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How has Covid-19 impacted access to UK life insurance?

Life insurance is one of several tools used in estate planning. It can help investors to mitigate the impact of up to 40% Inheritance Tax on the value of their estate when they pass away.

Life insurance is one of several tools used in estate planning. It can help investors to mitigate the impact of up to 40% Inheritance Tax on the value of their estate when they pass away. Foresight research of the UK life insurance market indicates that Covid-19 is having a profound impact on the ability of elderly people to access cover.

Before accepting any person on risk, life insurers will consider an individual’s medical records. The extent of medical evidence required is largely driven by the applicant’s age and the desired sum insured. Typically for younger clients less intrusive evidence is sufficient for cover. For older clients, full medical underwriting is much more prevalent and will involve, at a minimum, a medical examination by a nurse, or, a more comprehensive examination by a doctor.

The availability of nurses and doctors to perform the necessary medical examinations has been severely limited during Covid-19. This is due to the strains that the pandemic is placing on the UK health sector. Foresight research of the UK life insurance market suggests that cases that require medical underwriting are being postponed by between three and six months depending on insurer. Additionally, delays are expected in the completion of the General Practitioners Report (a piece of evidence that insurers can request that is separate to a nurse or doctor’s examination), due to the extra pressure placed on GP surgeries by the crisis.

The postponement of life insurance cases is leaving individuals exposed during the application process. When cases are postponed the applicant no longer benefits from temporary cover that is often afforded during the underwriting process (though typically this cover excludes all pre-existing medical conditions). Individuals can apply to another insurer if they think that the postponement period will be shorter, but they will be required to declare their original postponement and will still be subject to a delay in their application process.

Foresight analysis of the underwriting limits guidelines of eleven UK life insurers indicates that the maximum sum insured that a person aged 76+ can access without medical examination is £144,000 on average. However, these are guidelines only; applying for cover for amounts beneath these limits does not preclude the insurer from requesting a medical examination as part of the underwriting process if it so chooses.

Foresight analysis of a sample of life insurers indicates that insurers are changing their application process in response to Covid-19. Six of the seven insurers reviewed have changed their application forms to include Covid-19 questions, with one now taking into consideration how travel and employment may have exposed individuals to the pandemic. Where a risk of Covid-19 is flagged, either further questions are asked of the applicant or the underwriting decision is postponed by a month.

The Foresight Accelerated Inheritance Tax Solution (Accelerated ITS) is a product exclusive to Foresight that immediately improves investors’ chances of successful Inheritance Tax (IHT) mitigation by uniquely combining the benefits of Business Relief (BR) and life insurance. To access Foresight Accelerated ITS no medical underwriting is required, investors simply must sign and date a terminal illness declaration that they are not suffering from a terminal illness.

Maximum Sum Insured Available Without Medical Underwriting for Individuals Aged 76+


Notes: ‘JLSD’ stands for Joint Life Second Death

The level of protection available under Foresight Accelerated ITS is £400,000 for Single Life Cover (equivalent to a £1 million investment) and £800,000 for Joint Life Second Death Cover (equivalent to a £2 million investment). The product’s maximum sum insured compares favourably when benchmarked against what individuals can access without medical underwriting in the rest of the UK life insurance market. To help you determine the potential return of an investor in the Foresight Accelerated ITS, click here to use our illustration tool. For more information Foresight Accelerated ITS please speak to your local Foresight Business Development Manager or contact the Retail Sales Team directly on +44(0)20 3667 8199 or


The value of an investment can fall as well as rise. Investments in smaller unquoted companies are higher risk than investments in larger quoted companies. Investors may not get back the full amount they invest.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

We recommend investors seek professional advice before deciding to invest. Foresight is not able to offer investment advice.

There can be no guarantee that the underlying investments will continue to qualify for Business Relief (“BR”). A failure to meet the BR qualifying requirements could result in the investments losing their inheritance tax exempt status, resulting in adverse tax consequences for investors.

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