Man putting on a suit jacket and leaving a set of prison clothes in the trash.
Insurance 101

Can felons get life insurance?

Insurance 101

Can felons get life insurance?

Getting life insurance for ex felons may be difficult, but there are ways to get coverage.

Did you know that one in three US adults has a criminal record? There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you have a record yourself. No judgments if you do. But that’s a lot of people. And by the end of 2019, nearly half (49%) of federal prisoners were the parent, step-parent, or guardian of a minor child.

Having a felony conviction makes it that much harder to care for one’s self and their family. Especially when it comes to getting a life insurance policy. Some people may not even know if they can or can’t get coverage. So can felons get life insurance? In some cases, yes, they can. But there may be barriers along the way. Check out this guide to getting life insurance as a felon.

  1. What is a felony?
  2. Can a felon get life insurance?
  3. How to get life insurance for felons
  4. Why does this matter
  5. Overview

What is a felony?

States typically separate crimes into three categories—infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. A felony is considered the most serious of these. Now, the feds define a felony as a crime with a punishment of more than a year. Individual states, however, may have their own definitions. 43 states refer to felonies by the length and place of incarceration. If you’re imprisoned for three years or more in a state/federal prison, that’d be a felony offense.

If you’re convicted of a felony, you can lose some very important rights. Here are just a few that you can lose.

Limited job or educational opportunities

There are a lot of barriers for people with felonies in terms of getting a job. 27% of ex-convicts are unemployed, a number higher than any historical US population. Structural barriers, such as employer bias, can keep people from securing employment.

Lose the right to vote

When convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote. According to the Sentencing Project, approx. 5.2 million Americans were forbidden from voting in the 2020 Presidential election due to felony disenfranchisement.

Can’t travel as freely

If you have a felony, you may be able to get a passport once your sentence is done. But certain countries, such as Canada and the UK, may deny you a visa.

Lose rights to federal assistance

Certain federal assistance programs, such as food stamps, work studies, and subsidized housing, may become difficult or impossible to obtain with a felony conviction.

Can a felon get life insurance?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is a bit more complicated.

If you’re in jail or awaiting trial, you’re probably not going to get coverage. Beyond individual company biases, having a felony can open you up to a number of health complications. In 2016, 40% of state and 30% of federal prisoners reported having a chronic condition. And, unfortunately, people in prisons are disproportionately more likely to have chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, and substance abuse issues.

Having a felony would place you in a high-risk category. Some insurance companies won’t offer you coverage off that alone. Others may work with high-risk applicants. The key thing to remember is to do your research and be honest. Speak with agents, learn about the company you’re applying with, and most importantly, don’t lie. When applying, be upfront about your record. Better to be rejected than to have a policy that won’t pay out because you lied.

Questions insurers may ask about felony convictions

Questions you may be asked about when trying to get life insurance for felons  Box 01: severity of crime  Box 02: frequency of crimes committed  Box 03: the time that has passed since crime

How to get life insurance for felons

You’ll want to reduce your risk. Insurers use underwriting to determine an applicant’s risk. The best thing you can do before you apply is to limit that uncertainty. Depending on the crime, you may be able to get coverage from a lenient company. And remember, be prepared. Companies may ask you questions about the severity of your crime, type of felony, sentence, probation period, and time passed since release.

There are other options. For example, depending on your employer, you may be able to get Group Life Insurance. You don’t typically need medical exams or criminal history disclosures as this policy is part of your job’s benefits package. Just remember that this type of policy tends to cover you for the length of your employment (hopefully it’s a job you like).

Why does this matter?

Let’s say you’re not a felon. What does this have to do with you? Well, a lot of things. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen prosecutors charge defendants with felony-level charges, such as gang affiliations and even terrorism. The crime? Being at a protest. The 234 J20 defendants, for example, were threatened with as much as 60 years in prison for simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, getting and/or providing abortions may become felony-level crimes depending on the state you’re in. In Alabama, for example, doctors could possibly face up to 99 years in prison for providing reproductive care.

What’s Next

Felonies aren’t just “violent” crimes. And people don’t assume they’ll one day end up having a felony conviction. As the world keeps changing around us, it’s important to be prepared for anything that might happen. For example, it’s probably better to have a life insurance policy *before* getting a felony conviction. It’s often better to have a life insurance policy when you’re younger too. So think about applying for life insurance. Check out our Wysh Builder to see what kind of coverage works for you. And stay safe out there.

The opinions we expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations.
illustration of a man and woman holding hands
Insurance 101

What is a beneficiary? And other burning questions answered

5 things you must know before deciding who gets your life insurance money.

illustration of a man with computer screens flying around his head
Insurance 101

Insurance underwriting: what’s with all the questions?

An industry expert explains how insurers use data to guess how long you’ll live.

two breakfast plates with eggs and bacon making a smiley face.
Insurance 101

Stay-at-home parent? You’re worth more than you think

Joint life insurance could cover at-home responsibilities if the worst were to happen.