A survivorship life insurance policy is a type of joint insurance policy (a policy built for two).
You may not have thought much about that type of insurance before, or even knew it existed. But joint policies, especially survivorship policies, are important to consider because they can provide for heirs, settle estates, and pay for final expenses after both spouses have passed.
Most joint life insurance policies are what’s known as “first to die” policies. As the unambiguous nickname suggests, a first to die policy is designed to provide for the remaining spouse after the first passes.
A joint life insurance policy is a time-tested way of providing for a remaining spouse. But without careful planning, a typical joint life policy might leave a burden for surviving children or other family members.
A survivorship life insurance policy works differently than a first to die policy. Also called a “last to die” policy, a survivorship policy provides a death benefit only when both insured spouses have passed. A survivorship policy doesn’t pay a death benefit to either spouse but rather to a separate named beneficiary.
You’ll find survivorship life insurance referred to as:
- Joint Survivor Life Insurance
- Second-to-Die Life Insurance
- Variable Survivorship Insurance
Survivorship life insurance policies are sometimes referred to by different names, but the structure is the same in that the policy only pays a benefit after both people insured by the policy have died.
Reasons to Buy Survivorship Life Insurance
We all have our reasons for buying a life insurance policy, and often have someone in mind who we want to protect and provide for. Those reasons often dictate the best type of policy – or the best combination of policies – that can meet our goals.
A survivorship policy is well-suited to any of the following considerations, perhaps in combination with other policies:
- Final expenses
- Estate taxes
- Lingering medical expenses
- Payment of debt
- Transfer of wealth
It’s also most common for a survivorship life insurance policy to be a permanent life insurance policy. This is because the reasons for using a survivorship policy, including transfer of wealth, are usually better served by a permanent life policy than by a term insurance policy. (A term life insurance policy is only in force for a limited time and doesn’t build any cash value.)
Benefits of Survivorship Life Insurance
- A survivorship life policy can be an effective way to transfer wealth as part of a financial strategy.
- Life insurance can be difficult to purchase for individuals with certain health conditions. Because a survivorship life insurance policy is underwriting coverage based on two individuals, it may be possible to purchase coverage for someone who couldn’t easily be insured otherwise.
- As a permanent life insurance policy, a survivorship life policy builds cash value that can be accessed if needed in certain situations.
- Costs can be lower for a survivorship life policy than insuring two spouses individually.
The good news is that life insurance rates are more affordable now than in the past. That’s great! But keep in mind, your life insurance policy – of any type – will probably cost less now than if you wait for another birthday to pass for either spouse insured by the policy.