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How to get life insurance online and protect your family in minutes

Alexis Rhiannon   

How to get life insurance online and protect your family in minutes
Finance8 min read
father carrying baby in sling

Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

  • Getting life insurance used to require working with an agent, but today it's easy to get the coverage you need online.
  • Companies like Bestow, Haven Life, Policygenius, and Fabric are all offering affordable options online, and some don't even require a medical exam for healthy applicants.
  • Filling out an application online is easy. After that, you may have to schedule a medical exam in your own home or answer a few follow-up questions over the phone.
  • Browse life insurance options from Bestow, Haven Life, Policygenius, and Fabric »

By now you're probably used to the way the internet can expedite small, life-simplifying tasks, like hailing a rideshare, ordering food, finding a handyman, or any number of minor chores.

But as time goes on, more and more major chores are making their way into the digital sphere - to the point where checking a big-ticket item off your to-do list could be only a few clicks away.

One prime example? Life insurance.

Why you need life insurance

You probably already know what life insurance is, and why you need it, but just in case: it's a contract with an insurance company that you pay into on a monthly basis, just like health insurance. In exchange for the payment of those premiums, the company will pay out a set sum in the event of your death.

It's a way of ensuring your loved ones are taken care of in your absence, with beneficiaries often using their payouts to replace missing income, cover ongoing mortgage payments, or pay off debts.

For many, such policies serve as both insurance and reassurance, but obtaining coverage used to come with a significant barrier to entry. Applying for life insurance meant initiating a tedious to-do list, rife with in-person requirements like a doctor's visit, piles of paperwork, a months-long wait, and even urine and blood samples.

But not anymore. It's 2020, after all, and many companies are getting clued in to the fact that your time is more valuable than ever. Brands like Bestow, Haven Life, Policygenius, and Fabric are all offering low-cost options online, allowing you to select the best coverage for you and your loved ones from the comfort of your own home.

Not only is the online application process significantly shortened - which, as anyone who's purchased traditional life insurance knows, is huge - but the fact that so many companies have gone digital makes it incredibly easy to compare quotes and coverage across brands. (Which is especially crucial for those with pre-existing medical conditions, thrill-seekers, or those working in dangerous workplaces seeking what's known as high-risk life insurance.) Some even provide live assistance during the application process, for anyone who finds themselves missing that human element.

How to apply for life insurance online

For most online insurance companies, filling out an application will follow the same basic format. You'll answer a series of questions from a variety of categories that might include your health ("Are you a smoker?"), your family's health ("Any history of cancer in your immediate family?"), your job ("Is your career particularly dangerous?"), and your lifestyle ("Do you make a habit of scuba diving or jumping out of airplanes?").

At the same time - and with your permission, of course - the company will comb other sites for information including prescriptions you've filled, checking your motor vehicle record for any driving violations, and scoping out the MIB Group's records for any relevant information from health insurance applications.

Once collected, all of this information is combined and plugged into a process called "accelerated underwriting," which replaces a human insurance agent with an algorithm that swiftly calculates the likelihood of - and there's no easy way to put this - your untimely death.

This stage of the process used to take 30 to 90 days, while an agent pored over your application. But the algorithm works so quickly on some sites that you'll find out whether you're approved within minutes of submitting your application.

But don't stop there! Comparison shopping is the most important part of this whole operation, not to mention one of the major benefits to applying online, so it's crucial that you make the most of it.

With that in mind, we decided to lay out some of the top-rated life insurance options for those shopping online, with a little blurb about each to distinguish it from its peers.

Bestow offers unique short-term life insurance policies

The length of a typical term life insurance policy (as opposed to whole or permanent life insurance, which is far more expensive and designed to last a lifetime) begins at a minimum of 10 years and increases from there, but Bestow offers unique short-term plans.

The company's shortest begins at just two years and is the easiest to qualify for, which makes it ideal for those in transitional phases like students, folks on an extended family leave, or anyone between jobs who wants to bridge the gap in coverage, but isn't quite ready to make a new long-term commitment.

Increasing the convenience, Bestow also requires no medical exam and can be cancelled at any time.

Plans begin at $50,000, with competitive rates starting at just $5 per month. However, the coverage is capped at $1 million, which may not be enough for some high earners.

