Best Life Insurance For Married Couples (In 2021)

By Jason Fisher Published: January 9, 2021

Marriage comes with a lot of financial moves, like buying a house, investing for retirement, and putting money into your kids’ college funds.

An important purchase most couples need to make as they plan for the future is life insurance.

Life insurance can protect the person you love most and give you security, whether you’ve just started building your lives together or you’re nearing retirement.

Use the guide below to see how you and your spouse could benefit from life insurance for married couples and decide what type and amount of coverage will work best for you.


Who Needs Life Insurance?

Are you and your spouse on the fence about whether or not you actually need life insurance?
If you check any of the boxes below, it could be an essential purchase.

  • Income replacement: Do you depend on your spouse’s income to survive, or vice versa? If your partner would struggle to foot the bill and maintain their lifestyle without you, life insurance is crucial.
  • Raising children: Bringing up kids is expensive, from providing for their basic needs to financing their education. Life insurance is even more critical if you have children to support.
  • Leaving a legacy: If you’d like to leave your spouse and children an inheritance or give to charity, life insurance can be the perfect way to fund the gift over time.
  • Shared debt: If you have any debts that could be transferred to your spouse when you die, like a cosigned auto loan or a shared credit card account, you could use life insurance to cover the balance.
  • Mortgage: Do you and your spouse own a home? Homeownership is one of the biggest reasons to buy life insurance, guaranteeing your loved ones can stay at home without being burdened by the mortgage.
  • Estate taxes: According to the IRS, if your assets are above $11.58 million, your spouse and kids may face up to 40% of estate taxes on their inheritance, which life insurance would cover.
  • Business protection: If you and your spouse own a business, you could purchase a policy to ensure the company and your partners are taken care of if one of you passes away.
  • Investing: Life insurance isn’t the most rewarding means of investing, but if you’ve maxed out your other retirement accounts and need coverage for any of the reasons above, a permanent policy could be useful.
  • Final expenses: Funerals are costly. Even if you’re near retirement and don’t have any other pressing financial responsibilities, you and your spouse need to have sufficient funds to cover end-of-life expenses.

THE SIMPLY INSURANCE WAY

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Agents not required.

Get quotes and sign up online without talking to an agent. But, we are here if you need us. 

Unbiased, expert advice.

Get unbiased insurance education from licensed experts and also avoid dodgy sales calls.

Coverage in minutes.

You can get no exam life insurance coverage within minutes of getting your quotes and applying.

Who Doesn’t Need Life Insurance?

Most married couples need the financial security offered by life insurance. 

It can give you peace of mind today knowing that your spouse and children will be cared for in the future, no matter what happens.

However, life insurance isn’t always a necessary purchase. You might not need to purchase a policy just yet if:

  • You have no debts which could be transferred to your spouse or anyone else if you pass away.
  • No one’s well-being is financially dependent on your income.
  • At the very least, you have enough money saved for final expenses.

If you meet all three of those criteria, you can forego buying a policy for now.

How Much Life Insurance Do Married Couples Need?

How much life insurance you and your spouse needs depends on a few factors. 

If you just walked down the aisle, signed a mortgage, and are planning for kids, you’ll need a larger policy than a couple on the edge of retirement.

To determine the right amount of coverage, you should start with your income.  According to Census Bureau data, the average household income in 2019 was $68,703. 

The majority of life insurance agents recommend you buy a policy that is 7 to 10x your annual income to provide your loved ones with a financial safety net.

After calculating your income, you should add in all the other expenses you need to cover, such as your:

  • Mortgage
  • College expenses
  • Transferrable debts
  • Funeral expenses

You can adjust the policy amount based on your assets and the stage of life you’re in.

When you start comparing life insurance quotes, you might be surprised at just how affordable term policies can be. 

While you might be inclined to take out a large policy solely based on how affordable it is, you should pump the brakes.

To get approved for a policy, you’ll need to show the life insurance company the policy amount actually matches your needs.

INSURANCE WHERE YOU LIVE

No Exam life insurance by state.

Types of Life Insurance for Married Couples

Here’s a quick overview of the different kinds of life insurance you and your spouse have access to.

Term

With term life insurance, you pay premiums in exchange for temporary coverage, choosing a term length like 10, 20, or 30 years. Your policy only pays out if you die during the term. Term policies are the most flexible and affordable.

