Best life insurance for seniors

Seniors shopping for life insurance have special considerations to make, like how to keep coverage affordable and which type of policy works for them.

Life insurance is a valuable tool for many people. It protects loved ones against debt and provides financial peace of mind. While most people will outgrow the obligations that make life insurance a necessity, some seniors may still need it. But what options are there that fit your unique needs and budget, and which insurance companies are best for older applicants?

Seniors can find affordable life insurance by making sure they’re getting the right amount of coverage and making the right choice between term, simplified issue, final expense and guaranteed issue life insurance.

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Why seniors may need life insurance

Life insurance is an important part of financial planning, but it might not be necessary for seniors. Life insurance is most often used to replace lost income if the breadwinner of a family dies and to make sure mortgages, retirement and college savings are protected. Once you outgrow these financial obligations and your kids are out of school and your mortgage is paid off, life insurance generally becomes an unnecessary expense.

However, some seniors might have outstanding financial obligations that they want to protect. Maybe you cosigned loans, for example, or want to ensure that your funeral expenses are paid for. Seniors don’t need a large death benefit, and won’t need coverage for the 30 years that’s common with younger term life insurance applicants. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need insurance at all.

Our agents can work with you to determine how much coverage you need, and you can get started right now by comparing life insurance quotes.

There are several reasons why seniors might still need life insurance:

You still have unpaid debt.

Maybe your mortgage isn’t quite paid off, you still have a few more working years to before your retirement plan is complete, or you have co-signed credit card debt. Your loved ones will be responsible for any debt you share, and life insurance can help ease that burden.

You want to cover end-of-life arrangements.

Even if you have all of your debt covered, you might not have considered your final debts: end-of-life expenses. Costly medical bills can be passed to family members, and funeral expenses can be upwards of $10,000. Covering this with life insurance means it won’t be left for a family to deal with in a time of grief.

You want to leave an inheritance.

Retirement can be expensive. The death benefit from life insurance can be a way to leave a little something extra behind for kids or grandkids — or, in some cases, cover the estate tax so a family gets your full inheritance.

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Best types of life insurance for seniors

If you’re a senior who has determined that you do need life insurance, the next step is to decide which kind of life insurance you need.

Life insurance gets more expensive the older you get. You should set your expectations accordingly and be aware that if you’re buying insurance in your 60s, 70s, or 80s, you won’t find the same competitive premiums you would have when you were younger.

Not everyone will qualify for every type of life insurance, as you’ll read about below. A life insurance company can reject an applicant for being too unhealthy, or for requesting a large death benefit from a policy type that avoids the medical exam. However, you should never assume you’ll be rejected. Always try for the most affordable option and move to the next best option if you are rejected.

Don’t be afraid to talk to a licensed insurance expert. You can shop on your own, but an agent can help you choose the right death benefit and number of years you want the policy to last, making sure you know what’s available and what makes the most sense for your health and financial situation.

Term insurance for seniors

A standard term life insurance policy should be the first option for anyone looking for coverage, whether they’re in their 30s or 70s.

Term life will almost always be the most affordable option. It also provides high coverage options; policies can go all the way up to $10 million, even though most people won’t need nearly that high of a death benefit.

Once you buy term insurance, your rates are set for the life of the policy. But the older you are when you apply, the higher your premiums are likely to be. However, for comparable coverage amounts, term will almost always be cheaper than other types of policies. Unfortunately, because it relies on a medical exam to set premiums, term insurance can be difficult for older applicants to qualify for. Since senior citizens are at higher risk for health conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, they may get rejected (or might have to be more careful about finding the best life insurance company to accommodate their health status).

Getting life insurance quotes is free, so it doesn’t hurt to see what a term policy might cost you. It’s a good starting point, and if you don’t qualify or if the rates you get are prohibitively expensive, you can always look at other options.

Note: For young people who want to avoid shopping for life insurance when they’re older, standard whole life insurance is also an option. It’s around six to 10 times as expensive as a comparable term policy, but has a cash value component and doesn’t expire. If you’re someone who thinks you might need life insurance coverage past retirement, talk to an agent to see if whole life is a viable choice.

Best life insurance for seniors over 60

Simplified issue life insurance allows applicants to skip the medical exam in exchange for a health history check and answering some health questions.

This can be good for people in moderately good health who want to avoid the medical exam and only need a small amount of coverage to see them to retirement.

However, coverage amounts are limited; many life insurance companies may not offer simplified issue term policies for death benefits over $300,000. There can also be age limits; some simplified term policies don’t accept applicants over age 65. Applicants have to be low-risk enough to qualify and coverage isn’t guaranteed.

Learn more about simplified issue life insurance.

Best life insurance for seniors over 70

Applicants who are no longer in their 60s and who don’t qualify for term or simplified issue insurance might find luck with the slightly more expensive final expense insurance, which provides low coverage amounts for end-of-life expenses.

Final expense life insurance plans have a benefit limit of $50,000 but don’t expire like a term policy does; that means that it offers enough coverage to cover medical and funeral costs and not much else. Applicants can skip the medical exam for a health questionnaire, but while the process is a little more lenient than a simplified issue policy, seniors who are in poor health may still get rejected.

Learn more about final expense insurance.

Best life insurance for seniors over 80

Finally, there’s guaranteed issue life insurance. For applicants over 80, it may be the only option available since, as the name implies, it has essentially guaranteed acceptance and doesn’t look at pre-existing conditions. It should also be viewed as a last resort for most people.

Why? Guaranteed insurance provides very low coverage amounts — usually under $25,000. Again, that’s fine for anyone looking to cover last-minute debts or leave a small nest egg behind. But guaranteed issue insurance also has some of the most expensive rates of the options discussed here.

If a senior needs life insurance, some coverage is better than none. Even the relatively high cost of guaranteed issue insurance may be worth it compared to the debt they’d risk leaving to their loved ones. However, everyone should research their options to find the policy that meets their needs at the lowest cost possible.

Learn more about guaranteed issue life insurance.

Long-term care insurance

While it’s a different product, long-term care insurance is related to life insurance.

Older adults might not have their needs fully covered with health insurance, and while some life insurance policies come with riders that let policyholders access the death benefit early in cases of terminal illness, it won’t be available to them to cover long-term care services like nursing homes or at-home care.

Long-term care insurance can cover these services. It can be purchased as a standalone product, or as a rider on a life insurance policy that triggers when a chronic illness leaves someone unable to care for themselves.

If you’re an older applicant, consider adding a long-term care rider to your life policy if you anticipate needing that extra protection.

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How much life insurance do you need?

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Term life vs whole life insurance

Most shoppers will need to decide between term and whole life insurance. Which one is right for you? Find out.

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Life insurance calculator

This easy-to-use calculator lets you crunch the numbers quickly to find the perfect life insurance policy.

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Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.