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How to cancel your life insurance policy

You can cancel your coverage at any time — but you probably won’t get your money back.

If you no longer want or need coverage, you can cancel your life insurance policy. But here’s the bad news: You most likely won’t see any of the money you paid in premiums.

Can I cancel my life insurance policy?

You can typically cancel your life insurance policy at any time — either by letting your insurer know or no longer paying premiums. Canceling a term life policy is pretty straightforward. But since permanent policies are life insurance and investment products rolled into one, the process can be complex and time-consuming.

Can I convert my term life insurance to whole life instead?

If your term life policy has a conversion feature, you can convert to a permanent policy before the deadline. Depending on your insurer, this may be within the first five to ten years of taking out the policy, or before your 60th, 65th or 70th birthday.

If the deadline has passed, you won’t be able to convert your coverage.

Will I get my money back if I cancel my life insurance policy?

In most cases, you won’t receive a refund on the premiums you paid. However, when you purchase a policy, insurers are legally required to give you a cooling-off period. This is known as the free look period, and it lasts 10 to 30 days depending on the state you live in. If you cancel your policy during this time, you’ll be reimbursed for any premiums you paid.

How do I cancel my life insurance policy?

The process varies between policies, but these are the general guidelines.

Cancel term life insurance

To cancel your coverage, you can call your insurer, write a letter or fill out a cancellation form.

  1. Contact your life insurance company and ask for details on the cancellation process.
  2. When you cancel, include your full name, contact details, policy number and the date you’d like to cancel your coverage.
  3. Cancel any automatic payments you may have set up with your bank or insurer starting on the date of cancellation.
  4. If you don’t receive a confirmation from your insurer within a few business days, follow up to make sure the policy has been canceled.

Cancel whole life insurance

Since permanent policies have an investment component, canceling is a little more complicated. You’ll need to contact your insurer. Depending on your insurer’s guidelines and how long you’ve owned the policy, you’ll likely have a few options to cancel:

  1. Surrender the policy. You might be able to surrender your policy and collect any cash value you’ve accumulated. However, you’ll probably have to pay fees — especially if you cancel within the first 10 to 20 years of taking out the policy. Typically, the fees in the first two to three years are steep, so the insurer can recoup their costs of selling and setting up the policy. After that, the surrender fees are usually reduced by an annual percentage over the first decade. For example, if your surrender penalty was 10% in the first year of owning your policy, it might be 9% in the second year, 5% in the fifth year, and 1% in the tenth year. All of these fees will be detailed in your policy documents. When you cancel your policy this way, you’ll walk away with the “cash surrender value” — and the longer you owned your policy, the more money you’ll get.
  2. Choose a reduced paid-up option. Your insurer may offer this option, which allows you to stop paying premiums but maintain a reduced death benefit on your policy. If you die, your beneficiaries will receive a lump sum.
  3. Sell your policy. You may be able to sell your policy to a third-party for a one-time upfront payment. This is known as a life settlement, and the buyer becomes the beneficiary and owner of the policy and takes over the premium payments. Just keep in mind that the payment to you is usually less than the death benefit.

What happens if I stop paying premiums?

If you stop paying premiums by the end of the grace period — which is usually 30 days from your premium’s due date — your insurer will cancel your coverage. But if you have a permanent policy with accumulated cash value, you’ll lose it — so only go down this route if you’re comfortable with that. And it may affect your ability to get coverage later on, especially if you want to apply with the same insurer.

What if I can’t afford my premiums or need to access my cash value?

If you want to keep your coverage but can’t afford to pay your premiums, you might be able to:

  • Reduce your coverage. Most insurers will allow you to decrease the face value of your policy once — and in turn, lower your premiums.
  • Take a new medical exam. If you’ve had your policy for at least a year and your health has significantly improved, your insurer may let you take another medical exam. If the results are good, your insurer might lower your rate.
  • Borrow against your policy. Once you’ve built up enough cash value, you can take out tax-free loans against your permanent policy — but if you don’t pay it back, this may reduce the death benefit your beneficiaries receive when you die.
  • Sell your policy as a life settlement. If you’re an older policyholder who’s expected to live for another five to ten years, you might be able to sell your life insurance policy. However, be aware of broker fees and tax implications.

What is the cash surrender value?

Permanent policies contain a cash value component that grows over time. If you surrender your permanent policy, you might be able to collect some of the cash value — and this is known as the “cash surrender value.”

The dollar figure you’ll get depends on how long you owned the policy. For example, if you cancel during the first few years of taking out a policy, you may not have built up enough cash value to collect. And if you cancel at a later stage, you’ll receive the cash value minus any fees, charges and loans.

The catch? Your cash value surrender might be taxed if the amount is larger than the cost basis of the policy. The basis is the money you’ve contributed to the cash value via your premiums.

When can my group life insurance be canceled?

If your employer decides to stop offering life insurance as part of its employee benefits, it can cancel your policy. Otherwise, your coverage will automatically be canceled when you leave that job — unless there’s an option to convert to an individual policy.

Reasons to cancel your life insurance policy

If these situations apply to you, it might make sense to cancel your life insurance:

  • You no longer have financial dependents.
  • You’ve paid off all of your debt.
  • You can’t afford the premiums.
  • You want to invest your money in an account or portfolio with higher returns.
  • You want to take a more aggressive approach to investing.
  • You want to collect the cash value portion of your policy.
  • You’ve stopped smoking or your health has improved, and you’ve been offered a better rate on a new life insurance policy.

