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What is joint life insurance?

Joint life insurance is a life insurance policy that covers two people, but it only pays out once. This payment will typically be a lump sum that goes to the survivor after the first person dies within the term of a policy. When the policy ends, there’s no further life cover for the survivor. 
 
Joint life insurance could be a cheaper option than two single policies for:

  • Married couples
  • Long-term partners
  • Business partners.

How does joint life insurance work? 

A joint life insurance policy only pays out once, so it depends on how your policy is set up.  

  • First death policies – a pay-out happens after the first death in a couple. After that, the other person will no longer be covered. 
  • Second death policies – a pay-out is made only after both people have passed away (as long as the premiums have been paid).   

If the worst happened and you both died at the same time – for example, in a car accident – any dependants would receive one lump sum payment from a joint policy.  

What types of joint cover are there? 

Just like a single life policy, there are three main types of joint cover: 

  • Level term life insurance – a cash sum is paid out if you die before the policy ends. 
  • Whole of life cover – this policy lasts until you die and will pay out no matter when that happens. 
  • Decreasing term – the pay-out decreases over time. It’s often taken out to cover the decreasing amount needed to pay off a repayment mortgage. 

The type of policy that works best for you will depend on your individual circumstances, like your mortgage situation or whether you have more than one child.  

Find out more about the different types of life insurance 

Joint life insurance vs. single?

A single life insurance policy covers one person, while a joint policy typically covers two people. If you’re in a couple, you might decide to have two separate (single) life policies. This could offer you greater peace of mind because if one of you were to die, then the surviving person would still have their own cover.

What are the benefits of a joint life insurance policy?

  • Cost – in most cases, if there’s not a lot of difference in your age and health, a joint policy could work out cheaper than two separate policies. 
  • Equal pay-out – the size of the pay-out is the same, even if one of you isn’t the main breadwinner. 
  • Quicker pay-out – as you’ve already arranged who will receive the pay-out, the surviving partner should get the money sooner.
  • Not just for married couples – a joint policy can be set up by any two people, even business partners. 

Ben’s case study

Ben and his wife are from Cambridgeshire and have two children under seven and a new repayment mortgage of £260,000 over 33 years. The couple are in their late 30s, work full-time and have no existing cover, but want the mortgage cleared if either of them were to die. They also want some additional support towards the cost of raising the children or a short-term cash injection if they were to be seriously ill.  

Ben has 12 months’ sick pay via his employer but isn’t clear on his wife’s employee work benefits. They need their solution to be affordable as well as providing support at the worst possible time.  

After discussing various options with their advisor, Ben and his wife agree on joint decreasing life cover to clear their current mortgage if either of them die. Plus, a smaller, additional, combined life and critical illness policy to contribute towards household bills, funeral or medical expenses (dependent on their circumstances) if either of them pass away or suffer an insured critical illness. 

What are the disadvantages of joint life cover?

  • One single pay-out – a joint policy will only pay out once, while separate policies will each pay out individually. 
  • Can’t be split – if your relationship ends, the policy can’t be divided, so any premiums you’ve been paying will be lost. 
  • Might not be cheaper – if one of you is in poorer health, a lot older or has a high-risk job, it could bump up the price of a joint policy, which could make it more expensive than two separate policies. 

How much does a joint life insurance policy cost?

Just like a single policy, the cost of a joint policy depends on:

Age

Height and weight

Lifestyle choices

 

Amount of cover

Type of cover

 

Policy length

Remember that both of your lifestyle choices, age, health and jobs will be considered when calculating the cost of a joint premium. So for example if one of you is a smoker, it could bump up the cost of your joint policy.

What do I need to get a quote? 

To get a joint life insurance quote, we’ll need some details about you both, including:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Lifestyle habits (if you smoke or drink)
  • How long you want the cover for
  • The type of cover you want. 

You’ll also be able to choose any optional extras you’d like to add, such as critical illness cover. 
 

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Author image Helen Phipps

What our expert says...

“Think carefully about taking out joint life insurance. Should something happen to one person in the couple, the policy will pay out and then come to an end – leaving the surviving person uninsured. This often happens at an age where the surviving person is older and perhaps not in good health, making the cost of replacing that cover either expensive or impossible.”

- Helen Phipps, Finances expert

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Frequently asked questions

How much cover do we need?

That’s a personal choice and will depend on a number of factors, including what you can afford to pay, your marital status as a couple and what your family would need if the worst were to happen to one of you. It could take just a minute to complete our easy-to-use life insurance calculator, which is a great starting point for working out what’s best for you. 

Why should new parents think about joint life cover?

Life insurance for new parents, whether joint or two single policies, can provide a safety net, giving you the peace of mind that your new family is protected financially if the worst should happen to you or your partner.  

How long does a joint policy last?

Unless it’s whole of life cover, an insurance policy is set for a fixed amount of time, say 10 or 25 years. This amount of time is known as the ‘term’, which simply means how long the policy lasts for. 

It’s up to you to decide how long you want a term life insurance policy to last for – for example, it could be until your children are financially independent, or until your mortgage comes to an end.

Learn more about how to decide on the term of a life insurance policy.  

Can a joint life insurance policy be put in trust?

Yes, a joint life insurance policy can be put in trust to protect the pay-out from inheritance tax. However, spouses and civil partners aren’t typically liable for inheritance tax on assets that are left to each other anyway, so a joint policy in trust is probably more helpful for unmarried couples.

A joint policy in trust isn’t included as part of your estates, so it won’t be subject to probate. This means your beneficiaries would receive the money sooner. It also allows you to nominate a third beneficiary in the event that you both to die at the same time.   

Find out more about writing life insurance in trust

Can critical illness cover be added to a joint policy?

Critical illness cover, which pays out if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, can be added to a joint policy. However, it can only be claimed once between you. If one of you makes a critical illness claim, the other person will no longer have that cover.

Once a claim for critical illness has been made, your joint life insurance policy will cease if you have ‘combined’ life and critical illness cover.   

What happens if a couple with a joint policy divorces or separates?

If you were to split up with your partner then your joint life insurance policy can’t be divided. In that situation, you’ll probably need to cancel the existing policy and set up two new ones. As you’ll be applying for a new policy at a later stage in your life, this could result in a higher premium. However, it will also give you each the chance to review your needs to see if a new policy would better reflect your changed circumstances - for example, if you have a smaller mortgage or reduced expenses. 

Where can I get a quote for joint life insurance?

Right here at Comparethemarket. When you use our quote tool, the first question we’ll ask is if you want cover for just yourself, or yourself and another person.

Let us help you find the right life insurance cover for you. It takes just a few minutes to get a list of quotes from our panel of providers. 

Page last reviewed on 28/09/2022
by Helen Phipps