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There is almost always an audible let down (sometimes mixed with some expletives) when I ask about family history of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The typical response goes something like, “How can they hold that against me when my Dad was an overweight, smoking, drunk at the time he died of that heart attack at age 37.

I can see both sides of this argument, underwriters and clients, but I sometimes have to chuckle at a client who uses that kind of logic as they try to acquire $1 million in term life insurance at age 37. There seems to be lot of insurance shopping that goes on around family history event ages, usually spouse driven.

“Your mom died at age 45 of breast cancer. You’re coming up on 40, don’t you think” ………or, “Your dad had diabetes and had a lot of heart problems in his late 50’s. You’re about to turn 55, don’t you think”…….. Clients unconsciously shop because of family history and then turn right around and argue against it when they find out it might impact their rates.

The good news is family history wasn’t written on stone tablets for all companies to use. Probably the most aggressive (or passive depending on how you look at it) family history question would go something like any occurrence prior to age 60 in immediate family (mother, father, sisters and brothers) of diabetes, coronary artery disease, cardirovascular disease, cancer or suicide attempts. A yes answer to any of those would bump you out of the best rate class. Change the question from occurrence to death and a yes answer would bump you out of the first two rate classes. But, fortunately that isn’t written in stone.

There are companies who only ask about parents, not siblings. There are companies that only ask about deaths, not occurrences. There are companies that will waive a family history event if you have outlived that event. Some don’t count family history of cancer while others only ask about those cancers with genetic links such as breast cancer or colon cancer. Some underwriting of cancer history doesn’t cross gender lines. In other words, a guy whose mom died at 45 of ovarian cancer wouldn’t be affected just as a woman whose father died of prostate cancer wouldn’t.

Bottom line. If you have immediate family history make sure your agent is taking that into account and can back up the fact that they have found the best rate available. Get a second opinion. Not all agents know underwriting as well as they should.