Does Life Insurance Cover Suicide?

Individual life insurance doesn't cover suicide within two years (one year in some states) after the policy begins.
Barbara Marquand
By Barbara Marquand 
Edited by Katia Iervasi Reviewed by Tony Steuer

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Along with the profound and painful questions that follow the loss of a loved one from suicide, there are practical and financial issues to address, too.

If the loved one had life insurance, a common question is whether the policy will still cover the death.

In general, there is coverage if your loved one:

  • Had group life insurance through work.

  • Had military life insurance.

  • Was insured under an individual policy that went into effect more than two years ago (one year in some states).

  • Was insured under coverage that he or she purchased through work and that went into effect more than two years ago (one year in some states).

Even if the death is not covered, it’s important to follow up with the life insurance company.

If the claim is denied because of suicide, the beneficiary is typically owed a return of the premiums. This means the beneficiary would receive a sum of money equal to the amount the policyholder paid in premiums for coverage.

How individual life insurance handles suicide

How a life insurance policy will handle suicide depends in part on the type of coverage — individual versus employer-paid group life insurance. Individual policies are the kind you buy on your own; group life insurance is the kind you get through an organization, such as an employer.

Individual life insurance policies usually contain a suicide clause, which means they don’t pay out claims for deaths caused by suicide within a specified period of time. In most states, this exclusion lasts the first two years after the policy goes into effect. Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota have a one-year suicide clause. 

Insurance companies and regulators consider that this is sufficient time to prevent policies from being purchased by someone who intends to commit suicide.

If a suicide occurs during the exclusion period, the insurer will typically provide a return of premiums paid to the policy’s beneficiary, minus any outstanding payments. With cash value life insurance policies, any unpaid loans and interest will be deducted from the payout amount.

If death from suicide occurs after this period, then the life insurance policy will pay out as it would for death from illness or other insured causes.

How group life insurance treats suicide

Group life insurance at work — if the employer pays for it — typically does not contain a suicide clause. So if your loved one had employer-paid coverage through work, then the plan generally will pay a life insurance death benefit. Contact the employer’s human resources department to learn how to file a life insurance claim.

However, supplemental life insurance that employees purchase treats suicide much the way individual policies do, excluding it during the first one or two years. If the death occurred during the excluded period, the premiums the employee paid for the coverage would typically be returned to the beneficiary.

You are not alone if you’re dealing with the aftermath of suicide. It is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide Data: United States. Accessed Feb 8, 2023.

If you’re picking up the pieces after losing someone from suicide, the important thing to remember about life insurance is not to let the cause of death keep you from filing a claim.

Resources if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 free, confidential support: dial or text 988 or visit the website to chat online.

  • The Veterans Crisis Line provides confidential support for veterans and their families: dial 988, press 1; or text to 838255; or start an online chat.

  • The Crisis Text Line offers free 24/7 support for people in crisis. Text HOME to 741741.

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