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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.

Rebecca Shoenthal author photo

Rebecca Shoenthal

Published November 24, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Most seniors don't need life insurance unless they have outstanding debts or beneficiaries

  • It can be hard for seniors to qualify for term life insurance, especially if they have underlying medical conditions

  • Other senior life insurance options include guaranteed issue, simplified issue, and final expense

When planning for the future, many people purchase term life insurance coverage that expires by the time they retire. At that point, their kids will be grown, their mortgage will be paid off, and they'll have accumulated enough assets to ensure that their obligations will be taken care of when they die.

But some people may find that they still need life insurance coverage as a senior. Rates can be considerably higher when you're buying life insurance later in life, but there are still policies available to you if you’re in your 60s, generally up to age 85.

Seniors can find affordable life insurance by working with an insurance agent to help them decide on the right amount of coverage. The agent can recommend an insurance company that will offer the best rates for their age and health profile.

The best life insurance companies for seniors

Not every life insurance company handles applicants over 60 the same way. Depending on your age and medical profile, some companies may be cheaper and have more options than others. If you have serious underlying medical conditions, these rankings may not apply to you.

LIFE INSURANCE COMPANYRANKING
AIGExcellent
LincolnExcellent
TransamericaGood
Pacific LifeGood
Banner LifeGood
SBLIFair
ProtectiveFair
Mutual of OmahaFair
PrudentialFair

These rankings are based on the affordability of monthly premiums and availability of 10-year-term and 20-year-term policy offerings for non-smoking males and females in their 60s, 70s, and 80s in Columbus, Ohio, with Preferred health classification.

Why seniors need life insurance

Most seniors don’t need life insurance. Life insurance is meant as income replacement in case a breadwinner dies. But many seniors either don’t have dependents or have savings and assets built up to take care of those dependents.

But there are some situations when senior citizens do need life insurance:

  • You have people dependent on your income. Many seniors have people who are still dependent on their income or who would be hurt financially if they died.

  • You have unpaid debt. There are many debts that your spouse is not responsible for, but if you and your spouse (or child, or business partner) have co-signed loans, for example, they’ll need to be able to keep up the payments on their own.

  • You want to cover funeral arrangements. Funeral expenses average around $8,000 - $10,000 in the U.S. and life insurance is one way to ensure that your family won’t have to find that money when you’re gone.

  • You want to cover end-of-life medical expenses. If you end up in the hospital needing end-of-life care, that can result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt that your loved ones might have to pay when you’re gone.

  • You want to leave an inheritance. Retirement can be expensive. The death benefit from life insurance can be a way to leave tax-free money behind for kids or grandkids.

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Term life insurance for seniors

Term life insurance is the most affordable option for seniors looking for coverage over $25,000. (Coverage options can go up as high as $10 million, depending on your income.)

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 will be. When you buy a term policy, you also must choose your term length. Applicants over 60 will usually have to choose between 10-year and 20-year terms, though some companies offer 25-year terms for applicants over 60. A longer term length will make your premiums more expensive, but you will be locked into the rate you receive when you sign up and will be covered as long as you pay your premiums.

The term life application requires that you answer medical questions and undergo a medical exam to set premiums. If you have a history of health complications, term insurance can be difficult to qualify for.

Life insurance companies use a health classification rating system to quote premiums. If you qualify for the Preferred category (second best), your rates might be similar to the ones below, but would increase or decrease depending on your health.

Sample 10-year term life insurance rates for seniors

AGESEX$250,000$500,000$750,000$1,000,000$2,000,000
60Male$79.43$139.11$205.38$258.59$511.78
Female$58.18$103.06$150.04$189.50$373.49
70Male$235.02$432.38$644.86$814.10$1,622.69
Female$166.11$279.65$416.61$520.78$1,036.15
80Male$898.90$1,715.69$2,583.90$3,296.23$6,586.98
Female$683.39$1,321.34$1,969.28$2,419.85$4,834.22

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/23/2020.

Sample 20-year term life insurance rates for seniors

AGESEX$250,000$500,000$750,000$1,000,000$2,000,000
60Male$154.75$270.80$379.85$491.44$975.89
Female$108.96$188.79$274.34$349.08$692.65
70Male$488.49$951.11$1,424.03$1,891.98$3,778.70
Female$404.14$759.94$1,137.28$1,417.99$2,830.72
80MaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/23/2020.

