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5 white lies that could get your life insurance claim denied

We're all guilty of telling a little white lie every now and then. "I got it on sale" or "I'll be ready in a minute" are half-truths many of us tell or reply with abandon. But when it comes to filling out your life insurance application, proceed with caution. Fudging your application, even by accident, could result in your coverage being revoked or your claim being denied.

When buying life insurance, it's important that you're hyper vigilant. Omitting information or including only selective details on your application, either out of embarrassment or due to a lack of understanding, could cause your insurance provider to question your claim and potentially deny the necessary coverage. Indeed, this is one instance where it (literally) pays to tell the truth.

With that in mind, the following are five common lies that could cause your life insurance policy to be denied during the period of incontestability. [More: Dynamic insurance dup keeps you covered: disability + critical illness ]

1) I don't smoke
Denial or wishful thinking has no place when answering this question. Lying about your smoking habits could cause your death benefits to be reduced or even revoked right when your family is counting on them most. It's worth noting that the insurance definition of a smoker is generally a male or female who uses nicotine, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or anti-smoking products like nicotine patches and nicotine gum. As such, just because you haven't smoked today, or are currently trying to quit smoking, doesn't make you a non-smoker. If you're currently reviewing life insurance options, be sure to ask your agent to clearly define the company's smoker policy. In most cases, in order to qualify for a preferred rate, you'll need to be smoke free for the last 12 months.

2) I'm an awesome driver
If you've had driving problems in the past, don't try to hide or deny them. DUIs, moving infractions, accidents, arrests — if you've been charged, make sure you note this on your application. Life insurance underwriters will analyze the number and types of violations on your record when assessing your application. A few minor infractions won't affect your rate; however, multiple serious infractions (especially DUIs) can mean an automatic decline. [More: Critical illness insurance: the most overlooked type of insurance]

3) I've never done drugs
This should be a given. Lying about illegal or prescription drug use and abuse, however casual you may think it is, can easily get your life insurance denied (either after your death or even during your lifetime). However, just because you've had problems in the past doesn't mean you can't qualify for coverage. Individuals who have experienced difficult lifestyle issues, such as past alcohol and drug abuse, can still receive coverage; policy rates are typically 50% to 300% more than normal life insurance rates. Individuals who have severe lifestyle issues may find their application denied.

4) I don't suffer from depression
Don't try and hide a depression diagnosis from your life insurance provider. Failure to inform the insurance company of mental illness could enable the provider to deny coverage. It's worth noting that almost all life insurance policies have a suicide clause. This provision states that if a person covered under a life insurance policy dies as a result of suicide within the period of incontestability, the policy becomes null and void.

5) I don't travel anywhere dangerous
If you take frequent trips to a place that your life insurance company deems as "high-risk" during the period of incontestability (or thereafter), you may be required to pay a surplus premium. With this in mind, before you jet off to a foreign destination or one with a travel advisory issued, make sure you check what your insurance provider deems as a "dangerous part of the world". If you were to pass away in a destination deemed unsafe by your provider, and your policy didn't feature the necessary travel coverage, your family's claim could be denied. [More: Life insurance 101: How much is enough?]

How long is the period of incontestability?
All life insurance policies come with a time limit (usually two years) during which the provider has the right to dispute the validity of any policy based on the information captured in the application.

During this time period, the insurance company will review your application in search of false information. Your provider has the right to obtain inspection records and request a medical examination in order to contest the responses provided on your application. If you fail to disclose any pertinent information when submitting your application, the policy may be withdrawn or denied.

A note about fraud
In cases of fraud, life insurers can typically cancel coverage and deny claims at any time. Fraud occurs when an applicant knowingly hides a life-threatening medical condition, lies about drug use or fails to disclose their smoking status in order to qualify for coverage.

It's important to note that, even in the case of an honest mistake, most insurance contracts are worded so that a company can invalidate a client's coverage — especially during the period of incontestability. [More: Can you ever be over-insured? 10 insurance policies you just don't need]

The lesson? While some little white lies in life are harmless (your real hair colour and jean size), lying on your life insurance application, even by accident, is never a smart move. By being honest and forthcoming when applying for coverage (and taking on any additional costs), you can rest assured that the coverage your family needs should you pass away will be available. It's a price worth paying.

GoldenGirlFinance.ca is a free personal finance and education site for women.

Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial or legal strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances, as well as fully aware of current laws and regulations.

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