Does Life Insurance Pay Out for Suicide?

Last updated: 16/06/2023 | Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Talking about suicide can be difficult, but it’s an important topic to discuss with your life insurance provider. While most life insurance policies will pay out for deaths caused by suicide, there may be certain conditions and exemptions in place depending on your individual circumstances and the type of policy you choose.

In this guide, we’ll cover some of the common terms and conditions surrounding suicide in life insurance policies, as well as explore the impact that a pre-existing mental illness may have on your life insurance premiums.

In This Guide:

Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?

Yes, most life insurance does cover suicide. However, the terms of this cover will vary, meaning that your policy may become invalid if the circumstances of your suicide do not meet the terms laid out. Typically, these terms will involve a specific time period, usually shortly after the policy is taken out, when suicide will not be covered. While some policies will cover suicide no matter how or when it occurs, most types of life insurance will include a suicide clause.

What is a Suicide Clause?

Suicide clauses vary between insurance providers, but they generally fall into two categories:

Immediate Cover

Some life insurance policies provide immediate cover for suicide, which means that if the policyholder dies by suicide during the policy term, the insurer will pay out the full sum assured. However, these policies typically have a minimum waiting period of one or two years, during which suicide is not covered. This waiting period is designed to discourage individuals from taking out life insurance policies with the intention of committing suicide shortly thereafter.

Exclusion Clause

Other life insurance policies have an exclusion clause for suicide, which means that the insurer will not pay out if the policyholder dies by suicide during the policy term. This exclusion sometimes only applies for the first one or two years of the policy, after which suicide is covered, as is the case in immediate cover clauses.

It is important to note that if the insurer determines that the policyholder’s death was not a suicide but an accident, the policy will pay out regardless of the policy’s suicide clause.

How is the Cause of Death Determined?

Determining the cause of death in cases of suicide can be a complex process, and it typically involves an investigation by the relevant authorities. If a life insurance policy includes a suicide clause, the insurer may require evidence that the policyholder’s death was, in fact, a suicide before they pay out on the policy.

In the UK, the determination of suicide is usually made by the coroner or a medical examiner. A coroner is a government official who investigates deaths that are sudden, violent, or of unknown cause. When someone dies by suicide, the coroner will typically order a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death.

In some cases, the cause of death may be immediately apparent, such as if the person has left a suicide note or if there is other evidence to suggest suicide. However, in other cases, the investigation may be more complex, and it may require the involvement of mental health professionals, forensic experts, and other specialists.

The coroner or medical examiner will typically consider a range of factors when determining the cause of death, including:

  1. Medical history: The coroner may review the person's medical history to see if they had a history of mental illness or if they were receiving treatment for a mental health condition.
  2. Circumstances of death: The coroner may investigate the circumstances surrounding the person's death, including any evidence of suicidal intent, such as a suicide note or previous attempts at suicide.
  3. Toxicology report: The coroner may order a toxicology report to determine if the person had taken any drugs or substances that could have contributed to their death.
  4. Witness statements: The coroner may interview family members, friends, and other witnesses to gain a better understanding of the person's mental state and the events leading up to their death.

Once the coroner has completed their investigation, they will issue a report that details their findings and determines the cause of death. If the coroner determines that the person died by suicide, this information will be recorded on the death certificate.

Does Mental Health Affect Suicide Cover?

Mental health is a significant factor when it comes to life insurance and suicide. Insurance providers may ask about your mental health history when you apply for a policy, and it can affect whether or not suicide is covered under the policy.

If you have a history of mental health issues, it is crucial to disclose this information to the insurance provider when applying for a policy. Failure to disclose any relevant information about your mental health could lead to the insurer refusing to pay out in the event of suicide.

It is important to note that if you have a mental health condition that affects your risk of suicide, you may still be able to obtain life insurance. However, you may need to provide additional information or medical evidence to the insurance provider to support your application.

If you already have a life insurance policy and your mental health condition changes, it is essential to inform the insurance provider as soon as possible. If you do not disclose any changes in your mental health, the insurer may refuse to pay out in the event of suicide, even if suicide is covered under the policy.

Do Past Suicide Attempts Affect Life Insurance?

If you have a history of suicide attempts or have experienced suicidal ideation, it may affect your ability to obtain life insurance or the premiums you will have to pay. Life insurance providers use a risk-based approach to determine the premiums that you will pay, and a history of suicide attempts could indicate an increased risk of death by suicide.

When you apply for life insurance, you will be asked a series of questions about your medical history, including any history of mental illness or suicide attempts. It's essential to answer these questions honestly and accurately, as failure to do so could invalidate your policy. If you have a history of suicide attempts, it's important to disclose this information to the insurer. Depending on the severity and recency of the suicide attempts, the insurance provider may require you to pay a higher premium or exclude suicide from the policy altogether.

Finding Life Insurance with Suicide Cover

Finding life insurance with suicide cover can be a sensitive and complex process, but it's essential for anyone seeking to protect their loved ones financially in case of the unexpected. When looking for life insurance policies that cover suicide, it's important to read the policy documents carefully, understand the terms and conditions, and be transparent about your mental health history. This will help ensure that your loved ones are likely to receive a payout if the worst should happen. To learn more about life insurance with suicide cover, get in touch with our brokers here at Money Expert.