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By Joan Pabón and Javier Cruz
Updated: May 20, 2021 11:16 AM ET

To help you choose the right life insurance provider for seniors, we’ve vetted more than 15 companies based on factors like plan variety and nationwide availability. The result is a diverse list of providers that offer among the best plans on the market. If you aren’t a senior, we’ve also vetted the best life insurance companies available today.

Our Top Picks for Best Life Insurance for Seniors

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Best Life Insurance for Seniors Reviews

New York Life – Best Overall

Pros Cons
Endorsed by AARP No online quotes
Living benefits option Maximum coverage is 20 years
Some universal plans have money-back options

As a mutual insurance company, New York Life is owned by their policyholders, so you must become a member to enroll. Once enrolled, you can benefit from all its plans and policies, which are available nationwide. Additionally, the AARP Life Insurance Program from New York Life is endorsed by AARP and is the only life insurance program developed exclusively for AARP members.

New York Life has four plans which include term and whole life insurance and universal and variable universal life insurance. Term life insurance plans are convertible, meaning that you can convert some or all the benefits from your term insurance and switch them into permanent policies.

There are three options available for the whole life insurance policy: standard, value whole life, and custom whole life. The latter lets you change the period of time it takes you to pay for premiums, shortening it up to five years or customizing them to fit your budget.

Mutual of Omaha – Best Plan variety

Pros Cons
Guaranteed issue life insurance available Guaranteed issue life insurance has a two-year waiting period
Has a rider that covers your premium if temporarily unemployed
Children’s life insurance available

Mutual of Omaha offers five categories of life insurance: term life, whole life, universal life, indexed universal life, and children’s whole life. The term life policy offers 10-, 15-, 20-, and 30-year terms available at issue ages of 18-30. Coverage starts at the standard $100,000.

Mutual also offers a “term life express,” which doesn’t require a medical exam and offers lower policy limits. Mutual of Omaha also offers a permanent policy form of no-exam life insurance called guaranteed issue life insurance, which works like a final expense option and covers from $2,000-$25,000 without the need for a medical evaluation or answering a health questionnaire.

Other policies include a “living promise whole life” insurance that offers two plan options: level and graded benefit. The level option is thorough, covering ages 45-85 with a coverage limit range of $2,000-$40,000. The graded option is more limited, covering ages 45-80 and cutting limit range by half, from $2,000-$20,000.

Pros Cons
Approved claims are processed and paid in one business day Limited plan types
Universal life insurance is available until age 100 Annual fee in all plans
Various available riders Not available in New York

Banner offers the typical insurance products you’d expect for life insurance, but its term life insurance policy stands out due to its age limit. The typical maximum policy coverage for term life insurance is 30 years, but Banner goes further by offering term life policies for up to 40 years. Not only that, but their term policies also include an accelerated death benefit rider at no extra cost, so if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can get a portion or all your death benefit without spending more.

Banner’s payment process also distinguishes it. Typically, life insurance companies take around 14-60 days to pay a claim once it’s been processed, and it can be even higher if the provider doesn’t receive the correct documentation. Banner offers a one-business-day payment for all their policies.

Guardian Life – Best for Couples

Pros Cons
Several policy options to choose from Term life options are limited
Life insurance available for policyholders with HIV Online quotes available only for term life insurance
High whole life age limit (up to 121 years of age)

Guardian offers four different life insurance policies: term, whole life, universal, and variable universal. Their “Guardian EstateGuard” whole life policy stood out for us. This policy is meant to insure couples, typically married, with one policy, so when one person dies, the other is paid the death benefits.

Additionally, Guardian offers term and whole life insurance options to customers with HIV. To qualify, you must comply with various requisites, including being between 20-60 years old, free of any AIDS-defining illnesses, and cared for by a doctor specializing in HIV.

