Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?

Life insurance typically will not cover suicide if the death occurs within the first two years of the policy. In those circumstances, the insurance company may just refund the premiums you have paid. A suicide may still be covered by life insurance if it occurs more than two years into the policy.

Christian Simmons, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
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APA Simmons, C. (2022, May 13). Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/life-insurance/payout/suicide/

MLA Simmons, Christian. "Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?" RetireGuide.com, 13 May 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/life-insurance/payout/suicide/.

Chicago Simmons, Christian. "Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified May 13, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/life-insurance/payout/suicide/.

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. This hotline is active and available 24 hours a day.

If you feel more comfortable over text, you can also text HOME to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor.

Does Suicidal Death Void Life Insurance?

A death by suicide will void life insurance in some cases and depending on the policy. Typically, if the death occurs within the first two years of the policy, then the insurance company will not pay out life insurance.

The reasoning for this is to prevent people who are planning to take their own lives from taking out a life insurance policy for their families when they do so.

But if suicide occurs more than two years after the policy began, the insurance company will typically pay it out to the beneficiary. This circumstance does depend on the specific contract.

According to Forbes, if a suicidal death does occur in the first two years, the company may still refund any paid premiums.

Individual Policies vs. Group Policies

In an individual policy, the two-year period typically applies.

As far as group policies, it depends on the terms of the contract.

Group life insurance has one contract for the entire group and a smaller death benefit, so an insurance company could pay out the benefit if someone in the group died from suicide.

Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance

Whole life is a form of permanent life insurance. It lasts for the entirety of your life —that is, as long as you continue to pay premiums.

Term life insurance only lasts for a specific number of years (the “term” of the insurance contract).

Both term life and whole life insurance policies may pay beneficiaries if a suicidal death occurs after the two- or three-year period specified in the individual policy has passed.

Term Life Insurance vs. Whole Life Insurance and Suicide
Term Life Insurance
The term life insurer will typically pay the full death benefit if the policy’s two- or three-year exclusion period has passed. If the insured dies before the exclusion period is over, the beneficiaries may only be entitled to an amount equal to the premiums already paid into the policy.
Whole Life Insurance
Depending on the whole life policy, the beneficiaries may receive the full cash value of the policy even if the insured dies during the exclusion period. But they won’t receive the death benefit of the policy. If the suicide happens after the exclusion period has expired, they are typically entitled to the full death benefit plus the cash value of the policy.

Life Insurance Suicide Clauses

Some policies include a suicide provision. In these cases, the insurance company does not have to pay the family if the death resulted from suicide.

Since some suicide clauses cover the first two years of the policy, the life insurance company could pay the family after that time.

There is also an incontestability clause in some policies. This means that an insurance company can’t contest a claim or a payout after a certain amount of time has passed.

Suicide Clause
The suicide clause details the time period and details of the period in which the policy will not pay out if the insured commits suicide. These clauses vary widely between different policies. The time period may also reset if you update or make other changes to your policy.
Contestability Clause
A contestability clause allows the insurance company to review a life insurance application for intentional misrepresentations if the insured dies within the first two years after purchasing the policy. Intentional misrepresentations include lying about health — including mental health — conditions or even age on an insurance application.

Complicated Scenarios

Some additional scenarios may affect whether a death benefit is paid out or not in the event of a death by suicide or other unusual circumstances.

Assisted Suicide

Some states now have death with dignity or physician-assisted suicide, where a doctor can assist a suicide for someone whose quality of life has reached a low point due to a terminal illness.

Since there are so few states and areas where this rule exists, it depends on whether an insurance company will pay out in this circumstance.

It is unlikely that your family will receive a death benefit if you were aware of your terminal illness when you bought life insurance.

Military Life Insurance

Military group life insurance should still pay out a death benefit even in the event of suicide due to the contract covering the entire group.

Drug & Alcohol Overdose

This scenario depends on the policy and circumstance. Some policies will not pay out if the death occurred during an illegal activity, which certain drug usage could be categorized.

Also, an overdose could impact the policy if the death occurs in the first two years and there was evidence it was a suicide.

Depression and Anxiety

A diagnosis of depression or anxiety can increase life insurance premiums. However, it’s rare for a diagnosis of either to cause an insurer to deny coverage. A mental health diagnosis should not influence payout if the insured later commits suicide, provided that the incident does not occur within the exclusion period and there is no suicide clause.

Many mental health factors can influence premiums, however. These include the level of the diagnosis received, the type of treatment the insured has received, and the number and types of medications prescribed. Showing a steady treatment history can help keep premiums down.

When Might Life Insurance Companies Not Pay Out?

The primary way that an insurance company cannot pay out a death benefit is if the death was by suicide and occurred in the first two years of the policy. This is true for most policies and suicide clauses.

In this circumstance, the family may receive some money from refunds on the premiums paid.

How Does an Insurance Company Know if Someone Died By Suicide?

When a policyholder dies, the life insurance company will require a death certificate before making any payout on the policy. The death certificate includes the cause of death, including whether it was suicide.

If the cause was inconclusive, the insurance company may require more information and evidence of the actual cause of death.

Additional Documents Insurers May Require in the Event of Inconclusive Cause of Death
  • Autopsy report
  • Medical examiner’s report
  • Police reports
  • Report from EMTs or other first responders
  • The deceased’s medical records — including mental health and medication history

In cases involving an inconclusive cause of death or suspicious death, life insurance claims can be held up while the insurance company conducts an investigation. In the end, these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. It can take months or even years before any payment is made — or denied.

Last Modified: May 13, 2022

5 Cited Research Articles

  1. Araujo, M. (2021, May 9). Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide? Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/does-a-life-insurance-policy-cover-suicide-2645609
  2. Coverage.com. (2020, December 9). The truth about life insurance & suicide. Retrieved from https://www.coverage.com/insurance/life/the-truth-about-suicide-life-insurance/
  3. Montana Law Review. (2020). A Right to Die, A Right to Insurance Payouts? Retrieved from https://scholarship.law.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2466&context=mlr
  4. National Library of Medicine (2004). Life insurance, living benefits and physician-assisted death. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15378591/
  5. U.S. Military Installation Management Command. (n.d.). Denial of Payment from SGLI. Retrieved from https://home.army.mil/monterey/application/files/7815/8983/9205/Denial_of_Payment_from_SGLI.pdf