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Life Insurance For Married Couples: How To Choose the Best Policy For You and Your Spouse

Last updated 03/14/2024 by

Jamela Adam

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Getting life insurance after marriage could protect your family financially in the event that anything happens to you or your spouse. As a married couple, you have the option to buy separate life insurance policies or a joint life insurance policy. Depending on your age, health condition, and coverage needs, one option may be more affordable than the other. Compare quotes across multiple life insurance providers to find the best life insurance for you and your other half.
Congratulations on tying the knot with your life partner! Now that you’re officially a married couple, it’s time to think about protecting your future together. One way to do this is by investing in life insurance.
Life insurance provides financial stability and security in the event of an unexpected death or illness so that your loved one will be taken care of if something happens. It also helps cover any debts or expenses associated with end-of-life costs, such as funeral expenses and medical bills.
In this article, we’ll discuss why life insurance is important for married couples, the types of policies available, and how to choose the best life insurance company and coverage for your needs.

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Why should married couples get life insurance?

Wondering whether you and your significant other should invest in life insurance? Here are some reasons why it may be a good idea.

Pay off mortgage

Having life insurance can help pay off any mortgages you may have on your home. This way, if one partner dies, the surviving partner doesn’t need to worry about balancing mortgage payments and other living expenses on a reduced income.

Settle debt

You should consider getting life insurance if you’re married and have shared debt. If you or your spouse passes away, the death benefit could provide financial stability for the remaining partner and allow them to pay off any debts or expenses they may be responsible for. This could include medical bills, mortgage payments, credit card debt, and any other financial obligations.

Manage living expenses

If your significant other is the breadwinner and you have young children together, life insurance can provide you financial relief if he or she were to pass away. The death benefits can help cover day-to-day expenses — such as food, clothing, education costs, etc. — so that your income isn’t stretched too thin while adjusting to single-parenting responsibilities.

Handle final expenses

The cost of funeral and burial services is expensive. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the national median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial in 2021 was approximately $7,848, while the median cost of a funeral with cremation was approximately $6,971.
Item20212016% Change
Non-declinable basic services fee$2,300$2,1009.5%
Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home$350$3257.7%
Other preparation of the body$275$25010.0%
Use of facilities/staff for viewing$450$4255.9%
Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony$515$5003.0%
Service car/van$150$1500.0%
Printed materials (basic memorial package)$183$16014.1%
Metal burial casket$2,500$2,4004.2%
Median Cost of a Funeral with Viewing and Burial$7,848$7,3606.6%*
Total with vault$9,420$8,7757.6%
*The overall rate of inflation was 13.98% for the same period.
Source: National Funeral Directors Association
Having life insurance could help you handle these costs without worrying about where you’ll find additional funds during a stressful time of grief.

Joint vs. separate life insurance for couples

Married couples can purchase either separate life insurance policies or a joint life policy. The former only covers one individual, while the latter covers both spouses. Here’s a more in-depth look at these two policy types to help you make a decision.

Joint life insurance policies

Joint life insurance is a single policy held by two people, which means it only pays out once — either after one partner dies or after both spouses pass away.
  • First-to-die policy. In a first-to-die life insurance policy, the surviving spouse receives the death benefit payout after the first spouse dies.
  • Second-to-die policy. In a second-to-die life insurance policy — also known as a survivorship life insurance policy — the beneficiaries will receive the death benefit after both spouses have passed away.

Separate life insurance policies

A separate (single) life insurance only covers one individual and will pay out death benefits only if that individual passes away. There are a few main types of individual life insurance policies: term life, permanent life, whole life, universal life, and final expense.
  • Term life insurance policy. Term life insurance lasts for a set timeframe (usually 10 to 30 years), making it a more affordable option than other permanent options below. When term life insurance policies expire, you won’t receive any more coverage. In other words, you’ll have to either go without a policy or qualify for a new one.
  • Whole life insurance policy. Unlike term life insurance, coverage for whole life insurance is permanent and lasts your entire life. Plus, whole life insurance includes a cash value component. You can designate a portion of your premium dollars into this cash value account, and it’ll grow over time on a tax-deferred basis.
  • Universal life insurance policy. Universal life insurance policies are similar to whole life insurance policies — they both offer lifetime coverage and cash value. However, one key difference between the two is that universal life policies have flexible premiums. You can raise or lower the premium amount as you see fit — within the policy’s limits.
  • Final expense life insurance policy. Final expense insurance only covers end-of-life expenses such as funeral and burial costs. The coverage for final expense life insurance policies is typically permanent, which means as long as you keep paying premiums, the policy will remain in effect.
If you prefer to compare the details of what policies you qualify for, take a look at the life insurance policies below.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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What to be aware of before buying life insurance as a couple

Here are a few things you should be aware of before committing to an insurance policy as a couple.

