Shopping for life insurance with your spouse

Setting up the right financial plan for your family involves life insurance coverage for not just you, but also your spouse.

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Tory CrowleyTory CrowleyAssociate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertTory Crowley is an associate editor and a licensed insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.&Nupur GambhirNupur GambhirSenior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertNupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

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Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.
Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®Kristi Sullivan, CFP®Certified Financial PlannerKristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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For most families, it makes financial sense to have life insurance coverage for two adults. Shopping for life insurance with your spouse or domestic partner can be usually optimized by purchasing two individual life insurance policies. There are also other options for joint life insurance policies, but they rarely make financial sense.

Key takeaways

  • Married couples have the option of buying separate life insurance policies or a joint policy.

  • Joint life insurance policies insure both partners, but are costlier and are rarely the best option for couples.

  • Domestic partners have the same life insurance coverage options as married couples, as long as they can prove insurable interest.

  • Its illegal to take out a life insurance policy on your spouse without their knowledge.

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Why should couples consider getting life insurance?

For most married couples, if one person were to die, the other would be left with a significant financial loss. Getting life insurance protects the surviving spouse from financial hardship if this scenario were to occur. 

Life insurance can help cover the cost of funeral expenses, lost income, and child care that would arise if one or both spouses passed away.

Why should newly married couples get life insurance?

Getting married often involves consolidating finances — both assets and liabilities. This could include dependent children, future financial obligations, and shared debt, including a mortgage. Newlyweds can work together to ensure their life insurance policies will cover any new, shared, or anticipated expenses. 

The best thing a new couple can do when considering their life insurance needs is to be honest with each other about their current debt, future needs, and desired budget to cover the monthly premiums. Life insurance rates are cheapest when you’re young and healthy, so a couple that can plan accurately for the long term will help themselves financially. 

Types of life insurance for couples

Term life insurance is the most common type of life insurance for couples. It’s also usually the most affordable, especially if you purchase it while still young and in good health. 

A term life policy can last up to 40 years, but it eventually expires. If an insured person dies while the policy is active, their beneficiary — which can be the surviving spouse or any family members — will receive a tax-free lump sum for the death benefit

The best life insurance coverage option for spouses will be buying one policy for each instead of a single policy that covers both. Buying two separate life insurance policies will offer most couples, regardless of their marital status, the most comprehensive coverage for a competitive price with an easy approval process.

Each spouse can purchase the policy that offers the best premiums and benefits based on their health, gender, age, and lifestyle, and then name their spouse as their primary beneficiary. 

Separate policies are also easiest to manage in the case of divorce. However, in some rare cases, two separate term policies may not be the best choice.

Joint life insurance 

For instance, joint life insurance — one policy that covers both spouses — in some particular cases can be the right option for some couples, like if a couple has significant assets that they share. 

A joint policy “is rarely a good idea,” says Policygenius senior sales associate Warren Robbins. By buying separate policies for you and your spouse, you ensure each of you is getting the best premium rates for your specific health profile, age, and gender.

With a joint policy, you could end up paying more to accommodate one person’s older age or health status. 

Survivorship life insurance 

A survivorship life insurance policy covers two people and only pays out the death benefit when both parties have died. It’s also known as second-to-die joint life insurance. 

Though typically more expensive than separate term policies, survivorship life insurance can be a useful estate planning tool, a coverage option for a spouse in poor health, or financial support for lifelong dependent children.

Supplemental spouse life insurance

If you work, you may be able to get some spousal coverage through your employer’s supplemental spouse life insurance. Also known as voluntary spouse life insurance, this is a useful option to increase existing coverage. It can also be helpful if your spouse doesn’t qualify for a traditional policy.

Supplemental coverage from group life insurance is an addition to the base coverage included in some employer benefits packages. The supplemental coverage can usually be bought for yourself, your spouse, or your dependents. 

A few caveats apply: 

  • Employers can limit the amount of additional coverage available.

  • You lose supplemental spouse coverage if you leave your employer.

  • Your spouse may be asked medical questions and can be denied coverage.

Because of the connection to your employment status and other potential restrictions, it’s best to treat supplemental and voluntary spouse life insurance as complements to your existing life insurance plan.

