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What is joint life insurance?

Joint life insurance covers two people, but it only pays out once. This payment will typically be a lump sum that goes to the surviving policyholder, 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

While some people may think a couples life insurance policy is just life insurance for couples who are married or in a long-term relationship, that’s not true. A joint policy can cover any two people who may financially support each other in some way.

How does joint life insurance work? 

A life insurance joint 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 life insurance are there?

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

  • 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 

Can critical illness cover be added to a joint policy?

Critical illness cover, a type of income protection insurance, provides a tax-free payout 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 are the benefits of a joint life insurance policy?

Here are some of the benefits of taking out 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. 

What are the disadvantages of joint life cover?

Here are some things to think about when considering taking out a life insurance joint policy:

  • One single pay-out – a joint policy only provides one payout, 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. This could make it more expensive than two separate policies.

What are the benefits of a single life insurance policy?

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, the surviving partner would still have their own cover.

Joint or single life insurance?

Whether a joint or single life insurance policy is best for you will depend on your personal situation. If you’re both tied into a mortgage and your main concern is being able to pay it off if one of you died, a joint life insurance policy would protect the surviving partner, if one of you died. The fact that a joint life policy is usually cheaper than two single policies is also worth keeping in mind.

If there’s a large disparity between your earnings, with one earning far more than the other, then it might make more sense to insure both of you individually, tailoring each policy to reflect the financial support you provide.

However, if one of you is a stay-at-home parent, don’t write off their financial contribution. If the worst were to happen, childcare would need organising. Potentially at great cost. The right life insurance policy can protect the surviving partner against that unexpected cost. 

Ben’s joint life insurance case study

Ben and his wife are from Cambridgeshire. They have two children under seven and a new repayment mortgage of £260,000 over 33 years. The couple is 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 dies. Plus, a smaller, additional, combined life and critical illness policy. This would contribute towards household bills, funeral or medical expenses (dependent on their circumstances) if either of them passes away or suffers an insured critical illness.

How much does a joint life insurance policy cost?

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

Age

The younger you are, the cheaper your premiums tend to be.

Height and weight

If you maintain a healthy weight and BMI, your life insurance could be cheaper.

Lifestyle choices

If you’re alcohol consumption is low and you’re a non-smoker, you should get a cheaper policy. Life insurance providers consider a non-smoker as someone who hasn’t smoked in the last 12 months. This includes e-cigarettes and other nicotine products.

Policy length

If you’re taking out a term policy, the length of that policy term will determine how long you’ll pay your monthly premiums. Whole of life insurance, which lasts as long as you live and keep making payments can be the most expensive type of life insurance, because it guarantees a life insurance pay out.

Type of cover

There are different types of life insurance available. A joint life insurance policy is often cheaper than two single policies. Meanwhile, decreasing-term life insurance is normally cheaper than level-term cover.

Amount of cover

Understandably, you’ll pay more for a higher level of cover.

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 joint life insurance 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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Frequently asked questions

How much life insurance cover do we need?

That’s a personal choice and will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • what you can afford to pay
  • your marital status as a couple
  • what your loved ones 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 the right life insurance for you.

Why should new parents think about joint life cover?

Life insurance for new parents can provide a safety net and 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 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 payout from inheritance tax. However, spouses and civil partners aren’t typically liable for inheritance tax on assets that are left to each other anyway. This could make a couples life insurance policy in trust 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

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 a joint policy with couples life insurance, or you’re looking for cover just for yourself.

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. 

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[2]Correct as of December, 2022.

[3] As of January 2023 Compare the Market had an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 from 23,670 people who left a review on Trustpilot. The score 4.8 corresponds to the Star Label ‘Excellent’.

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

About Comparethemarket

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Page last reviewed on 06/02/2023
by Helen Phipps