Who is the insured in life insurance?

When a person is insured under a life insurance policy, their death prompts the life insurance payout.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir


Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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.

Updated|3 min read

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In order for your life insurance to work the way it's supposed to, the correct people need to be listed in your policy. Without having the right designation for the insured andbeneficiaries, your life insurance policy won’t serve its ultimate purpose — protecting your family’s financial future. 

Life insurance only pays out to a policy’s listed beneficiaries after the insured dies. The named insured should be someone family members depend on for living expenses, so that if they die, a life insurance policy replaces their financial support. If you provide for your loved ones, it’s important to be the insured on a life insurance policy in case you die prematurely.

Key takeaways

  • If you have financial obligations, you should be named the insured on a life insurance policy.

  • When the insured dies, the policy’s listed beneficiaries receive the death benefit.

  • To be the insured on a life insurance policy, you need to undergo the underwriting process.

Who is the insured?

The insured is the person listed on the life insurance policy whose death prompts the death benefit payout. This person also has financial obligations that necessitate getting life insurance coverage — if they die, their loved ones will financially suffer. 

Most of the time, the insured takes out the life insurance policy on themselves and pays the policy premiums. However, occasionally, someone else owns and pays for the policy. If the insured doesn’t pay for the policy themselves, the policyholder will need to demonstrate insurable interest — or that they have a valid financial reason to take out a life insurance policy on someone else. 

Who should be named the insured on a life insurance policy?

Anyone with financial obligations or outstanding debts should be named the insured on a life insurance policy. Having a mortgage, sharing living expenses, or having children are just a few reasons to add a life insurance policy to your financial toolkit. 

How to be named the insured on a life insurance policy

Because the life insurance company pays out the death benefit upon the insured’s death, they take on a certain element of risk by covering them. To account for this risk, the insured on the policy needs to go through the underwriting process before they get coverage. The underwriting process evaluates a life insurance applicant’s age, health, family history, and lifestyle choices to determine their risk of dying at a given age. 

The results of the underwriting process determine how much it costs to cover the insured — which is how much the policy premiums will be. Once approved for coverage, the insured will need to sign the policy documents to accept their policy offer.

Whereas the beneficiary on a life insurance policy can be adjusted, the named insured cannot be changed. For someone else to be insured on a life insurance policy, they will need to go through their own application process for a separate policy. 

Can there be more than one insured?

Most life insurance policies only have one insured. However, if you and your spouse decide to purchase joint life insurance, then there can be two insureds listed on the policy. 

The death benefit can be paid out in two different ways when there is more than one insured listed on the policy:

  1. A first-to-die policy pays out after the first insured dies. The remaining spouse will need to get a new policy if they still want life insurance coverage.

  2. A second-to-die policy pays out after both insureds die. The remaining spouse will need to continue to pay the policy premiums to keep the policy active. 

Joint life insurance isn’t suitable for most people, and policies with one insured provide better financial protection than joint policies do. However, if one spouse can’t get their own life insurance policy or if you’re getting life insurance to pay for estate taxes, a life insurance policy with two insureds may be a suitable option. 

Who else should be named in a life insurance policy?

Aside from the insured, it’s important to list the right people on your life insurance policy: 

  • Your beneficiaries should always be up to date so that the life insurance payout goes to who you intended. 

  • The policyholder pays for the policy to stay active. Designating the right person for this responsibility guarantees that premiums are paid on time and the policy isn’t canceled. 

→ Learn more about how to protect your beneficiaries

If loved ones rely on you financially, you should be the insured on a life insurance policy. Doing so protects their financial well-being if you die unexpectedly and guarantees that they can maintain their standard of living after you're gone.

Frequently asked questions

Who is the insured on an insurance policy?

The insured person on a life insurance policy is the individual whose death prompts the death benefit payout.

Who should be insured in life insurance?

Anyone with financial obligations or dependents should be insured on a life insurance policy.

Can there be more than one insured person in a life insurance policy?

Most life insurance policies only cover one person, but some couples get joint life insurance, which covers two people. A couple may opt for joint life insurance if one partner is unable to get their own individual policy or they are getting life insurance coverage to pay estate taxes.