When you’re purchasing your life insurance policy, your agent or broker can help you determine if a policy other than two separate term policies is best for you and your spouse. 

What is the difference between life insurance and spouse life insurance?

Most life insurance policies cover individuals, whereas spouse life insurance offers additional coverage for a spouse or domestic partner. This additional coverage can be included in a separate policy, or added as a rider

A few riders couples may be interested in considering include:

  • Accelerated death benefit rider. With this rider, you can take money from the death benefit to pay your medical expenses in case of terminal illness. It can also cover end-of-life care such as hospice care or living in a nursing home

  • Critical illness insurance rider. This type of rider pays out accelerated benefits while you’re alive to cover treatment for certain illnesses specified in your policy that could limit your life expectancy and leave you with unaffordable medical bills.

  • Spousal insurance rider. This is a family insurance rider that ensures you’ll receive a death benefit if your spouse dies. It can help cover the costs of household labor, like childcare, even if your spouse isn’t the primary breadwinner.  

In order to offer the insurance protection needed for a family, most insurance agents will advise that each spouse should have their own individual insurance policy, whether or not they opt to include riders. The best way to determine which coverage options are best for your family is to speak with a licensed advisor. 

Best life insurance companies for married couples

Banner, Protective, and AIG are three of our top choices for life insurance for married couples. All of these insurers offer very competitive rates, long terms, and supplemental riders that can meet the coverage needs of most family situations.

Best life insurance companies for spouses of February 2023

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies for spouses of 2023

We don't get paid for our company reviews and use an extensive rubric of criteria covering policy details, price, financial confidence, third-party ratings, and customer experience to assign unbiased ratings out of five stars. Any recommendations we make are based on internal and external expert opinions and data from our Policygenius Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends.

Our ratings and reviews can help point you to an insurer you can rely on for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you is dependent on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can work with you through the application process so you’re getting coverage from the best insurer for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

→ Read more about our reviews methodology here

Best life insurance for young couples

Banner Life stands out for offering some of the longest terms and the most competitive rates in the market. Spouses and domestic partners can purchase 35- or 40-year term policies at an affordable cost, which can help them protect each other and their children, if they have them, until they’re all financially independent. 

Banner’s application is easy and usually doesn't require a medical exam. Many people who are young and in good health can apply and get an offer of coverage in minutes. 

Cheapest life insurance for spouses

Protective

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.8

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A+

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

30+ year terms

Why we chose it

Protective has some of the most affordable and comprehensive life insurance options available.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Competitive rates for all ages and health classifications

  • Good for people with mental health conditions, kidney conditions, and some cancers, including prostate cancer

  • Term lengths up to 40 years

Cons

  • Not available in New York

  • Not great for people who have had bankruptcy, marijuana users, or visa holders

  • No no-medical-exam policy options

Protective offers term lengths up to 40 years and coverage amounts up to $50 million. It’s consistently able to offer competitive rates, no matter what term length or face amount you need for your policy. Spouses and domestic partners can also add an accelerated death benefit rider for terminal illness to their life insurance policy.

Best life insurance for new families 

award icon

2023 Policygenius award winner

AIG

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.6

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

30+ year terms

All 50 states

Why we chose it

With competitive pricing and a range of flexible term periods for its Select-a-Term product, AIG is a solid option for many life insurance shoppers.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Competitive pricing for all ages

  • Favorable underwriting for people with heart conditions and diabetes

  • Good for current and recently pregnant people, including people with gestational diabetes

Cons

  • Not the best for people with mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression

  • No no-medical-exam term option

AIG is one of the best options for life insurance that a couple with children could select. You can add a child rider for anywhere between $500 and $25,000 of coverage in addition to your own policy. 

AIG is also a good option if you’re pregnant when you apply. They will consider your application at any stage of pregnancy as long as there are no complications. Other insurance companies might postpone applications after the first trimester until after delivery.

Summary of the best life insurance companies for spouses of 2023

Company

Policygenius rating

Best for

Banner Life

4.7/5

Young couples

Protective

4.9/5

Affordability

AIG

4.6/5

New families

→ Learn more about the best life insurance companies of 2023

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How spouses can shop for life insurance together

After you and your partner determine that you want life insurance coverage, the rest of the buying process for an insurance policy is the same as it is for single shoppers.

