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Life insurance for couples

What are the benefits of a joint life insurance policy?

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2 - 35 years
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If you’re in a relationship with someone and you both have financial obligations that would be left behind if one of you were to pass away, it’s worth considering coverage through a life insurance policy to protect your partner from potential financial hardship. Taking out a joint life insurance policy can keep you both financially secure — and save you money on premiums if you buy it as a young couple.

Types of life insurance for married couples

There are two types of joint life insurance policies that can cover married couples. With both of these policies, you’ll pay a single premium that’s typically cheaper than buying a separate policy for each person.

If you go this route, there are two types of policies to choose from:

First-to-die life insurance

This policy pays out when the first partner dies. It’s designed to help the surviving spouse financially, and it typically costs less than taking out two individual policies.

Survivorship life insurance

Also known as second-to-die life insurance, survivorship policies are paid out after both partners pass away. Their main purpose is to support any beneficiaries left behind, like children, and help to pay high estate taxes.

Survivorship policies are pretty rare, but the insurers that offer it often give couples a choice between a term or permanent policy, like whole or variable life. These policies build cash value over time, which can be useful if the couple has a special needs child that requires lifelong care, or if the surviving spouse needs to access the money while they’re still alive.

Separate policies

If you want to keep your policies separate, each of you could choose:

  • Term life insurance provides protection for a set period — usually 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years. It’s the cheapest and most straightforward policy, and it pays out a guaranteed death benefit when you die. When you’re choosing a term, you can think about your financial obligations and take out a policy that lasts as long.
  • Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life, and the most common policies are whole life, universal life and variable life. Along with offering lifetime coverage, permanent policies build cash value over time. Once you’ve accumulated enough cash value, you can take out loans against your policy while you’re alive. And when you die, your beneficiaries will receive a death benefit.

How do I compare couples life insurance?

When shopping for a life insurance policy, factor in:

  • Your financial commitments. Start by making a list of your assets and savings, and then subtract any debts, including your mortgage, car loan and any credit cards. This is the amount of money — or debt — you’ll be leaving for your spouse and any children. Is it enough to pay for any future financial needs, like retirement for your spouse or college for your child?
  • Your budget. Next, consider how much you can afford to pay for premiums each month or year.
  • The amount of coverage you need. To crunch the numbers, think about your income, assets and any outstanding debt — like a mortgage or student loans. Then, aim to take out a policy with matching face value.
  • How long you’ll need coverage. A term life insurance policy is the more affordable option and only covers you for a specified amount of years, where whole life insurance offers permanent protection and a cash value component.
  • A medical exam. Certain comprehensive policies may require you to see a doctor, but if you’d prefer to avoid it, you can go with a policy that doesn’t require a medical exam.

Reasons to consider couples life insurance

  1. Current and future plans.
    From having children to buying a new home or car – couples take on big financial obligations together. Consider getting plenty of life insurance to meet all your financial responsibilities now and in the future.
  2. Shared debt.
    When you die, your debt might pass onto your spouse if you’re married. Your spouse will be on the hook for all joint accounts and your personal credit cards balances. Life insurance can help cover any debts to reduce stress on your spouse.
  3. Lock in your insurance rates.
    The increased health risks that come with old age mean that buying a policy becomes more expensive as you grow older. The earlier you apply and lock in a quote, the more money you’ll save over the years. You’ll never know when you might develop a medical condition that’ll increase your rates significantly.
  4. Joint policy discounts. Some life insurance providers offer discounts on premiums for couples.
  5. Provide financial security to your partner or spouse. Your loved ones are provided for in the face of losing your income, helping them to pay bills and maintain the lifestyle you’ve created together. Your policy can also go toward supporting your children or give your spouse the room to grieve.
  6. Estate planning. Proper estate planning is important for any couple, and life insurance can help by covering estate taxes or other costs from distributing your estate to loved ones.

    What life insurance can cover

    Getting married is usually the point where couples look at each other and decide that life insurance is must. It’s at this stage when new financial obligations begin to pop up, these can include:

    • Ongoing debt. You likely have expenses like a car loan, credit card debt, personal loans and student loans — these bills can add up significantly.
    • Mortgage. Many couples will look to buy their first home after tying the knot. A new home is one of the bigger financial commitments people will make in their lives — and it comes with a mortgage that has to be paid. Having the right level of coverage as a safety net will give you peace of mind that you’re spouse won’t be left with a hefty debt.
      • Children: The arrival of your first child is an exciting time for any parent, and with that comes the realization that you want your children to be well taken care of if you or your spouse were to pass away or become seriously ill. Some of the expenses that could be covered by a life insurance policy are:
        • Clothing
        • Food
        • School tuition
        • Medical bills
        • Household expense
        • Childcare

    When should couples buy life insurance?