MassMutual – Best for Whole Life Insurance

Pros Cons
Whole Life insurance eligible for dividends Higher premiums for senior citizens
Convertible term insurance policies available Online application process not available for people under 65
Guaranteed insurability, waiver of premium rider, and accelerated benefit riders

MassMutual offers Vantage Term policies for 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, and 30-year terms, with death benefits from $100k to over $10 million.

They stood out for us with their Direct Term option, which can be purchased up to age 64 and is convertible beyond the issuing age. Their whole life policies feature higher limits than competitor plans geared towards seniors, with death benefits over $25k. Applicants must complete a medical exam within 90 days. MassMutual does not offer guaranteed issue policies or living benefits.

However, their whole life policies offer guaranteed cash value, guaranteed death benefit options, and dividend participation, so you can rest assured that your next of kin will receive all the benefits the plan offers.

Transamerica – Best for Riders

Pros Cons
Final expense policies don’t need medical exams for applicants between the ages of 1-80 Online quotes not available on all policies
Guaranteed level monthly premiums

Transamerica’s best aspects are its great choice of riders and its final expense coverage option. This insurer has more than seven optional riders to choose from, including a waiver of premium rider — which waives premiums after six months if you become disabled — a monthly disability income rider, and an accidental death benefit rider. They also have a children’s/grandchildren’s benefit rider that adds level term insurance, as long as the parent or grandparent is between 18-25 years old and the child/grandchild is 15 days to 18 years old.

Transamerica’s final expense insurance offers three options: immediate solution, 10-pay solution, and easy solution. The immediate option is the most thorough, offering insurance to customers aged 0-85 and covering payments made in full until age 121. The easy solution is the least inclusive, as it’s only available for customers 18-80, or 50-75 if you live in New York.

Other Companies We Considered

AIG

We considered AIG for its term insurance variability but decided to go with Banner, as the latter’s features were more impressive. For example, AIG’s term life insurance plans cover up to 35 years, which is lower than Banner, and they don’t include a free death benefit rider.

State Farm

Although State Farm is a great insurer, we decided not to include it due to its final expense insurance limits. Final expense, death benefits are capped at $10,000, whereas other companies offer up to $50,000.

USAA

We didn’t choose USAA because it doesn’t offer final expense-specific policies due to its rider limitations — only 3 available — and because you must be a member to apply. We decided this was too limiting for our scope.

Senior Life Insurance Guide

Life insurance works as a financial safety net for people with dependents and pressing financial obligations, providing the peace of mind of knowing that your family will be taken care of when you are gone. If no one depends on you financially and you’re only looking to cover funeral expenses upon your death, then you may be able to do so with savings. Another alternative to consider is a final expense insurance policy, which we will discuss below.

If, on the other hand, you have grandchildren or adult children with disabilities who depend on you financially, want to leave a donation to your favorite charity, or cover estate taxes for your loved ones, then a life insurance policy may be the way to go.

The types of life insurance available to seniors are the same ones available to everyone else, albeit at higher pricing. This cost difference is because the likelihood you’ll die in any given year increases as you get older, and insurers set premiums accordingly. This guide walks you through the different types of life insurance to help you decide which, if any, should be part of your retirement plan.

Types of Life Insurance for Seniors

There are two main types of life insurance policies: term life insurance and permanent life insurance. Each of them has several subcategories with its own features.

Term life insurance for seniors

Term life insurance is a simple product that pays out a specified death benefit to the policy’s beneficiaries if the insured dies within a given timeframe. Common options are 20-year term or 30-year term life insurance. If the insured outlives the policy’s term, the policy will either expire or increase in price, depending on the plan. You can renew some term life policies once they’ve reached their term, but the insurer may adjust your premiums based on your age and health or medical conditions, again depending on the plan.

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Permanent life insurance for seniors

Unlike term life, permanent life insurance does not expire. It is meant to pay out a death benefit to the policy’s beneficiaries upon the insured’s death, regardless of age. This type of life insurance also has living benefits in the form of a separate investment component called the “cash value,” from which the policyholder may borrow as long as he or she continues paying the premiums.