It's also important to note that not everyone will be approved, as Bestow insures exclusively those between the ages of 21 and 55.

Get a life insurance quote from Bestow »

Haven Life offers coverage worth up to $3 million

For those looking for coverage that's a bit more heavy-duty, Haven Life is worth considering. The company offers plans with up to $3 million worth of coverage, with built-in perks like an accelerated death benefit, which allows terminally ill patients to withdraw a portion of their benefits early to cover mounting health care costs, and guaranteed renewability, which ensures that you'll be able to renew your policy at the end of its term, no matter your health status.

These factors all make Haven Life an excellent choice for those with pre-existing medical conditions or a family history of such, but there are some potential snags to be aware of as well.

For one thing, Haven Life offers plans only to those aged 64 and under. For another, the higher payout plans - that's anything above $1 million - require an in-person medical exam and a bit of a wait, which is something to note when planning out your timing.

If you're a healthy applicant under the age of 60, however, you could qualify for the Haven Life Instant Term, which offers immediate approval for plans up to $1 million with no medical exam.

But even if your plan does require an exam, Haven Life has you covered, with temporary coverage up to $1 million that kicks in during the wait, for the cost of one month's premium. That coverage will stay in place for the remainder of the process, ending only when you get full coverage, cancel your application, or are denied.

Get a life insurance quote from Haven Life »

Policygenius aggregates offers from a variety of insurance providers

If your main concern is finding the lowest premiums or the highest coverage caps, look no further than Policygenius. The company is a third-party insurance broker, meaning it does the looking for you, sorting through all the relevant info from a bunch of different companies to help find the best - and cheapest - policy for you.

To get started, there's a mini quiz that asks your age, location, and desired term length, and spits out roughly how much you'd pay per month for policies from $100,000 up to $10 million.

If you see numbers you like there, you can dive into the real thing, with a more extensive questionnaire that can be browsed independently or with an option for additional support. (And if you have a significant other, the site also offers a time-saving measure to get quotes for both of you at once.)

Once you've completed your application, Policygenius will present you with an array of quotes from companies whose financial stability it vouches for, all organized by price and with some relevant highlights to help you compare and contrast.

It's only when you actually select a policy that Policygenius will ask for your personal contact information, at which point your representative will give you a quick call for verification purposes, and then schedule your medical exam.

Because yes, Policygenius does require a medical exam for all applicants, but don't worry: it isn't as complicated as you might think. A trained nurse will visit you at your office or home to administer what's essentially a physical, and once they've signed off on your health, it's as easy as e-signing your policy, and you're off and running.

Get a life insurance quote from Policygenius »

Fabric is great for families with kids

For families with young children, Fabric has quickly become a favorite, with its pared down options and blink-of-an-eye application process.

Since the company is specifically focused on, in its own words, "responsible humans with kids," the longest term length offered is 20 years, to correspond with the time your kids will be in the home. The plans range from $100,000 in coverage right on up to $5 million.

The policies come with minimal riders, for the most part, but do offer some family-friendly finance tools. Those include help creating free wills to help you name a guardian for your kids, plus a dashboard that makes financial account information, like your IRA, 401(k), and banking info, available to your spouse. (And easily navigable, should anything happen to either of you.)

Like Policygenius, the process of getting a quote takes under a minute, asking just a few basic questions. From there, your full application for Fabric Premium should take about 10 minutes, and if it doesn't raise any red flags, you could qualify for medically underwritten coverage without an in-person exam.

Some folks will be required to submit to a no-cost examination, but a Fabric representative will reach out with follow-up questions first, to see if that step can be avoided.

But even if you don't immediately qualify, those between the ages of 25 and 50 can scoop up Fabric Instant coverage, which pays out for accidental deaths, while continuing to seek coverage under Fabric Premium, which also covers deaths by illness.

Get a life insurance quote from Fabric »

Maybe you go with one of the above options, or maybe you find coverage elsewhere that's perfect for you and your needs. But either way, you can rest easy knowing those closest to you are taken care of.

In an ideal world, your life insurance policy won't become a factor for miles down the road, but if you're financially supporting aging parents or in-laws, young children, or a partner who relies on your income, we don't have to tell you what a comfort it can be to know that their financial well-being is assured no matter what.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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