Joint life insurance policies

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Joint life insurance is a type of insurance policy specifically designed to enable spouses to share a single life insurance plan. Joint life comes in two varieties: first-to-die, which pays out to the surviving spouse after the first dies; and second-to-die, or survivorship, which pays a death benefit to the heirs after both spouses pass away.

If you’re potentially interested in purchasing a joint life insurance policy, you may want to look into it. Below, we discuss what a joint insurance policy is, what types you can get, who it’s best for and how to get one.

What is a joint life insurance policy?

Joint life insurance is similar to standard life insurance except that it is specifically designed to cover a couple instead of an individual. These two people don’t have to be a couple in the romantic sense. However, that is one of the most common scenarios for this kind of insurance. These policy types cover two people, no more, no less.

Within joint life insurance, you will have the following policy options:

  • Level term: This policy type is active for a predetermined amount of time. During this time, your coverage amount and premiums would stay the same.
  • Decreasing term: Your monthly premiums and payout amounts will decrease until the end of the predetermined amount of time during which your policy is active.
  • Increasing term: Your monthly premiums and payout amounts will increase until the end of the predetermined amount of time during which your policy is active.
  • Whole-of-life: Unlike term insurance, this policy type is active for your whole life and pays out whenever you die.

Types of joint life insurance policies

First-to-die life insurance

With first-to-die, the policy pays out as soon as the first person dies, making the payout to the survivor. The primary goal of this type of joint life insurance is similar to individual life insurance. It is often used to compensate for the lost income of a spouse or partner who dies. Whether it’s the loss of one individual in a dual-income household, or the loss of the primary income earner, first-to-die policies payout to the survivor so that they have finances on hand in their time of need. If you’re looking for first-to-die life insurance carriers, there are many competitive life insurance providers to choose from.

Second-to-die life insurance

Second-to-die policies make their payout after both of the insured persons have died. This benefit is paid to their beneficiaries. Unlike first-to-die, this type cannot provide a payout to either of the two people who are covered by the plan. Second-to-die, instead, is geared towards their beneficiaries. One of the upsides of doing it this way, instead of using two individual life insurance plans, is savings. You not only save money on the premiums, but also end up paying fewer taxes on the death benefit.

In short, first-to-die is designed to help the surviving member of the insured couple, while second-to-die is purely for beneficiaries and cannot payout to the two who are insured.

Who should have a joint life insurance policy

Dual life insurance may be right for you if:

  • You can’t afford to buy two separate policies: A joint policy may be a cheaper option than purchasing two separate policies. However, if one spouse has high-risk medical issues, a joint policy might be around the same amount as two policies.
  • One spouse was or may be denied coverage: If one spouse was denied coverage, you may still qualify for a joint policy – but keep in mind that it may not be cheaper than purchasing your own policies.
  • You want a cash value as part of a retirement plan: If you want retirement money to rely on after your spouse passes away, you may want to purchase a first-to-die policy.
  • You want to leave an inheritance for your children: If your children are grown but you’d like to leave them money after you pass, a second-to-die policy may be right for you.
  • You are the parent of a special needs child or another lifelong dependent: If you will take care of a dependent for the rest of your life, you and your spouse may want to leave this person a large sum of money to take care of their needs after your death. Second-to-die policies are a great option here.

Pros and cons of joint life insurance

Joint life insurance can be a great choice for some couples, but it isn’t for everyone. Check out some pros and cons below.

Pros

Dual life insurance is a great choice if one partner is unable to qualify for their own life insurance policy. A joint policy is also less expensive than two individual policies, so could be better for those on a budget. If you want to use your insurance policy’s cash value as part of your retirement after your spouse passes away, you can do so with a first-to-die policy. Alternatively, if you have a lifelong dependent such as a special needs child, or simply want to provide an inheritance to your children, you can do so through a second-to-die policy.

Cons

While joint life insurance is great for some couples, it’s not for everyone. Joint life insurance policies take longer than most insurance policies to pay out to your beneficiaries. They could also complicate a divorce, since the policies are tied together. In addition, joint life policies could cost just as much as other options if one spouse has high-risk medical issues.

How to get joint life insurance

The first step in buying any insurance policy is to determine what you’re looking for. After you’ve decided what kind of policy you want, it’s time to shop around and compare companies. Once you’ve found the company that offers good joint life insurance quotes on the policy coverage you want, it’s time to apply. This step can be done in a number of different ways. Generally, you can meet with an agent in person, talk to them over the phone, communicate via email or apply for a policy online through the insurance company’s website.

Before the application can be fully reviewed, you and your partner will likely need to submit to an insurance medical exam. This helps the company to determine eligibility and premium rates. After this, provided there are no unexpected problems, all that’s left for you to do is to receive your policy and make your first payment.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best life insurance company?

The best life insurance company will differ for every buyer. To find the best provider for you, it may be helpful to decide which policy type you’re interested in and talk with a licensed insurance agent to see which companies can meet your needs. Then, you may want to request joint life insurance quotes online to see where you can get the best deal.

Does joint life insurance pay out twice?

If you have a second-to-die policy, your insurance will pay out to your heirs after both policyholders die. If you have a first-to-die life insurance policy, your policy will pay out after the first partner passes away.

Do you have to be married to get joint life insurance?

No. To get joint life insurance, you just have to prove that you have shared assets with another party. Business partners and domestic partners are also able to get joint life insurance.

Written by
Joshua Cox-Steib
Joshua Cox-Steib has two years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, Coverage.com, Thesimpledollar.com, Reviews.com, and more. His work has also been featured on such sites as Msn.com and BBB.org. His insurance writing career has spanned across multiple product lines, with a primary focus on auto insurance, life insurance, and home insurance.
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