Life insurance is important for seniors who want to cover their funeral costs or make sure their spouse has financial support in retirement. Seniors under age 70 can get term life policies at affordable rates, especially if you're healthy. But even seniors over age 80 can get affordable guaranteed or universal life insurance.
Best life insurance policies for senior citizens
Depending on your age and health, you may have fewer options for life insurance as a senior. If you’re below 70 and in good health, there aren’t any major restrictions. You may just have to broaden your search to a wider set of companies, as some insurers will restrict the age group that can buy a particular product.
If you’re below 80 or fairly healthy, you should be able to qualify for term or guaranteed universal life insurance policies that offer low rates for the elderly. However, if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions, guaranteed whole life insurance may be your best option for coverage.
No matter your age, you should still evaluate life insurance policies according to your goals and your family’s financial needs, as these are critical to determining your best coverage.
Life insurance for seniors over 70
As a senior over 70, there are very few limitations on the types of life insurance policies available to you. The only restriction is that you typically won’t be able to find a term life insurance policy that lasts more than 20 years. Your decision about which policy to buy should be primarily dependent on your financial objectives and the cost of coverage.
If you want coverage for a fixed period of time, such as 10 or 15 years, term life insurance will be your least expensive option, and you can get hundreds of thousands of dollars in coverage. Term life insurance is typically the best choice if you want coverage for a mortgage or to replace your income until retirement, as these financial obligations will be reduced or eliminated with time. Just make sure that the term policy will definitely cover the entire length of a financial obligation, as you’ll have a harder time finding coverage and have to pay higher rates if you still need life insurance at age 80 or 90.
If you’re looking for coverage that lasts your lifetime, you’ll want to consider a form of permanent life insurance. Some reasons you may want permanent life insurance coverage would be:
- Funeral and end-of-life expenses. The average cost of a funeral and burial is around $10,000, and costs will still typically exceed $2,000 for cremation. If you haven’t saved enough money to cover these costs, they will fall upon your family no matter when you pass away.
- Medical expenses.Unless you die suddenly, you’re likely to accumulate medical expenses that can impact your family. This can be particularly difficult if you need full-time care or assistance in a nursing home.
- Pension replacement. If your spouse relies on the income from your pension to handle expenses, you may need enough coverage to ensure they can keep their standard of living when you pass away.
- Estate taxes. Whether your family would need assistance to cover estate or inheritance taxes is dependent on the value and types of assets being passed on. If you have an illiquid asset of value, such as a piece of property, that you want your family to keep, life insurance can cover the estate taxes without your family having to sell.
While whole life insurance is the most popular type of permanent coverage, guaranteed universal life insurance is typically the better option for seniors.
The benefit of whole life insurance policies is that they build cash value over time, which is a fund that can be borrowed against or withdrawn. However, a portion of premiums goes toward the cash value, making whole life insurance much more expensive. For seniors, the cash value of whole life insurance is less valuable because you have fewer years during which it will grow with interest.
Guaranteed universal life insurance, on the other hand, is essentially a term life insurance policy that lasts until you reach a certain age (such as 90, 100 or 121). Guaranteed universal policies offer lifelong coverage at cheaper rates.
Life insurance for seniors over 80
Elderly seniors over 80 typically won’t qualify for term life insurance policies over 10 years in length, however, you can still qualify for permanent coverage. A permanent policy is also likely a better choice, as it can be incredibly difficult to get coverage after age 90 if you still have financial obligations. Depending on your health, the most affordable option for permanent life insurance would be:
Best life insurance for seniors
Best life insurance
|Fairly healthy, no real medical issues||Guaranteed universal life insurance|
|Some health trouble, wouldn’t pass a medical exam||Simplified issue guaranteed universal or whole life insurance.|
|Not healthy, need assistance getting around or have a higher-risk illness||Guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance.|
Life insurance living benefits for seniors
Depending on the insurer, some life insurance policies either include "living benefits" or give you the option to add these through riders. Living benefits is how policy features are described that can offer financial assistance while you’re still alive. Some of the most commonly offered living benefits are:
- Accelerated death benefit
- Accidental death and dismemberment
- Waiver of premium
An accelerated death benefit rider simply gives you the option to get a portion of the death benefit early if you’re diagnosed with a qualifying illness. This option can be incredibly valuable as a senior if you’re concerned about your ability to cover medical expenses that are common later in life. Just make sure the insurer will accelerate the death benefit for a variety of illnesses, and not just those that are terminal.
The amount of money you’re able to get as an accelerated death benefit will be capped as a percentage of the death benefit or dollar amount. This figure will be deducted from the death benefit your family gets when you pass away. So, if you had a $500,000 death benefit and your insurer capped the amount you could accelerate at "the lesser of $250,000 or 75% of the policy’s face value", you could request up to $250,000 while still living.
