ve paid to date as the death benefit. If they die outside the exclusionary period, insurance will pay the full death benefit to the beneficiaries.
  • Whole: Whole life is dependent upon the insurer. Some insurers will give beneficiaries the cash value despite the policyholder taking their life during the exclusionary period. Beneficiaries will receive the cash value and death benefit outside the exclusionary window.

Understanding your policy or the policy of your loved ones will help prepare you should the worst happen.

Life Insurance Payouts for Suicide

In summary, insurance companies will sometimes pay the death benefit if the policyholder dies by suicide. However, how much money beneficiaries receive depends upon the policyholder’s life insurance coverage. 

If the policyholder is within the exclusionary period, which means they’ve taken out a new life insurance plan or switched to a new life insurance coverage (e.g., from whole to term life), and they die by suicide, it will affect the payout. Here’s how a suicide during the exclusionary period affects payouts:

  • There is no death benefit.
  • Frequently, insurers will return the policyholder’s premiums to date, minus any unpaid premiums or loans on permanent policies.

If the suicide occurs after the exclusionary period, the death benefit will be given to the policyholder’s beneficiaries in most cases. 

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What Happens After the Policyholder Passes Away?

When the policyholder dies, the beneficiaries must send a copy of the death certificate to the insurance company to initiate the claim for the death benefit. On the death certificate, the coroner will indicate the cause of death. 

If the cause of death is suicide or inconclusive, it takes longer to investigate and will need additional documentation, so there could be a delay in the death benefit payout.

Remember to Be Honest on Your Life Insurance Application

It is important to note that while applying for life insurance, you should be completely truthful and transparent. If you misrepresent your health and they uncover you lied on the application, providers can deny your claim as long as you’re within the exclusionary period when you pass away. Insurance companies consider misrepresentation of your health fraudulent, so be forthcoming about any pre-existing health conditions you have when applying for life insurance or you could leave your loved ones stranded up the creek without a paddle.

Remember the golden rule: honesty is the best policy, even when it comes to life insurance. 

What Happens If the Life Insurance Claim Is Denied?

Unfortunately, sometimes the cause of death is not straightforward, which is not only upsetting to the deceased loved ones but it can also be stressful if the life insurance claim is denied.  When a claim is submitted to insurance on a policyholder’s passing, insurance companies defer to the death certificate’s cause of death. If the policyholder is within the exclusionary period and there is reason to believe their death was by suicide, the insurance provider will open an investigation and may consider these additional documents:
  • Autopsy 
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse
  • History of illegal behavior
  • Suicide note
  • If they owned or purchased weapons
  • Witness testimony from friends and family
  • Health history and medication use
Beneficiaries can contest the claim if the life insurance claim is denied during the exclusionary period. However, challenging a claim is complex as it may require legal action. For instance, if the policyholder’s death is contestable, like in the case of an overdose, this may result in insurance giving beneficiaries some of the death benefits. 

Does Insurance Consider “Dying With Dignity” As Suicide?

Every state has different insurance regulations on how insurers handle suicide-related deaths during the exclusionary period. States that allow terminally ill persons to die with dignity also have laws that prevent insurance companies from labelling their death as suicide.  These are the states that allow “dying with dignity:”
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
In the eyes of many, suicide and dying with dignity are the same thing. Luckily, many states and insurance providers see it differently and help give families the time and space to grieve without worrying about insurance. 

Suicide Prevention

If you’re contemplating suicide, please know you are not alone. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression or mental health concerns—all of which are treatable if you can connect with the right resources.

For emergency intervention for anyone contemplating suicide, please call the free 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or via live chat

Five Suicide Prevention Strategies

According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), here are five steps loved ones can take to help support someone in emotional distress: 
  • Ask: Studies indicate that asking, “are you considering taking your life” does not increase suicide rates, but it helps start the conversation.
  • Keep Them Safe: If you fear the at-risk individual will take their life, ask if they have a plan. If the plan includes weapons or medications, remove anything that can harm them.
  • Be There: Listening and asking questions about how the person is feeling can help reduce thoughts of suicide.
  • Help Them Connect: Get them the support they need, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (Suicide Prevention Lifeline), and ensure they have a mental health strategy through their primary care provider (such as psychotherapy and medication).
  • Stay Connected: Stay in contact with the at-risk person during the crisis, and follow up after. Just being there for someone can help lessen feelings of depression.
  • Helping someone deal with suicidal thoughts is anything but easy, but these strategies and steps can help you feel more prepared.

Suicide Treatment Options

There are many evidence-based suicide treatment strategies for at-risk individuals, according to NIMH. These include: 
    • Brief Intervention:
      • Safety Planning: Have a plan to keep an at-risk individual safe by keeping dangerous weapons away from them, having people to connect with, and having coping strategies
      • Follow-Up Calls: Having loved ones and support services remain in contact after the crisis has passed reduces suicidal thoughts.
      • Psychotherapy: Seek psychosocial intervention to support at-risk individuals with: 
        • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps you identify unhealthy thinking patterns to help you become more resilient to stressful situations.
        • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is useful in adolescents or adults with a borderline personality disorder. Like CBT, it helps identify unhealthy thinking patterns and teaches them healthy coping strategies.
        • Medication: At-risk individuals under the care of a primary care provider may decide medication is a good option.
        • Collaborative Care: A team-based approach that includes a primary care physician and mental health specialists is best for at-risk individuals.
  • Treatment isn’t a cure-all for suicide, but it can help your loved on get the care they need during a difficult time. 

    Final Thoughts on Life Insurance and Suicide

    Losing a loved one is heartbreaking, but it’s compounded if that loss is by suicide. It can be made even more stressful as every insurance company handles suicide-related deaths differently. 

    The main takeaway on how insurance companies handle suicide-related deaths is that beneficiaries will not likely receive the death benefit if the policyholder dies during the exclusionary period (a new policy under two years old). However, if the suicide occurs after the exclusionary window, insurance will likely give beneficiaries the death benefit. 

    Otherwise, the best way to understand how your insurance company handles suicide-related deaths is by asking or reading your life insurance policy’s fine print. If you don’t have life insurance, you’re in the right place: click here for access to free quotes to start your life insurance journey. 

    If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, know that you’re not alone and with the proper support and guidance, you can overcome this crisis.

    Lauren Lewthwaite Lauren Lewthwaite has been freelance writing for almost five years writing content that ranges from health to insurance and everything in between. Lauren is also a trained translator in French and English and is a dog-mom to an adorable Australian Shepherd.

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