Life insurance waiver of premium

This benefit can keep your insurance from lapsing if you can't pay.

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If you become unable to work and miss your life insurance premium payments, your plan could get canceled — unless you have a waiver of premium rider.

What is a premium waiver?

A waiver of premium is a rider that can be added to your life insurance policy. It keeps your policy active if you become disabled or unemployed and can’t pay your premiums. Without this benefit in place, if you were unable to keep up with your premiums your life insurance policy would be cancelled.

Some insurance companies will cover both disability and unemployment under a single waiver of premium rider, but it’s more common for the two to be separate policy riders.

When would my premium be waived?

It depends on your insurer and the type of waiver you have.

Disability waiver of premium

In order to qualify, you may need to:

  • Meet the insurer’s definition of a disability. Depending on your insurer, this can mean being unable to work in your field, unable to work in any occupation and/or being under medical care for your disability. Read policy documents closely to understand exactly what’s involved.
  • Pass an exclusion period. For example, you may not be covered if you become unemployed in the first 6 months after starting a policy.
  • Be continuously disabled for a period of time. You’ll need to be disabled for a certain amount of time, usually between three and six months, before the waiver will take effect.
  • Be under a certain age. Some insurers don’t waive premiums for policyholders over a certain age, usually around 60 or 65.
  • Provide proof of your disability. Your insurer will likely want confirmation from a doctor that you’re disabled and may request a letter and/or a copy of your medical records.

Unemployment waiver of premium

In order to qualify, you may need to:

  • Notify your insurer immediately. Your policy may require you to let your insurer know as soon as you become unemployed — and before you miss any payments.
  • Pass an exclusion period. For example, you may not be covered if you become unemployed in the first 6 months after starting a policy.
  • Be unemployed for a period of time. You’ll need to be unemployed for a certain amount of time, usually 30 to 90 days, before the waiver will take effect.
  • Actively search for a job. Some insurers may require proof that you are actively searching for a job.
  • Apply for unemployment. Some insurers may require you to apply for unemployment and provide proof that you’re receiving benefits.

What’s in the fine print?

Both unemployment and disability waivers often come with exclusions or fine print, including:

  • A waiting period on the waiver of premium rider. Most policies include a waiting period, sometimes up to 6 months, and if you become disabled or unemployed before it’s up, the waiver won’t kick in.
  • A time limit. Some policies limit the amount of time you can miss your premiums.
  • Inability to modify coverage. Many policies won’t let you add a waiver of premium to your policy once it’s active — you’ll need to sign up for it before your policy starts.

What should I watch out for?

Each insurance company handles waivers a little differently. When comparing policies, look into how each insurer handles:

  • Recurring vs. new disabilities. Some insurers will waive the waiting period if you have a recurring disability. For example, if you return to work after recovering from a disability and have a relapse, you wouldn’t have to wait a second time before your waiver of premium rider kicked in.
  • Age of eligibility. Each insurer sets its own limits for at what age policyholders are no longer eligible for a waiver of premium.
  • High-risk professions. If you work in a high-risk profession that regularly sees you exposed to risky or hazardous situations, for example if you’re a firefighter or if you work underground in a mine, it may be more difficult to qualify a waiver of premium rider. Check with the insurer you’re interested in before applying to find out how high-risk professions are handled.

Bottom line

A waiver of premium will increase the amount that you have to pay each month while you’re working and able, but it will also prevent your policy from being canceled if you become disabled or unemployed. To get the best deal, compare life insurance providers to find one that fits your needs.

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