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What is an "Incontestability" Provision of a Life Insurance Policy?

Many states, including Florida, have laws which require life insurance policies to become incontestable after a period of time. As a result, most life insurance policies have a provision entitled "Incontestability." So what does this mean?

An incontestability provision is intended to describe a period of time after which an insurance company cannot contest the validity of a policy which has been issued to an insured. In Florida, that incontestability period is two years. 

Perhaps the best way to understand how the incontestability provision works is to consider an example. Let's say John applies for a life insurance policy and on one of the application questions, he's asked about his medical history. When asked about whether he's ever had cancer, John--having forgotten about an episode of skin cancer ten years ago--answers "No." In some instances, this false answer could give grounds for the insurer to later void the policy or to deny a claim. However, if two years have passed since the policy was issued, the company cannot contest the policy based on this incorrect medical information. In this way, after two years, the policy has become incontestable.

Equally important to understand about an incontestability provision is what it does not mean. The passage of the two years does not create coverage where none exists under the terms of the policy. So, in the example above, even though the insurance company cannot challenge the validity of the policy after two years, if they receive a claim and it is not covered under the policy, nothing in the incontestability provision would create any coverage. An example of this in a life insurance scenario would be if the death occured in war. Many life policies do not cover war-related deaths. If, two years after the policy was issued, John died in war and his beneficiary submitted a claim, the company could still deny the claim.

In dealing with insurance issues, it is often advisable to seek legal counsel.

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Attorney Michael Lins
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