    Even if a couple doesn’t have the same financial obligations as they expect to have later in life, taking out a policy at a younger age can save applicants thousands down the line.

    When you’re younger, you’ll more likely be in better health and looked at as less of a risk to an insurance underwriter, which will lead to cheaper premiums.

    Some insurance providers also let applicants purchase a “Guaranteed insurability rider” which allows policyholders to apply for additional coverage in the future without having to undergo further medical underwriting. This feature relieves the pressure of trying to predict how your situation may change in in the future.

    Should unmarried couples buy life insurance?

    Whether life insurance makes sense for unmarried couples comes down to their own situation and if they have any current or future shared obligations. Some of these obligations could include:

    • Children
    • Mortgages
    • Short term debts (credit card)
    • Other loans (car loan)

    If there are shared financial obligations, one of you is a cosigner for the other, if you have a child together or have accumulated mortgage debt, then it’s worth looking into a joint life insurance plan to give your parter financial protection if the unexpected happens.

    What if marriage laws change for couples of the same sex?

    Naming your loved ones as beneficiaries on your life insurance keeps politics from affecting your payout. Because you can name anyone as a beneficiary, your life insurance payout will go to your partner as long as they’re the beneficiary on the policy.

    In addition, life insurance is governed by state laws. Your state may explicitly ban insurers from discrimination based on your and your partner’s sexual orientation. If you have questions when shopping for life insurance, contact insurers directly to learn about how they handle sexual orientation.

    What happens to joint life insurance for divorced couples?

    Unfortunately not every relationship withstands the test of time and many people are often left wondering what happens to their joint policy in the event of divorce or separation.

    Here’s what could happen for people in this situation:

    • One spouse keeps the policy. In this case, the policy will be transferred to one policy owner and they’ll be entitled to all of the policy benefits. The person who’s assuming ownership of the policy should repay an agreed upon percentage of past premiums paid to the other person since they’ll no longer benefit from the coverage.
    • Cancel the policy. The joint policy can be canceled and both parties can apply for two new individual policies.
    • Keep the policy. If the couple remains on good terms after the separation, the policy could remain in place with an agreement for premium payments to be shared. Because this can get complicated as new financial obligations arise, legal paperwork stating what each party is responsible for and entitled to can save a headache for both people down the road.

    Bottom line

    Life insurance can leave behind a legacy for your family and loved ones if you were to pass away. However, the needs for each individual will vary as everyone walking earth is in a different situation. A policy can add a lot of financial value and it’s important that you sit down with your partner and discuss all of your options.

    If something happened to either of you unexpectedly, would you need life insurance coverage to financially protect you? That sort of peace of mind will be worth the premiums paid for a life insurance policy.

    Frequently asked questions

    What if one person is a stay-at-home parent?
    If one partner doesn’t work outside the home, their family role and responsibilities performed inside and outside of the home are extremely valuable — estimates about $112,963 annually in the case of a stay-at-home-parent with two young children.

    Whether it be mowing the lawn, feeding the kids, taking the kids to school or cleaning the house, every task that keeps the household operational can have a dollar value associated to it. Think about how your finances would be affected if the surviving parent was left with all of these responsibilities on top of earning an income.

    Should I buy a policy if I’m insured through my employer?

    While it’s great that your job provides you with a life insurance policy, odds are good that it won’t be a substantial amount to let your partner maintain their lifestyle if you were to pass. Typically, life insurance plans through the workplace only pay out a year or two of your annual salary, even though it’s recommended that your life insurance policy be worth at least five to ten years of what you bring home annually.

    What if my beneficiary legally changes their gender marker or name?

    Contact your life insurance company to confirm that the information on your policy matches your beneficiary’s legal documents required by your insurer.

    What other types of insurance can financially protect my loved ones?

    These policies cater to other life or financial needs and may be worth exploring for couples:

    • Disability insuranceprovides a percentage of your salary as a monthly benefit if you’re unable to work because of an illness or injury. It’s useful for anyone who relies heavily on their income to provide for their family.
    • Critical illness insurance. If you’re diagnosed with a serious illness like a heart attack, stroke or cancer, critical illness insurance will pay you a lump sum benefit to cover medical and rehab costs or replace lost income.
    • Accident insurance, also known as personal injury protection, pays a lump sum if you suffer an injury as a result of an accident. It can help you take time off from work, hire someone to help around the house, cover your medical expenses and keep up with your bills.

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