What to tell insurers when buying life insurance

Published  02 July 2021
   7 min read

Many people assume that they’ll be asked lots of probing questions when they apply for life insurance, but the information insurers require from you depends entirely on the type of cover you're buying.

Here, we explain what sort of questions you should be prepared for, and why it's vital to provide the correct information.


Personal information

With all types of life cover you’ll need to provide some basic personal information, such as your name and address and whether you’re a UK resident.

Insurers will also want to know your age, as there is usually an age limit at which your cover must finish. Unless you’ve chosen to take out whole-of-life insurance, which as the name suggests, covers you for your whole life.


Age requirements for life insurance

For example, with most types of life insurance, if you apply for cover later in life, when you’re 70 or 75, the policy might have to end when you reach the age of 80 or 85.

The older you are when you apply, usually the higher your payments will be, as there’s a greater chance of a claim.

You have to be aged 18 or over to apply for most kinds of life cover, although with over-50s cover, as you might expect, you must be aged at least 50 to be able to apply for cover, and there’s often a maximum age of 80 or 85 for buying a policy.

Most over-50s plans have an age when you stop making payments, which is typically 90.

The older you are when you start your over-50s cover, the lower the payout will be when you die.


Medical information

If you’re buying a standard life insurance policy, you’ll be asked about your medical history, along with details of any illnesses you’re currently suffering from, or which you might have had in the past.

Insurers will want to know about your family medical history too, so whether there’s a history of any health issues in your family, such as cancer or heart disease.

You’ll also be asked for details of any prescriptions or medication that you’re taking now, or that you’ve taken in the past few years, and whether you smoke or drink, and how much.

Insurers will want to know your height and weight measurements as well. They use this to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is essentially the ration between your weight and height.

If you have a high BMI index and are overweight, you’re likely to have to pay more for your life cover, as you’ll be considered at higher risk of premature death through weight-related health issues such as high blood pressure or coronary heart disease.


Your medical records

Insurers may also want to know your doctor’s name and address, but they’ll only be able to obtain your medical records with your written consent.

If you refuse to allow them access to your medical information, they might turn down your application if they don’t feel they have all the details they need to accept it.

Your health and weight won’t usually be taken into consideration if you have life cover through your employer, as they will typically arrange cover on a group basis rather than underwriting each person individually.


The truth matters

You should always be honest about any health conditions you have when you apply for life cover.

If you’re not upfront about any issues you might have, this could invalidate your cover and mean that any claim made is refused.

You don’t however, have to notify your insurer if you develop a health issue after you’ve take out cover, as the cover you have will be based on your health at the time you bought the policy.

When it comes to life insurance, whilst it might be tempting to ‘fudge’ on your application, honesty is always the best policy.


Melanie Wright is an award-winning freelance financial journalist, who has written about personal finance and consumer issues for the past 22 years. She is a former Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph's Your Money section, and wrote the Sunday Mirror’s Money section for more than a decade. She contributes to a wide range of publications and websites, including The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer and the Radio Times.

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