Accidental death and dismemberment coverage can also act as a living benefit, as the dismemberment coverage provides a payout if you have certain injuries in an accident. Each insurer has a different set of injuries they’ll cover, such as blindness, loss of a limb, loss of a hand or paralysis. Depending on the injury, you will be able to get a percentage of the death benefit as recompense.
A waiver of a premium rider gives you the option to stop paying premiums while keeping coverage. However, this option is typically only available if you become totally disabled and usually expires when you turn a certain age (such as 80).
Best term life insurance companies for seniors
Each insurer has its own age cutoffs for term life insurance, meaning you may have to evaluate multiple companies to determine if you qualify. In addition, you may have trouble getting approved depending on the amount of coverage you want and your health.
Foresters offers some of the best term life insurance rates in the market for seniors, and even offers coverage if you’re over 70. In addition, they offer the ability to accelerate your death benefit if you contract a chronic, critical or terminal illness. This can help cover the costs of medical care if you have a heart attack or stroke. Any term life insurance policy from Foresters can also be converted to a permanent life insurance policy if you still need coverage later.
You can only buy a Banner term life insurance policy through age 75, but the insurer has some of the best rates available, even if you have some medical conditions. For example, Banner Life will accept common issues like mild asthma or sleep apnea. They will also give a discount if you regularly perform health-maintenance activities (such as getting an annual physical). Banner’s only restriction is that they don’t offer medical exam life insurance for seniors.
Best guaranteed universal life insurance for seniors
Guaranteed universal life insurance is the cheapest way for seniors to get permanent life insurance coverage, as policies typically have little to no cash value component. When you buy a guaranteed universal life insurance policy, you choose how long you want coverage to last, with typical options ranging to age 100, 110 or 121.
The North American Company for Life and Health Insurance offers guaranteed universal life insurance coverage that you can buy up to age 85, and consistently has some of the lowest rates. While coverage can extend up to age 120, you only pay premiums until age 100. So, if you live longer than expected, you won’t have to continue payments to keep coverage in place. Their policies also allow you to accelerate the death benefit if you become particularly ill and need assistance with medical costs or other expense.
Symetra also has consistently low rates for guaranteed universal life insurance, with the option of accelerating the death benefit if you are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. While it’s not the core benefit of the policy, Symetra’s guaranteed universal life insurance also builds a cash value with a guaranteed 2% annual interest rate. You can buy coverage until age 85 and you can get discounted premiums if you show evidence of a healthy lifestyle.
Best guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance for seniors
If you’re unable to qualify for a fully underwritten or simplified issue life insurance policy but still need coverage, guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance is always an option. Just keep in mind that these policies come with a waiting period, or graded benefit, meaning your beneficiaries won’t get the full death benefit if you die soon after you buy a policy. Typically, your beneficiaries will just get the sum of premiums paid plus interest.
While all guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance policies are expensive and limited in terms of coverage options, some have particularly restrictive terms and high quotes. We’ve researched insurers to find the best guaranteed issue life insurance options for seniors.
AIG’s guaranteed acceptance life insurance offers coverage for seniors between the ages of 50 and 85, with death benefits ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Their waiting period is only two years, during which you beneficiaries would get the amount paid in premiums plus 10% interest. AIG is our favorite company for guaranteed issue whole life insurance because they also offer the option of accelerating the death benefit if you become ill. This option is not as commonly available for guaranteed acceptance policies.
Mutual of Omaha also offers competitive rates for guaranteed issue whole life insurance, as well as a wider range of death benefits. You can get as little as $2,000 in coverage, with a maximum of $25,000. Mutual of Omaha’s waiting period is also two years, but beneficiaries would get 20% interest on top of premiums paid during that time.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best life insurance for seniors?
Foresters Financial is our top recommendation for life insurance for seniors. Its term life policies are affordable and include several useful coverage options, such as converting the policy to a permanent life policy later.
Can seniors over 75 get life insurance with no medical exam?
You can buy some types of life insurance without a medical exam, no matter how old you are: These include simplified issue guaranteed universal and whole life insurance policies. However, these policies tend to be much more expensive than other types of life insurance.
To find the best life insurance options available for seniors, ValuePenguin evaluated top companies for three types of plans: term life, universal life and guaranteed acceptance life insurance.
We evaluated the overall costs of the plans offered, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each provider. Finally, our team considered how each of the plans would benefit seniors of different ages.
Our editors collected rates for term and guaranteed life insurance plans through Compulife, while guaranteed whole life rates were retrieved directly from the insurers.