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Understanding Your Life Insurance Continuation Options – Portability & Conversion

conversion & portability

Many schools, cities, and counties have a Conversion and/or Portability option on their group life insurance plan. When an employee’s group term life insurance protection ends, this gives employees the opportunity to continue their life insurance by “converting” to an individual whole life insurance policy or “porting” to another term life insurance policy.

When an employee loses coverage, they have a 31-day window to apply for a new policy after their coverage ends. Employers should provide timely notice of the timeframes and limitations of their Conversion/Portability options.



An employee would be eligible to convert their group term life insurance policy into a personal term life insurance policy if their plan includes portability.

An employee is eligible for Portability (regardless of their health status) as long as they apply within the stated time frame (listed in the certificate of insurance or policy). It is usually 31 days after loss of coverage. Portability is more intended to provide coverage during a gap in insurance (for example – a change between jobs).  Portability is normally not allowed for disabled employees or retirees.

  • Ported coverage usually costs less than converted coverage
  • Premiums are often submitted directly to the carrier
  • Coverage is provided for a certain “term” (period of time) and expires when the term is up
  • No cash value or benefit at the end of the term
  • If the employee passes away during the term, the benefit is paid to the beneficiaries



With Conversion, an employee can convert their policy into a whole life policy, regardless of their state of health. Again, they must apply within the allotted time frame.

A whole life insurance policy (as opposed to a term life insurance policy) has a guaranteed cash value that builds over time and employees can take loans against the balance. Loans that are not repaid before the employee’s death will simply lower the death benefit payout. The policy also includes a cash surrender value which means if the employee decides to give up the policy, they can receive cash or continue the coverage without further premium payment.

  • Premium payments may be a lot higher than the group rates
  • Some policies allow conversion for coverage lost due to age reductions
  • Converted coverage can continue with premium payments until the scheduled maturity date (date varies per insurance carrier) at which time the cash surrender value is paid to the employee

NIS customers can find their Conversion/Portability forms in their administration kit. Contact your NIS Representative if you have questions.

Learn more about taxability of Group Term Life Insurance - Download our Guide today

National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Erica Stanislav

Erica Stanislav

Erica Stanislav is a country girl at heart. Having grown up in a small Iowa town, she appreciates the slow easy way of living, how people appreciate your time and where everyone has a sense of family and community. She joined National Insurance Services as an Account Representative, so she can work with people who value the same. With a background in customer service, Erica is not one to leave problems unsolved. She’s willing to go the extra mile to seek out answers and correct the situation. She adheres to the Einstein quote, “You only fail when you stop trying.” Erica is a licensed insurance agent specializing in life, disability, vision, and dental insurance for schools, cities, and counties.