Joint life insurance only has one payout

Joint life insurance policies typically have lower premiums than the cost of two separate life insurance policies combined. However, the payout for joint life insurance is only made once.
If you purchased first-to-die life insurance, your policy would pay out after the first partner passes away. So, if the surviving spouse still requires life insurance coverage, they’ll need to purchase a new policy — potentially resulting in higher premiums due to age or health factors.

Implications of divorce or separation

Joseph Carpenito, a financial advisor at Materetsky Financial Group, says, “If you buy a joint life insurance policy and then get divorced or separated, you may need to update your policy or take out a new one. Failure to do so could result in unintended consequences, such as an ex-spouse receiving the payout. So, it’s smart to review your joint life insurance policy regularly and make any necessary updates or changes to ensure that it still meets your needs and aligns with your current circumstances.”

Update your policy regularly

Remember that your needs for life insurance may change over time as a married couple. For example, if you have a kid down the line or buy additional assets, you might need to renew your policy so that you have adequate coverage for everything that needs to be protected.
With this in mind, be sure to review your joint life insurance policy on a regular basis to ensure you have adequate coverage to meet your ever-evolving needs.

Pro Tip

Most life insurance companies will require you to get a medical exam to qualify for a policy. But if you don’t have time for an appointment or hate needles, consider qualifying for a “no exam” life insurance policy. However, these types of policies may come with higher premiums and less coverage.


Should married couples have separate life insurance?

Whether to get joint or separate life insurance policies depends on your needs as a couple. If you want to lower your life insurance costs or don’t have a specific preference for coverage, a joint life insurance policy may be suitable for you and your spouse.
However, if you both prefer more customization in your individual policies and don’t want to tie your life insurance together, having separate policies might be a better decision. Talk to a licensed insurance agent if you’re unsure about which route to take.

Is there life insurance for married couples?

Yes, married couples have the option to get separate life insurance policies or joint life insurance policies. A single life insurance policy will only cover one individual, while a joint life insurance policy covers both spouses.
Explore your options by comparing coverage and rates across multiple life insurance providers to find the best policy for you and your significant other.

Is it cheaper to get life insurance as a couple?

Getting life insurance as a couple is not always cheaper — though it could be. While joint life insurance tends to be more affordable, if you or your spouse has high-risk medical issues, a joint policy might cost around the same as two separate policies.
Ultimately, rates will depend on your age, health condition, and the coverage amount you need. Shop around and compare policies and quotes from different providers to get a better idea of how much you’d pay.

Does my spouse automatically get my life insurance?

No, if you bought an individual life insurance policy, the death benefit doesn’t automatically go to your spouse. You’ll need to designate your spouse as the beneficiary of your policy for them to receive the death benefit. If you don’t name a beneficiary, the insurer typically issues the death benefit to your estate.
This may change if you live in a community property state, which includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In that case, your spouse might automatically be entitled to a portion of the death benefit when you pass away.

What is the best life insurance for married couples?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best life insurance option will depend on you and your significant other’s life insurance needs. For example, can you afford separate policies? Do you have shared debts like mortgages or car payments? Do you have a child that’ll need financial support when you and your spouse pass away?
Choosing the best life insurance as a couple may be overwhelming. Consider consulting a licensed agent or financial planner to help you figure out the best option for your unique circumstances.

Key Takeaways

  • Married couples may want to buy life insurance to help pay off mortgages, settle debt, manage living expenses, and handle end-of-life expenses like funeral costs.
  • Joint life insurance is a single policy held by two people, while separate life insurance covers one individual.
  • Before buying a policy as a couple, be aware of joint life insurance’s one-time payout and the implications of divorce or separation.
  • Consider consulting a licensed agent or financial planner to find the best life insurance option for you and your significant other.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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