Common Term Life Insurance Exclusions

Always read your life insurance policies thoroughly so you will be aware of any exclusions.
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In life insurance, an exclusion is a cause of death that releases the insurance company from having to pay the death benefit to an insured person's beneficiary. The only common exclusion in today's term life insurance policies is suicide. Older term life insurance policies are more likely to exclude anything from dangerous activities to HIV/AIDS. Exclusions will be clearly stated in your life insurance policy. It's always a good idea to make yourself aware of any exclusions in your term life policy.

Suicide Exclusion

Most term life insurance policies include a suicide exclusion. This exclusion protects insurance companies from having to pay the insured's beneficiary if the insured person commits suicide during the first year or two after the policy is in force. The amount of time suicide can be excluded is governed by the laws of the state in which the policy is purchased. If a person with term life insurance commits suicide during the exclusion period, the insurance company will refund the premiums paid to the beneficiary but will not pay the death benefit.

Act of War Exclusion

Act of war exclusions protect insurance companies from having to pay death benefits to beneficiaries if the insured person dies as an act of war. This generally includes acts of war domestically or abroad. Act of war exclusions were common in term life insurance policies sold before the 1970s . Most insurance policies sold today don't have this exclusion, but it's always important to double-check your policy, especially if the insured person is in the military or another profession that's likely to expose him to acts of war.

Dangerous Activities

Some term life insurance policies contain exclusions for specific dangerous activities. Like most other exclusions, these exclusions are less common than they used to be. Activities that were commonly excluded in life insurance policies included SCUBA diving, race car driving, rock climbing and aviation. Policies that exclude dangerous activities must plainly state what types of activities are excluded. In some cases, life insurance companies simply refuse to insure those who engage in dangerous activities.


It's increasingly rare for a term life insurance company to refuse to insure people because of dangerous activities or to include exclusions -- other than suicide exclusions -- in their policies. However, insurance companies do typically ask people about their involvement in risky activities before selling them insurance. Insurance companies typically "rate" those who are involved in risky activities, charging them a "flat extra." This means that the insured can get coverage and that the term life insurance will still pay if the insured dies because of the risky activity, but that the insurance will cost more.

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