What Is a Survivorship Life Insurance Policy?


There are many different types of life insurance policies to meet your specific needs. Survivorship life insurance is a policy that covers two people instead of one. Here we’ll cover the benefits of a survivorship policy, how they work, and whether this type of policy might be right for you.

What is a survivorship life insurance policy?

Survivorship life insurance covers two people on one policy. This type of policy is typically for spouses. It is also known as a second-to-die joint life insurance policy. The policy does not pay out until both people on the policy have passed away.

A survivorship life insurance is typically a permanent whole or universal life policy. It costs less than two separate policies and is an affordable way to leave more behind for your beneficiaries.

Benefits of a survivorship life policy

In a first-to-die joint life insurance policy, the life insurance company pays out the death benefit after the first person on the policy passes away. Since a second-to-die policy pays out after both spouses have passed away, a survivorship life insurance policy is not used for income replacement for a surviving spouse.

The benefits of a survivorship life policy are best for estate-planning purposes.

  • Paying estate taxes: This policy is used by high-net-worth households for estate planning strategies. After the second spouse passes away, the death benefit from the policy can be used to pay estate taxes. This will help ensure that your heirs do not have to sell any assets to pay the estate taxes.
  • Caring for a special needs child: The death benefit can pay for care that a special needs child requires. Survivorship policies are often used to fund a trust to provide care for them.
  • Leaving a legacy: The death benefit from the policy can help any beneficiary you choose. This includes a charity or cause you want to support after you are gone.
  • Business succession: A survivorship life insurance policy can be between any two people, including business partners. A survivorship policy can provide the funds needed to transfer business ownership if both partners die. The death benefit can also be divided among the business partners’ heirs to help ensure they are financially prepared to take over the business.
  • Difficulty qualifying for life insurance policies: A survivorship policy can be an affordable way to get coverage for a spouse who cannot get coverage due to medical issues.

How does a survivorship life insurance policy work?

A survivorship life insurance policy insures two people and pays out the death benefit after both have passed away. A survivorship policy is generally a permanent life insurance policy which includes whole life, variable life, and universal life insurance policies. They are more expensive than term policies, but they offer lifelong coverage for both people.

Since survivorship plans are joint life policies, you will only have to purchase one policy instead of two. Couples or business partners are covered under a single policy. Policy owners pay monthly or annual premiums to keep the policy active. The life insurance company will pay the policy’s death benefit after both owners have passed away.

Due to being a type of permanent life insurance policy, there is cash value in the policy that owners can tap into if needed. The cash value grows tax-deferred, and the cash value can be used to pay the premiums as needed.

Is a survivorship life insurance policy right for you?

Survivorship life insurance is typically used by high-net-worth households as an estate-planning tool. Because a survivorship life insurance policy combines two individuals on a single policy, couples can often get a larger death benefit at a lower cost when compared to buying two separate life insurance policies.

Since a survivorship policy only pays out the death benefit when both owners on the policy die, it isn’t a good fit if the surviving spouse needs income or assets after the first spouse passes away. In this case, it is better to get two separate policies. Here are a few situations where a survivorship life insurance policy may be a good fit.

Estate-planning strategies

If an estate is above the federal exemption limit and the heirs will have to pay estate taxes, then a life survivorship policy can help pay the taxes.

Business-planning strategies

The policy can provide the liquidity needed to transfer ownership of a family business. It can also provide funding for heirs to continue the business.

Special needs family members

The death benefit can be used to provide care for a special needs child after both parents pass away.

Leave a legacy to charitable causes

Anyone can be a beneficiary of the policy. A couple can choose a cause or charity they believe in to receive the death benefit.

Medical issues for one spouse or partner

A survivorship life insurance policy is a cost-effective way to get coverage if one spouse has medical conditions that make it difficult to get life insurance coverage but the other spouse is in good health.

What is the difference between joint life and survivorship life insurance?

Joint life insurance policies cover two people on one policy. There are two types of joint life insurance policies: a first-to-die policy and second-to-die policy. A second-to-die policy is also known as survivorship life insurance.

  • First-to-die policy: In a first-to-die joint life insurance policy, if one of the insured spouses dies, the surviving spouse receives the death benefit. The goal is to provide the surviving spouse with enough funds to replace the lost income from the spouse that passed away.
  • Second-to-die policy: Also known as a survivorship life insurance policy, the death benefit is only paid out if both spouses or owners pass away. The goal is to provide heirs or a charity with the death benefit, as opposed to a first-to-die life insurance policy that instead leaves the death benefit to the surviving spouse.

Life insurance is an important way to both protect your loved ones and leave a legacy. A survivorship life insurance policy is popular for affluent households. It is a useful tool to help preserve wealth as part of an estate plan or leave a long-lasting legacy.

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