Are these horror movie deaths covered by life insurance?

These horror movie characters famously met an untimely demise. But would a life insurer pay out a claim for their deaths? Here’s why (or why not).

Amanda Shih author photo


Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Jetty, and J.D. Power.

Published October 22, 2020|6 min read

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Horror film history is filled with a multitude of deaths, from the gruesome to the unusual. But have you ever wondered what happens after the big death scene? When it comes to buying life insurance, Policygenius insurance advisor Noah Burchard says, “We want the surviving family to be comfortable while taking the necessary time to cope with the tragedy without worrying about financial problems — especially if it is a horrible and shocking death like most horror movie deaths.”

So, would most horror movie characters leave financial support behind for their families? We broke down six famous character deaths to find out whether they would be covered by a life insurance policy.

Psycho (1960): Stabbed

Covered by life insurance?: YES

In Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous film, Marion Crane is stabbed to death by Norman Bates. This is a straightforward case of murder, which is covered by all life insurance policies. The only reason an insurer would not pay out a murdered policyholder’s death benefit is if a beneficiary murders the policyholder themselves.

Though thankfully rare in real life, in these circumstances the insurance company will either distribute the death benefit among the remaining beneficiaries or pay the funds to the policyholder’s estate.

Final Destination (2000): Accidental strangulation

Covered by life insurance?: YES

The first film in the now prolific “Final Destination” franchise includes accidental strangulation by clothesline for protagonist Tod Waggner. Though we know Death itself is responsible for Todd’s demise, this seemingly accidental death is covered by both traditional life insurance and a less comprehensive type of life insurance, called accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D).

AD&D only pays out if you die in an accident (instead of from health issues) or are seriously injured. The benefit is generally lower than that of a typical term or whole life policy. If you have a term or whole life policy and want coverage for injuries, you can add an AD&D or disability rider to your insurance or buy a standalone AD&D or disability policy.

The Ring (2002): Heart attack

Covered by life insurance?: YES

In this American version of a Japanese classic, you die seven days after watching an eerie VHS tape of a girl ambling toward you from a well. While the viewer knows that the characters in the film are being killed by Samara, a few characters, like Katie Embry, seem to die from a fear-induced heart attack.

Heart attack deaths will almost certainly be covered by life insurance, so Katie’s beneficiaries would have financial protection. But there is a possibility that her life insurer would investigate her death if she died within her policy’s contestability period, the first two years of a policy in which insurers may review your application to ensure you didn’t withhold or lie about any health conditions or risky behaviors.

If Katie had pre-existing heart conditions, she would be expected to disclose those when buying her insurance. Sharing the information would probably land her more expensive premiums, but would guarantee coverage should she die due to a heart-related issue. If the insurer finds out you withheld that information, they will reduce your death benefit or not pay it at all. In this case, if Katie could be proven healthy prior to her heart attack, the insurer would eventually pay out after a delay.

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Hereditary (2018): Natural causes

Covered by life insurance?: YES

“Hereditary” opens with the death of Ellen Leigh, the leader of the cult of Paimon. Since she dies of natural causes, any beneficiaries (like her daughter, Annie, if she hadn’t been removed from the policy by that point) would receive a payout. We can’t determine the likelihood that Ellen would have had a policy, but if she did, her premiums might have been on the higher side due to her mental and physical health.

Ellen had dissociative identity disorder (DID) and dementia, both of which can impact your life insurance. Since dementia generally occurs as you age, you’ll probably have a life insurance plan in place before any symptoms set in. But a long-term care rider or accelerated death benefit rider might be able to help pay for an assisted living or nursing home facility for an extra fee or using funds from your death benefit.

Based on the film, it’s doubtful that Ellen pursued regular treatment for her DID diagnosis. Her history of inconsistent or nonexistent treatment would cause an increase in her premiums or her policy application being declined. Insurers are more likely to offer you affordable premiums if you can maintain employment and show a steady, effective course of treatment for your mental health diagnoses, though some insurers are more flexible than others.

IT Chapter Two (2019): Suicide

Covered by life insurance?: MAYBE

In the sequel to 2017’s IT, the first film’s protagonists, now adults, prepare to face murderous clown Pennywise once again. When he receives the call to return to Maine, Stanley Uris, concerned that his fear of Pennywise will make him a detriment to the rest of the group’s fight, dies by suicide. If Stanley bought his policy more than two to three years before his passing, his policy would pay out and provide financial support for his beneficiaries.

Most life insurance policies include a suicide clause, which stipulates that the insurance company will not pay a policy’s death benefit if the policyholder dies by suicide within a limited period (usually the first two to three years of the policy). This is meant to discourage someone from buying a policy with the intention of harming themselves to generate a monetary benefit for their loved ones. If you die by suicide after the timeframe outlined in the clause ends, the insurance funds pay out just as they would with any other cause of death.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019): Attacked by a shark

Covered by life insurance?: MAYBE

This survival horror movie involves many shark-related deaths, and while a shark attack is a straightforward case of accidental death, the scuba diving aspect of the film complicates the character deaths from an insurance perspective. Life insurers consider hobbies like scuba diving risky, meaning they’ll ask when you’re applying for life insurance whether you dive and may increase your premiums as a result.

Regular divers, like the guides in the movie, need to disclose how often and how deep they dive if they expect their policy to pay out. If they were forthcoming about their hobby, the characters in the movie would be covered.

You probably won’t find yourself in a thriller-like scenario anytime soon, but there are everyday takeaways from even the most outlandish scary movie death scenes. To make sure you’re covered for almost any situation, it’s important to be forthcoming during the application process, understand the basics of your policy, and manage any health conditions as best as you can with the guidance of a medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, an independent broker like Policygenius can’t banish any evil clowns or cults from your life, but they can help you weigh your policy options.