If you go through the process of applying for a mortgage, you may be offered mortgage life insurance by your lender or one of their partner companies. While it isn't required when buying a home, mortgage life insurance helps ensure there will be enough coverage to pay off your mortgage, so your family will not have to move if you pass away. Unlike other life insurance, the lender is the beneficiary, not your spouse or another person you might choose.
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Whether mortgage life insurance is the right policy for you depends primarily on your age and health.
Young homeowners with limited medical issues will get better quotes and greater coverage options with term life insurance. On the other hand, if you have severe health problems and won't qualify for term life insurance, then mortgage life insurance can be a good option, because it doesn't take your health into account when setting rates and will offer larger death benefits than many alternatives.
What mortgage life insurance covers
Mortgage life insurance, or mortgage protection insurance, refers to a set of life insurance products that are designed to pay your outstanding mortgage balance if you die. This coverage is often offered by your bank or mortgage lender, but you can also buy it through unaffiliated insurers. Since so many parties offer mortgage life insurance, the structure and benefits can vary a lot.
Mortgage life insurance policies have a specified period of coverage — generally 15 or 30 years — and the death benefit can be structured in one of three ways:
- Decreasing: The death benefit may be fixed for the first few years of coverage, but then decrease at a specified rate over the life of the policy. This is meant to mimic the rate at which the mortgage is paid off.
- Mortgage principal: Some policies tie the death benefit to the outstanding mortgage principal. This will behave similarly to a decreasing death benefit, but if you pay off your mortgage faster or slower than expected, the policy will reflect that.
- Level: The death benefit will remain the same over the life of the policy. This may be ideal if you have an interest-only mortgage, because the principal remains the same.
Restrictions of mortgage life insurance
Unlike term life insurance, mortgage life insurance typically pays the death benefit directly to your mortgage lender. If your coverage amount is higher than your outstanding mortgage balance at the time of your death, your family will not get any extra money.
In addition, some mortgage protection policies will only pay a death benefit if you die from an accident, similar to accidental death insurance. If this is the case, your policy would not pay out if you die from natural causes, such as cancer or a heart attack. We don't recommend this type of coverage unless your family will be able to handle the mortgage payments without you, given two to three months' preparation.
Depending on the provider, mortgage life insurance may be tied to your home or bundled as part of the mortgage. If the policy is tied to your home, you would need to get a new policy if you move. And because life insurance quotes are tied to your age, this means the premium will be higher.
Term life insurance vs. mortgage life insurance: Which is best for you?
Term and mortgage life insurance policies have several similarities, but term policies offer much greater flexibility and are much cheaper — especially if you're healthy and a nonsmoker.
Here are some of the key differences between term life insurance and mortgage life insurance:
|Death benefit paid
|Upon your death
|Possibly only upon your accidental death
|Health questions and medical exam
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We recommend term life insurance over mortgage life insurance if you're in good health, because you'll get cheaper quotes, and the death benefit goes to the beneficiary you choose.
If there are more pressing expenses at the time of your death or your family decides not to keep the house, they can use the full term-life insurance payout however they choose.
Mortgage life insurance quotes are more expensive for healthy homeowners, because most policies don't require you to get a medical exam. Mortgage life insurance companies err on the side of caution by assuming you're higher risk and raise their rates accordingly.
However, mortgage life insurance is a great alternative if you have preexisting medical conditions that prevent you from getting traditional term insurance.
Life insurance policies with limited underwriting, such as simplified issue or guaranteed acceptance policies, regularly restrict death benefits to $100,000–250,000. While this payout could replace your income or pay for college tuition, it's probably not enough to cover your mortgage also.
Other mortgage-related insurance policies
Aside from mortgage life insurance, there are a few other policies you may hear about when getting a mortgage. These may be offered separately or bundled, but the terms of each are quite distinct:
- Mortgage disability insurance: If you become disabled and can no longer work to pay off your mortgage, this policy covers either your entire mortgage balance or just a percentage of it.
- Mortgage unemployment insurance: If you are laid off or fired without cause and unemployed for a period of time, this policy helps cover your payments.
- Private mortgage insurance (PMI): If you get a mortgage and put down less than 20%, your mortgage lender may require you to buy private mortgage insurance. PMI protects the lender in case you default on the loan, but you can cancel coverage once your loan-to-value ratio reaches 80%.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is mortgage life insurance a good idea?
Mortgage life insurance makes sense if you have a health condition that makes term life insurance too expensive or prevent you from getting coverage altogether. While the benefits will go entirely to your mortgage lender, rather than your surviving family, mortgage life insurance is ideal if your main goal is to make sure your home loan is paid off, no matter what happens to you.Is mortgage protection the same thing as life insurance?