  1. Determine how much life insurance you need as a couple By figuring out the right amount of life insurance you need and a term policy’s length that makes sense for your family, you can avoid overpaying for coverage.

  2. Choose a beneficiary Most spouses shopping together choose their partner as the primary beneficiary, though you have the option of naming anyone who would be financially impacted by your passing. 

  3. Decide between term or whole life insurance A term life insurance policy offers coverage for a specific period of time, anywhere from five to 40 years, while a permanent life insurance policy lasts your entire life.

  4. Pick the right life insurance company The health status of both you and your spouse will likely determine what life insurance company you purchase your policy from. Some are better than others at accommodating health conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol and providing lower premiums for applicants with those conditions.

A licensed agent at Policygenius can help you with each of these steps to ensure that you and your partner are getting the best life insurance coverage to meet your financial needs. 

Can we get life insurance if we’re in a domestic partnership? 

Couples in domestic partnerships are eligible for the same consideration for insurance coverage that married couples are. If you’re in a domestic partnership or civil union, you probably share bills, a mortgage, and dependents, and require the same amount of coverage and benefits as married couples. 

As long as you can prove insurable interest, you’re eligible to get a policy and list your domestic partner as your beneficiary in the same way as a married person could.

If you’re not legally married, you’re still eligible for life insurance coverage but may be asked additional questions during the underwriting process to demonstrate financial interest. Life insurance companies look for financial justification for getting life insurance coverage to lessen the chance of fraud.

Is my spouse automatically my life insurance beneficiary?

You can designate your spouse as your life insurance beneficiary, and most people do — but you have to specifically name them as such in your policy. Marital status doesn’t entitle anyone to automatically become a beneficiary on their spouse’s life insurance policy.

You also have the freedom to change your beneficiary as needed, so even if you do name your spouse as your beneficiary, if they die or you get divorced, you can easily modify your beneficiary.

Can you take out a life insurance policy on your spouse?

You can’t legally buy a life insurance policy on another individual — even your spouse — without their consent. 

To get a life insurance policy, the insured person often must physically take a life insurance medical exam. Even with a no-medical-exam life insurance policy, the insured person  must sign for the policy and give consent. 

Signing for the policy on your partner’s behalf — or anyone for that matter — is considered life insurance fraud and has serious consequences.

However, if your partner is willing to participate in the underwriting process and sign off on the policy, you can take out a life insurance policy on them and pay the premiums. To do so, you’ll still need to prove insurable interest (proof that you would be financially burdened if they die).

Married couples rely on one another in many ways, especially financially. Spouses looking for life insurance and financial protection have a few more considerations to make, such as how long each person wants their policy to last, who they need to provide for, and whether a joint policy is right for them.

→ Speak to an agent about what type of life insurance is right for you and your spouse

Life insurance for spouses FAQs

Should both spouses have life insurance?

If both spouses provide some level of support for the family, then both people should have life insurance coverage. The amount of life insurance needed varies based on each spouse’s income or contribution to the household (such as child care or housekeeping), and outstanding individual or joint debts.

Is life insurance cheaper if you’re married?

The cost of life insurance isn’t impacted by marital status. It depends on factors such as your health, age, lifestyle, and gender.

Should you get spouse life insurance?

If you or your spouse would be negatively impacted financially if the other dies, both of you should consider getting life insurance. Spouses and domestic partners usually share financial responsibilities, from everyday expenses to a mortgage to the cost of raising children if they have them. A life insurance policy would provide continuing financial stability and peace of mind to both spouses and their dependents.

Can you take out a life insurance policy on your spouse?

You can take out a life insurance policy on your spouse if they consent and participate in the process. As long as you can prove insurable interest — in other words, proof of the financial loss the dependent will face if the insured dies — you can take out a life insurance policy on anyone, including your spouse.

Can you buy life insurance on your spouse without them knowing?

No. Your spouse needs to be a willing participant in the application process and sign the policy. Trying to get life insurance on someone else without their consent is considered insurance fraud.

Buying life insurance for other family needs

Authors

Tory Crowley is an associate editor and a licensed insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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