What if I change my mind about canceling my policy?

You’ll need to apply for a new policy, and potentially go through the underwriting process again. Your insurer will charge you a much higher rate, too. This is because life insurance premiums are based on factors like your age and health, so the longer you wait, the more you’ll pay for coverage.

If you let your policy lapse, most providers will reinstate your coverage within 30 days. You might not need to fill out any additional paperwork, but you will have to make up the premiums you missed.

Can my life insurance company cancel my policy?

Your insurer can cancel your policy in two circumstances:

  • You haven’t paid your premium within the grace period.
  • You lied on your application. A life insurance application is a legally binding document, and lying on it is a form of fraud. If your insurer discovers you withheld pertinent information, they have the right to raise your rates or cancel coverage.

Your insurance company can’t cancel your coverage if you start smoking, take up a dangerous job, gain weight, or are diagnosed with a health condition.

    Bottom line

    Canceling it is a fairly straightforward process, and can be as easy as you stopping payments. But unless you cancel during the free look period, you won’t get your money back.

    To find a policy that suits your specific needs and budget, compare life insurance companies.


    Written by

    Katia Iervasi

    Katia Iervasi is a lead writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet and a former editor at Finder, specializing in insurance. Her writing and analysis on life, disability and health insurance has been featured in The Washington Post, Forbes, Yahoo, Entrepreneur, Best Company and FT Advisor. She holds a BA in communication from Australia's Griffith University. See full profile

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    10 Responses

      Default Gravatar
      ArneApril 1, 2019

      Hi, I need a form to cancel our son’s life insurance policy. We had this policy taken on him when he was young but now we like to cancel it. Our son never found out we had this policy.

        johnbasanesApril 2, 2019Finder

        Hi Arne,

        Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

        IF you know the name of the company as well as the policy number of the insurance you took out, you may contact the insurance company directly to request for a cancellation form to start the process. Hope this helps!


      Default Gravatar
      JudyJanuary 2, 2019

      I have been paying a life insurance policy for about 15 years. It is only for $10,000 & $5,000 accidental death cover. The premiums have just gone up from $78 to $100 per month and I can no longer afford it. I have just turned 70 and just wanted a little money to leave for my disabled child. I struggle as it is should I keep paying or cancel the policy?

        ZakJanuary 3, 2019Finder

        Hi Judy,

        I am sorry to hear about the recent premium increase on your life insurance policy, which has now made it unaffordable for you. To help you determine how you should move forward, here are some things for you to consider:

        1. You can compare cheap life insurance from top companies to find a better price for the same coverage.
        2. If you cancel and use that money to pay $75 a month into an interest-bearing savings account instead, within 5 years you would have $5,000.
        3. Remember that certain policy rates increase with age, so you may face another increase in the future.

        Ultimately, assessing your current financial situation will go a long way in helping you decide which course of action is right for you.

        I hope this helped! Please feel free to reach out with any additional concerns.


      Default Gravatar
      WeiNovember 26, 2018


        johnbasanesNovember 27, 2018Finder

        Hi Wei,

        Thank you for reaching out to finder.

        If you are pertaining to yes in canceling your life insurance policy, you may do this by contacting the company where you took the policy out to know about the procedure in having this process completed. Hope this helps!


      Default Gravatar
      LizetteNovember 26, 2018

      Can I cancel my life insurance if it’s linked to my bond

        Default Gravatar
        nikkiangcoNovember 30, 2018

        Hi Lizette,

        Thanks for reaching out! Generally, there is a period option in a life insurance which you can cancel your policy within days of policy starts. It would be best to review your policy as well as the terms and conditions of the bond to check for any consequences when you do decide to cancel it.
        Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.


      Default Gravatar
      HeidiSeptember 4, 2018

      Do I have money since my mom passed

        Default Gravatar
        joelmarceloSeptember 5, 2018

        Hi Heidi,

        Thanks for leaving a question on finder and sorry to hear about your mother’s passing.

        If your mother has life insurance, you can file a life insurance claim by following these steps:

        1. Prepare to file. To file a claim, your insurer will typically require a copy of the death certificate, related medical reports and any original policy documents available.
        2. Notify your insurer. Your beneficiary or rep contacts the insurance company by phone or online to start a claim. At this point, only policy information and the date and cause of death are required.
        3. Follow your insurer’s procedure. From here, the process depends on your insurer. Generally, your beneficiaries will receive hard-copy forms to complete against specific instructions. Your insurer may also assign an officer to your claim.
        4. Submit forms and supporting documentation. Your beneficiaries submit completed claims form, your death certificate and other documents as requested. 5. They’ll also indicate their payout preferences, either a lump sum or structured annuities.
        Wait for assessment. Your insurer assesses your policy’s claim and supporting documentation. The process can take anywhere from a week to a month or more.
        6. Learn claim decision. Your insurer announces whether your policy’s claim is accepted, declined or requires additional information.

        -Payment of claim. Your insurer pays out the claim by check as requested by the beneficiaries. Ongoing payments can be sent by check or direct deposit to a bank account.

        -Rejection of claim. If your insurer declines the claim, your beneficiaries have the option to file an immediate objection unless the rejection is due to fraudulent or falsified information in the policy or claim.

        After your insurer pays out the benefit to your beneficiaries, your policy is considered closed. The payouts might be subject to taxes depending on your circumstances.


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