N/A = Policies not available

Whole life insurance for seniors

Some seniors have existing permanent life insurance policies, such as whole life insurance, universal life insurance, or indexed universal life insurance, that do not expire. But for some people, when planning for retirement, it might make sense to cancel a life insurance policy if it’s no longer needed and put the money used for premiums toward other expenses.

We only recommend canceling a permanent life insurance policy if you no longer have dependents or outstanding debts. But it’s important to think about the cost of your premiums compared to other costs you may have.

In most cases, if you have a permanent life insurance policy, you’ve had it for a while, it may have accumulated cash value, and you’ve invested many premiums in the policy. “Seniors with good permanent policies with affordable premiums should in many cases maintain them,” says James M. Wallace, a Certified Financial Planner® and senior partner at Millenium Planning Group.

Simplified-issue life insurance for seniors

Simplified-issue life insurance is a type of final expense insurance, which is how the insurance industry refers to policies with relatively low coverage amounts meant to provide beneficiaries with enough money to cover funerals, burials, etc.

“Final expense policies can benefit seniors with little assets and the need for cash for final expenses,” adds Wallace.

The application for simplified-issue insurance does not include a medical exam, but does include a health questionnaire. It can be easier to qualify for simplified-issue life insurance than term life, but coverage isn’t guaranteed. At Policygenius, our insurance partners offer simplified-issue permanent life insurance policies for coverage amounts ranging from $2,000 to $40,000, as of November 2020.

Rates are higher than term life insurance for comparable coverage amounts, but if you can't qualify for a term policy, don’t want to take a medical exam, or only need a small amount of coverage, simplified-issue insurance may be a good option.

Sample simplified-issue whole life insurance rates for seniors

AGESEX$10,000$15,000$20,000$25,000$30,000
60Male$39.52$59.33$79.10$98.88$118.65
Female$29.66$44.50$59.33$74.16$88.99
70Male$70.50$105.75$140.99$176.24$211.49
Female$50.04$75.05$100.07$125.09$150.12
80Male$129.45$194.18$258.90$323.63$388.35
Female$95.23$142.85$190.46$238.08$285.69

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 10/5/2020. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states. Rates may vary by policy amount, health class and state.

Guaranteed-issue life insurance for seniors

The other type of final expense insurance is guaranteed-issue life insurance.

Like simplified-issue life insurance, guaranteed-issue policies are permanent policies that don’t require a medical exam. But guaranteed-issue policies go a step further and don’t even include a medical questionnaire (though some policies might require applicants to answer “knockout” questions about terminal illnesses that could lead to automatic denial of coverage).

Again, the premiums will be higher than term life insurance premiums for relatively low coverage amounts, which top out at $25,000.

It’s important to note that guaranteed-issue policies usually have graded death benefits for the first two years after the policy is placed. That means that if you die within the first two years that your policy is in force, your beneficiaries won’t get the full death benefit. Instead, they’ll receive a refund of your premiums paid, usually plus 10%. After those two years, however — or within the two years if the death is an accidental death, such as a car crash or murder —they will receive the full death benefit.

Sample guaranteed issue whole life insurance rates for seniors

AGESEX$10,000$15,000$20,000$25,000
60Male$75.17$75.17$83.68$83.68
Female$59.02$59.02$66.46$66.46
70Male$118.20$118.20$131.04$131.04
Female$89.12$89.12$99.30$99.30
80Male$245.00$245.00$248.00$248.00
Female$213.14$213.14$234.60$234.60

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/24/2020. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states. Rates may vary by policy amount, health class and state.

Life insurance for elderly buyers by age

If you’re a senior who has determined that you do need life insurance, the next step is to talk to an independent broker or agent to ensure that you're getting the best rates. An advisor can help you choose the right death benefit and term length, and help you find a policy that makes the most sense for your health and financial situation.

Best term life insurance for seniors over 60

If you’re in your 60s, you may qualify for term life insurance; a broker can help you with quotes. If you don’t qualify for term life insurance or if you don’t want to get a medical exam, then final expense insurance (simplified-issue or guaranteed-issue) can be a good option for life insurance if you’re over 60.

Sample life insurance rates for 60-year-olds

PolicySex$10,000$15,000$20,000$25,000$30,000$35,000$40,000
10-year termMaleN/AN/AN/A$27.67$32.17$36.67$41.18
FemaleN/AN/AN/A$23.26$26.88$30.50$34.12
20-year termMaleN/AN/AN/A$36.27$42.49$48.71$54.94
FemaleN/AN/AN/A$30.68$35.78$40.89$45.99
30-year termMaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Simplified-issue whole lifeMale$39.52$59.33$79.10$98.88$118.65$138.43$158.20
Female$29.66$44.50$59.33$74.16$88.99$103.82$118.65
Guaranteed-issue whole lifeMale$75.17$75.17$83.68$83.68N/AN/AN/A
Female$59.02$59.02$66.46$66.46N/AN/AN/A

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/24/2020. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states. Rates may vary by term, policy amount, health class and state.

