Every married couple does things their way, but finances tend to merge at some point — whether from buying a home together or opening a joint credit card. Sharing a life and possibly building a family can create debt that one person may not be able to handle on their own if their spouse dies, especially if it happens prematurely. Life insurance policies can remove some of the financial pressures created during such an emotional and stressful time.

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Married couples have the option to purchase joint policies or two separate policies. Shopping for life insurance is similar to pricing other types of insurance; getting quotes from several different companies and comparing terms and conditions can help you find a policy that fits your needs and budget.

Why do married couples need life insurance

When searching for life insurance, you may want to consider how your family’s finances are set up and managed. Is one spouse the primary earner? Would either spouse have enough money to support the family if the other were to pass away? Often, buying life insurance for both spouses makes the most financial sense. Additionally, there are several other reasons why married couples would need life insurance.

Your expenses are increasing

If you and your spouse are adding expenses such as a new mortgage, higher rent, a new car payment or increased utility payments, both spouses must be prepared to take on the entirety of the expenses should one pass away. Obtaining life insurance for both partners in a marriage can help spare your spouse from financial hardships in the future.

You have debts

If you and your spouse have shared debts, like a mortgage, car payments or college debt for your children, you probably don’t want your partner to be completely responsible for repayments if you pass away. Life insurance can help ensure your spouse isn’t overwhelmed by debt payments if anything happens to you.

Life insurance can be cheaper if you buy it early

The cost of life insurance generally goes up as you get older and can be affected by many age-related health concerns. Buying life insurance at a younger age could help you secure a lower premium.

Joint vs. separate life insurance

Married couples may have the option of obtaining separate life insurance policies or a joint life insurance policy. A single life insurance policy will cover only one individual, while a joint life insurance policy will cover both spouses. Both options have pros and cons.

Joint life insurance policies

A joint life insurance policy, also known as a dual life insurance policy, covers both spouses and may be able to cover more individuals. These policies are generally used by married couples who want to cover both spouses under one policy. Married couples who want to lower life insurance costs and protect their assets from taxes after death may consider getting a joint insurance policy.

Joint life insurance comes in two options: first-to-die and second-to-die. In a first-to-die policy, the surviving spouse will receive the death benefit payout after the first spouse dies. In the second-to-die, also known as survivorship policy, the beneficiaries will receive the death benefit after both spouses have passed away.

Separate life insurance policies

A single life insurance policy will cover only one individual and will pay out a death benefit if the individual passes away. There are two main types of individual life insurance policies: term and permanent. Term policies cover you for a set period of time, usually 10 to 30 years, and permanent policies last for your lifetime and do not expire (assuming you pay the premiums). A separate life insurance policy is not tied to your marital status.

Buying separate life insurance policies allows each spouse to choose from a variety of different options, including term life, whole life and universal life insurance. Since the policies aren’t tied together, you’ll be able to personalize each to the needs of each spouse.

Which type of policy is best for us?

To determine which type of policy is best for you and your spouse, you will want to understand your circumstances and know what you both are looking for from your life insurance. Talking with a licensed agent might be helpful. Separate life insurance policies may be best for couples who prefer more customization in their individual policies, like different policy types or different amounts of coverage.

On the other hand, if you do not have separate preferences for coverage, then obtaining a joint policy may be the most suitable for you and your spouse. A joint policy means you’ll have just one life insurance bill to manage, rather than two. Another reason for obtaining a joint policy is if you and your spouse have one specific need, such as paying off a large debt like a home mortgage.

Can we get life insurance if we’re in a domestic partnership?

Domestic partners may experience the same needs that married couples have when it comes to financial security. However, not all states and life insurance companies offer domestic partnership life insurance, so you will need to do a bit of research into your state’s laws. Additionally, if you and your domestic partner are not legally married, you may be asked for more documentation during the underwriting process, such as proof of shared expenses and dependents, to prove your domestic partnership status.

While joint life insurance might not be available for all domestic partners, depending on the state they live in and the company they choose, separate policies are available. Individual policies aren’t tied to any kind of marital or partnership status. Domestic partners may be able to obtain an individual life insurance policy to help provide financial support to their partner after death.

Frequently asked questions

    • The best life insurance company will fit your future financial requirements and be reasonably affordable. Life insurance isn’t one size fits all and couples should discuss what factors matter most. A family with a new home, new cars and young children may need much more coverage than a couple uninterested in homeownership and content with their four-legged children.
    • Joint life insurance policies can be cheaper than individual policies, but this depends on the company offering the policy. The insured’s age and health characteristics strongly impact the policy rate, so comparing life insurance policies with several carriers can be the best way to find the lowest rates. Some employers offer voluntary dependent life insurance for spouses and dependents as part of a benefits package. Typically priced as little as a few dollars per month, these policies can be a cost-effective option for many families — if available.
    • You can name children over the age of 18 as beneficiaries on your life insurance policy. If you have minor children, consult your lawyer or life insurance expert about establishing a trust or legal guardianship to list as a beneficiary. Using a tool like a life insurance calculator can help you get an idea of how much life insurance you need to secure to provide for your children.