Preparing saves you time and gets you better results.
You can’t buy life or health insurance. You can only apply for coverage. The insurer will then review your insurance application and decide:
- Whether to approve your application or not.
- What, if anything, to exclude.
- What to charge you.
You then decide whether to accept or reject the insurer’s offer. If extra charges are applied due to health or smoking, there is sometimes an opportunity to have the insurer review your policy in the future if your health improves or if you stop smoking.
These days, the paper application form has been replaced with an e-application that we complete together in a virtual meeting. This brings advantages:
- Convenience: you have more choice of times and there is no travel
- Legibility: compared with handwriting, typing is much easier to read
- Completeness: questions can’t be skipped by mistake
- E-signatures: you sign digitally from your smartphone, tablet, or computer
- Speed: the e-application gets submitted instantly
You save time by having the following information available in advance. You likely have most of the details already.
Note: The questions insurers ask vary based on the product, the coverage amount, and your age. Not every piece of information below may be required, but do prepare since most will be needed.
- 1 About you
- 2 Your past and future travel
- 3 Your financial information
- 4 Your medical history
- 5 Your payment preferences
- 6 Common questions
- 7 You have help
Your contact information:
- Your full name
- Your gender at birth
- Where you were born: country and province/state
- Your home address and how long you have lived there
- Your preferred phone number
- Your preferred email address
- Proof of your identity: your driver’s license or another form of government-issued ID
If you are planning to move, use your current mailing address. We can get your address changed once you have moved.
Your past and future travel
Some parts of the world are dangerous to visit. That’s why insurers want to know about your business and recreational trips.
Gather details about any travel outside Canada (date of travel, duration of stay, reason for your trip):
- Past trips: during the past 12 months
- Future trips: planned during the next 12 months
Before COVID-19 struck, trips to the US were ignored. That is no longer the case.
Your financial information
Your financial details help the underwriter determine whether the amount of insurance is reasonable for your circumstances.
You are asked about your:
- Total assets: the market value of your home, stocks, bonds, other real estate, …
- Total liabilities: your mortgage balance, other loans, other debt, …
- Net worth: this is your total assets minus your total liabilities
- Annual earned income: from your employment, including bonuses
- Annual unearned income: from your investments, rental properties, …
If you have a partner, you each report your portion of the assets and liabilities.
Where possible, many clients want to own their life insurance corporately to use a strategy like:
- Immediate Financing Arrangement (IFA): to have life insurance without tying up assets, allowing them to invest outside the policy via insurance leveraging
- Insured Retirement Plan (IRP): to supplement their retirement income
- Estate Bond: to increase the size of their after-tax estate
If your private corporation will own the insurance, you are asked to provide corporate details, including:
- Business number
- Date of incorporation
- Articles of incorporation
- Financial statements for the last two years
Your medical history
Your health determines:
- Whether you are insurable
- Any exclusions: most likely with disability insurance
- Your premiums
You may be asked for:
- Your height and weight
- Your doctor’s name and address
- Details of your appointments with any medical professional in the past 12 months (or your most recent, if none within the last year)
- The dates of your medical tests and consultations: the month and year are okay if you can’t find more specific information
- The names of the medical service providers: for example, Doctor X at Clinic Y
- The outcomes of your medical visits: Were medications prescribed? Were more tests recommended? Was everything fine?
Tip: If you have medical issues, we can find out about your insurability before you apply without identifying you. In this way, you will better understand whether you are eligible for coverage and how you might be rated.
Additional medical questions include details about your medical conditions, prescription medications, and family history. We skip these in the application because you will be asked during a tele-interview. This protects your privacy and reduces the time to complete your insurance e-application.
In addition to a tele-interview, the insurer may require additional information, such as:
- A paramedical exam to collect body fluids (e.g., blood, urine, saliva)
- An inspection report
- An Attending Physician Statement (APS)
The insurance company covers all the costs. You are not charged, even if you decide against getting the insurance.
Tip: The Attending Physician Statement can get delayed because doctors prefer treating patients to completing insurance paperwork (even though they are paid). If the delays are unusually long, we will ask you to contact your doctor’s office to expedite the process.
Your payment preferences
You have some flexibility in how you pay your premiums. You choose how often to pay and the form of payment.
You can generally pay your premiums:
- Monthly: easier for budgeting if you are paying from income (as is common for insurance for needs). The tradeoff is that your premiums may be about 8% higher. The exception is universal life insurance, which doesn’t have a surcharge.
- Annually: If you are getting insurance for wants, you are likely paying the premiums from assets or retained earnings. That means you can pay your premiums from assets you already have. This may save you about 8% for most life and health insurance products.
Method of payment
The way your premium is paid is based on your premium frequency:
- Monthly premiums: automatically via Pre-Authorized Debit (PAD). Have a void cheque or your banking information available (institution number, transit number and account number)
- Annual premiums: manually via cheque or online banking
What about credit cards? Insurers generally don’t allow them because of the processing fees. BMO Insurance lets you pay up to $50,000 of your first annual premium via your credit card. All subsequent premiums have to be made as detailed above.
Tip: You never make a payment to your insurance advisor. Your premiums are payable directly to the insurance company.
How long does the application take to complete?
When you apply for insurance coverage, we ask you to set aside an hour. The process typically takes 15-30 minutes per person.
Tip: Be near a large screen so that you can easily see the questions and the answers we input for you.
How long does the underwriting take?
You usually get your insurance policy within 8-12 weeks. The biggest delays are usually caused by waiting for an Attending Physician’s Statement (APS) from your doctor.
Times are much shorter if you are younger and are applying for a smaller amount of coverage.
Some products offer “instant” coverage with “no medicals”. We prefer products with conventional underwriting so that you:
- Get lower premiums
- Get the findings from specialized, predictive medical tests
- Reduce complications at claims time because no shortcuts were taken
What if you forget details?
You may not remember every detail. That’s fine. Answer truthfully to the best of your ability. By preparing for your insurance “paperwork”, you have time to gather information.
The insurance underwriter may request additional details.
Can you provide information after completing your insurance application?
You can provide some information afterwards, but the underwriting process will be delayed because of the extra manual steps: the underwriter asks us … we ask you … you tell us … we inform the underwriter … the underwriter continues the review (as time allows).
Tip: If you remember more details after applying, do tell us. We will then inform the underwriter.
Will the underwriter ask for any other information?
The underwriter can ask for other information. The back-and-forth process adds delays. That’s why it’s better to provide information initially.
You have help
Applying for insurance can be intimidating. We’re here to guide you.