What if your father died at age 52 of a heart attack? He was overweight. He smoked and led a sedentary lifestyle. He simply didn’t do anything to take care of himself and appears to have paid the price.

Now there is you. Never smoked. Never drank. You get plenty of exercise. Your weight has always been well controlled. Is it fair that a life insurance company would change your rate class because of your father’s health history? I suspect if this was an impromptu poll of 100 people, not one would say that is a fair course of action by an insurance company.

Family history is about as contentious an issue as you can find in life insurance underwriting. It isn’t plain and clear like cholesterol being high. It seems to smack of unfairness to penalize you for the shortcomings of your father or mother. Indeed it’s like being charged and convicted of a crime that you never committed.

Well, that’s one side of the story. From the other side is an insurance company that is trying to view the issue in a larger context. Is it possible that your father had heart disease that was not caused by his lifestyle? The company can’t pull your father’s medical records to review that possibility. We all know people that abuse themselves to death, but their death doesn’t come until age 92. If his heart disease wasn’t caused by his lifestyle, is the cause hereditary? Have you proactively been tested to rule out heart disease or are you standing on your own belief that it was your father’s lifestyle that caused his premature death?

In fairness to life insurance companies, the penalty for family history is generally not a large one. Many companies will consider proactive medical evidence to support a better rate. There are even a few companies that will completely negate the family history if you have lived past age 60 (the family history cutoff for most companies).

Bottom line. Most of us aren’t very understanding of any reason that a life insurance company raises a rate over what we expected. We all want the best rate. The best you can do is to find an independent agent who can work with your particular issue and find the company that best suits your needs.