Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Written by Chelsey Tucker
Insurance Expert Chelsey Tucker

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 28, 2022

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The Lowdown

  • An incontestability clause is part of a life insurance policy that forbids the insurance company from voiding the policy due to a misstatement from the policyholder during the application process
  • Incontestability periods typically last between two and three years, and the insurance company can’t challenge the application after that period
  • Exceptions to an incontestability period include fraud, the policyholder dying before the end of the incontestability period, and the policyholder misstating their age or gender on their application

The purpose of life insurance is to ensure the financial protection of your family and loved ones after you pass away. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the life insurance company you choose will pay the death benefit.

An incontestability clause protects policyholders by prohibiting the life insurance company from canceling your policy after a certain amount of time. Read more below about how an incontestability clause works and the exceptions.

You may also enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to find affordable life insurance quotes from companies near you.

What is an incontestability clause?

An incontestability clause is part of a life insurance policy that forbids the insurance company from voiding the policy due to a misstatement from the policyholder during the application process. Most incontestability clauses give the insurance company two or three years to void the policy.

For example, if a policyholder makes a misstatement during their application process, the insurance company may void the policy within the incontestability clause period due to this misstatement. However, if the company finds out about the misstatement after the incontestability clause period, it can no longer void the policy.

How does an incontestability clause work?

An incontestability clause in life insurance prohibits the company from voiding or canceling a policy due to misstatements in the application process after a certain period of time.

The incontestability period begins on the day the policy starts and generally lasts two or three years. If the insurance company wishes to void the policy due to a misstatement, the company must provide proof of this misstatement within the incontestability period.

After the period indicated within the incontestability clause, the insurance company is no longer allowed to challenge the application information and must provide the death benefit if the policyholder dies.

In addition, the process to void a policy is more difficult than simply sending the policyholder a notice. Instead, the company must file suit in court.

If a policyholder misses their premium payments, the policy may lapse. If the policy lapses and the policyholder begins paying premiums to begin coverage again, then the incontestability period may start over. Therefore, the insurance company would have more time to void or cancel the policy if you provided false or inaccurate information on your application.

How do incontestability clauses protect consumers?

It is relatively easy to make a mistake on your life insurance application. For example, life insurance companies require you to provide complete medical information. If you miss a small detail, the life insurance company could void or cancel your policy due to lack of information.

Incontestability clauses were first put into practice by independent life insurance companies in the late 1800s.

These life insurance companies were attempting to gain back the trust of the public by creating a better image of the insurance industry. It was successful, and many states implemented laws that required life insurance policies to have incontestability clauses.

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Are there exceptions to an incontestability clause?

In some cases, there may be exceptions to the incontestability clause.

For example, if the life insurance company can prove the applicant intentionally committed fraud, it has the right to void or cancel the policy.

Another instance in which the life insurance company can deny paying the death benefit is if they include a lifetime clause provision that states that the incontestability period must occur within the policyholder’s lifetime. For example, if the policyholder dies within the incontestability period, the life insurance company may not pay the death benefit.

If the life insurance company finds that the policyholder misstated their age or gender during the application process, it must still provide the policy. However, the company can adjust the death benefit according to the correct information.

These exceptions are not allowed in all states.

What other life insurance clauses exist?

There are many other clauses used in life insurance policies. Some of them include:

  • Beneficiary clause — If you have a beneficiary listed in your policy, the death benefit will be sent to them. However, if you don’t list a beneficiary, the death benefit will be sent to your estate and go through probate.
  • Preference beneficiary clause — If you don’t have a beneficiary listed, the death benefit will be sent to the people listed in your policy in the order they are listed.
  • Survivorship clause — Your beneficiary must survive you by a certain number of days before receiving the death benefit.
  • Spendthrift clause — If your beneficiary risks having the death benefit taken by creditors, the life insurance company may hold the money to protect it.
  • Suicide clause — If the policyholder commits suicide within a certain amount of time, the death benefit will not be paid.
  • War clause — If the policyholder dies due to war activities, the life insurance company will not pay the death benefit but will refund the premiums.
  • Aviation clause — If the policyholder dies while on an airplane or traveling in one, the life insurance company will not pay the death benefit.
  • Free examination clause — The policyholder can return the policy for a full refund within a certain amount of time.
  • Grace period clause — The policyholder will have a certain amount of time to pay past-due premiums. If the policyholder dies during the grace period, the insurance company will pay the death benefit minus any premiums you owe.
  • Reinstatement clause — The policyholder may reinstate their policy after it has lapsed by paying the outstanding premiums plus interest.

If you are trying to find affordable life insurance, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below to get incontestability clause insurance from a life insurance company near you.