N/A = Policies not available

Best term life insurance for seniors over 70

Applicants in their 70s can still purchase term life insurance if they're in good health. Simplified-issue policies and guaranteed-issue policies are also an option.

Sample life insurance rates for 70-year-olds

PolicySex$10,000$15,000$20,000$25,000$30,000$35,000$40,000
10-year termMaleN/AN/AN/A$70.86$84.00$97.15$110.29
FemaleN/AN/AN/A$56.54$66.82$77.10$87.38
20-year termMaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
30-year termMaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Simplified-issue whole lifeMale$70.50$105.75$140.99$176.24$211.49$246.74$281.99
Female$50.04$75.05$100.07$125.09$150.12$175.14$200.16
Guaranteed-issue whole lifeMale$118.20$118.20$131.04$131.04N/AN/AN/A
Female$89.12$89.12$99.30$99.30N/AN/AN/A

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/24/2020. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states. Rates may vary by term, policy amount, health class and state.

N/A = Policies not available

Best term life insurance for seniors over 80

If you’re 80 years old, you may still be able to buy a term life insurance policy if you’re in good health. But the premiums over the life of the policy will be higher than the death benefit. But if you’re 81 or older, term life insurance is no longer an option because life insurance companies won't write policies for applicants over 80. Up until age 85, you can purchase simplified-issue or guaranteed whole life policies.

Sample life insurance rates for 80-year-olds

PolicySex$10,000$15,000$20,000$25,000$30,000$35,000$40,000
10-year termMaleN/AN/AN/A$210.87$252.01$293.16$334.30
FemaleN/AN/AN/A$179.07$213.86$248.64$283.42
20-year termMaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
30-year termMaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FemaleN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Simplified-issue whole lifeMale$129.45$194.18$258.90$323.63$388.35$453.07$517.80
Female$95.23$142.85$190.46$238.08$285.69$333.31$380.92
Guaranteed-issue whole lifeMale$246.44$368.66$538.70$672.87N/AN/AN/A
Female$175.42$262.13$383.77$479.22N/AN/AN/A

Rate illustration represents non-smoking individuals in the Preferred health class, as of 11/24/2020. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states. Rates may vary by term, policy amount, health class and state.

N/A = Policies not available

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Long-term care insurance for seniors

Long-term care insurance is a different product than life insurance. You do not have to die to use long-term care insurance and it pays for nursing homes and at-home care while you’re still alive.

“Even having a modest amount of insurance like long-term care insurance allows a family to take care of their loved one’s immediate need and buys them time to come up with long-term solutions,” says Melissa B. Brennan, a Certified Financial Planner® at ARS Private Wealth.

Some life insurance policies do include what are called living benefits or accelerated benefits riders. These riders are additions to your policy that stipulate that if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness while your policy is active, you can get part of your death benefit paid early, while you’re still alive.

Some life insurance policies also offer the option to add a long-term care rider, which will use your death benefit to pay for long-term care expenses if you have a qualifying illness or condition. Long-term care riders generally require additional underwriting and premiums.

If you’re a senior looking for life insurance, the first step is to talk to a licensed independent agent or broker who can explore options with you. Life insurance rates increase as you age, so someone in their 60s or above might have to pay more for life insurance.

Life insurance for seniors FAQs

How much does life insurance for seniors cost?

In general, life insurance prices go up as you age. People who are 60+ can expect to pay more in monthly premiums, but the specific amount will depend on your policy details, health background, hobbies, and other factors.

What is the best life insurance for seniors?

Term life insurance is the best and most affordable option for most people, including seniors. If you don’t qualify for term life insurance because of your age or health profile, a final expense life insurance policy might be a good choice if you’re only looking for a small death benefit to cover funeral or burial costs. Final expense insurance, which includes simplified-issue or guaranteed-issue insurance, offers low coverage amounts of up to $40,000.

Who needs life insurance coverage?

If you do not have dependents or outstanding debt, you probably don’t need life insurance. But if you’re looking for insurance to cover funeral or burial expenses, a final expense insurance policy might be right for you.

Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal

Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked as a nonfiction book editor. She has a B.A. in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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.

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