Permanent

These policies last your whole life (as long as you pay your premiums) and come with a growing cash value account. There are several types of permanent policies, like whole, universal, variable universal, and indexed universal.

You can take out a policy for yourself or your spouse, but you must have their consent before insuring them.

You and your spouse can buy individual life insurance policies, but as a married couple, you could also choose to purchase a joint policy.

Joint policies are usually permanent and can be a cheaper alternative to buying two separate permanent policies. 

When it comes to joint coverage, you have two options:

First-To-Die

This policy pays out upon the death of the first insured spouse. Once the death benefit is paid, the coverage ends, and the surviving spouse will have to take out another policy if they want more coverage.

Survivorship

Survivorship, or second-to-die coverage, pays out when both spouses have died. Rather than leaving behind funds for your spouse, it’s often used to leave a legacy or help adult children with final expenses and estate taxes.

Is Workplace Life Insurance Enough?

You and your spouse may also have the option of purchasing life insurance through your workplace.

Many employers offer group life insurance at little or no cost to you.

This type of coverage usually maxes out at or around your salary, meaning it isn’t likely enough to satisfy your family’s needs.

It also may not be portable, meaning if you leave your job, you could lose your coverage.

Group life insurance can be advantageous as a supplement to a private life insurance policy; however, it shouldn’t be your only form of coverage.

What Type of Life Insurance Not to Buy

You have plenty of options when it comes to buying life insurance as a married couple, and there’s no one-size-fits-all policy.

However, term life insurance is the right fit for the majority of families. 

It is the most affordable type of coverage and can be tailored to life events like paying off your mortgage or putting your kids through college.

While the lifelong guarantee of whole life insurance may sound appealing, it isn’t usually worth the cost as whole life policies can be 5-15x as expensive as term policies.

That being said, whole life might be suitable for long-term expenses like lifelong care for a special needs child, estate taxes, or final expenses.

As far as choosing between two individual policies or joint coverage, the right fit for you depends on your circumstances.

Buying two separate term policies is usually more cost-effective, but a joint policy could be a good fit if:

  • You need permanent coverage with lower premiums, or 
  • One spouse can’t get approved for an individual policy due to their health.

THE SIMPLY INSURANCE WAY

No Exam Life Insurance made easy.

Agents not required.

Get quotes and sign up online without talking to an agent. But, we are here if you need us. 

Unbiased, expert advice.

Get unbiased insurance education from licensed experts and also avoid dodgy sales calls.

Coverage in minutes.

You can get no exam life insurance coverage within minutes of getting your quotes and applying.

What About A Will And Beneficiaries?

As you purchase life insurance and plan for the future, you and your spouse will also need to decide on a will and beneficiaries.

You may choose to sign a joint will or draft two individual wills. 

While a joint will might seem like the easiest approach, individual wills are ideal for two reasons:

  1. Joint wills are irrevocable once one spouse dies. You can only make changes to a joint will while both spouses are alive. Regardless of how circumstances change, the surviving spouse cannot alter beneficiaries without going to court to contest the will.

  2. Joint wills aren’t recognized in every state. Several states don’t recognize joint wills, meaning the probate court can ultimately decide how the inheritance is distributed. Alternatively, the court may give full power to the surviving spouse to go against the will.

Whether you’re writing a will or purchasing life insurance, you’ll need to name beneficiaries. 

You can designate a person, multiple people, an organization, a trustee, or even your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy.

Most married couples designate one another as primary beneficiaries and list their children as their secondary beneficiaries, meaning they would receive the benefits if a spouse passes away first.

Bottom Line - Taking Action

If you’re married, it’s important to establish a financial game plan for your family’s future.

Life insurance is almost always a solid investment for married couples, helping you to protect what you hold dear.

Determine your needs, discuss the options, and start comparing life insurance quotes with your spouse to land on just the right policy.


Jason Fisher

About the author

Jason Fisher is the owner and founder of BestLifeRates, one of the nation's largest consumer resources on life insurance. He's a multi-state licensed agent, has been in the industry for over 10 years, and retains a particular specialty in advanced planning with life insurance products. His advice has appeared in Forbes, Yahoo, The Street, Nerdwallet, Inc.com, and more.


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