Permanent life insurance premiums are much more expensive than term life policies. Yet, it may better suit people with long-term obligations, those who want to cover estate taxes after their death, or want to use life insurance as an investment vehicle. However, if you’re looking for a whole life insurance policy as an investment, it’s generally recommended that you exhaust other investment options — such as a 401k, IRA, or Roth IRA — first.

Permanent life options include whole life insurance and several varieties of universal life insurance.

Final expense insurance for seniors

Final expense (sometimes called burial insurance) is a type of whole life insurance policy that provides a death benefit to pay funeral costs and other end-of-life costs. These policies have lower coverage and a smaller death benefit — typically from $2,000 to $50,000. Final expense insurance is an option for those who cannot qualify for traditional life insurance coverage because of their health and need only a small death benefit.

Long-term care insurance for seniors

Long-term care insurance is intended to cover the costs of extended care — such as in-home nursing or hospice care — in the event of a chronic or debilitating illness, disorder, or disability. For this type of insurance to kick in, you must be unable to perform at least three activities of daily living (ADLs), which include eating, dressing, continence, toileting, transferring, and personal hygiene.

Most long-term care insurance policies cover services that health insurance and Medicare don’t, such as the costs of a nursing home or assisted living facility. They also work through a reimbursement model, meaning that you must pay for services out of pocket and then apply for reimbursement.

You may not qualify for long-term care insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, but you can still purchase this type of coverage in your mid-60s. In fact, it’s recommended for people between the ages of 55 and 65.

LTC policies are priced based on the selected benefit period, type of policy, and payout options, as well as the applicant’s health. Premiums for these policies can be the highest of all types.

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How Much Does Senior Life Insurance Cost?

In general, the cost of any insurance is directly proportional to the risk the insurer is willing to assume by offering you a policy. With life insurance, the higher your risk of dying, the more expensive your premiums.

Many different variables go into calculating premiums, so it’s hard to offer ballpark figures without knowing the specifics.

What you pay for your life insurance policy will depend on your:

  • Type of life insurance policy
  • Amount of coverage or its value
  • Gender
  • Health status and family health history
  • Tobacco use
  • Driving record
  • Occupation and hobbies

One of the most important of these factors is age. While there are still life insurance options available up to age 85, the older you get, the more expensive your premiums will be.

Underwriting Process

The underwriting process is meant to assess your life and risks as an applicant. Since life insurance companies price risk differently based on their underwriting guidelines, results and resulting premiums always vary.

Because underwriting can be so varied, it’s recommended you get at least three life insurance quotes from different companies before settling on an insurance policy. Another alternative is hiring a broker to shop around, though this will mean paying for their services.

Riders

Riders are optional add-ons. Some riders are policy-specific, while others are more generic. Common riders include guaranteed insurability, accidental death, family income benefit, and accelerated death benefit. Note that not all insurance providers offer the same riders, if at all, so ask each company individually about rider availability when buying life insurance.

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How to Buy Life Insurance for Seniors?

The best life insurance companies will have strong financial ratings from credit rating agencies like A.M. Best. A strong financial rating can be a good indicator that the insurer you have chosen will be around to pay out your beneficiaries’ life insurance claim.

How Do You Choose The Right Policy and Insurer For You?

The right life insurance depends on your goals and financial situation. Ask yourself what you want the policy to accomplish and look for options to help you meet those goals.

Then, factor in the cost of premiums. A life insurance product like whole life may sound like a good investment, but if its high premium payments are unaffordable on a fixed income, you run the risk of letting your coverage lapse.

Another important consideration is approval. If you have pre-existing conditions, your options may be limited to more expensive guaranteed issue or simplified issue policies.

How Can You Lower Your Premiums?

Since premiums are calculated using different factors, they may be hard to lower. These are some possible options:

  • Consider how much life insurance you actually need: Check your finances and consider how much life insurance actually works for you and your budget.
  • Improve your health: Even as a senior, you’ll get lower premium scores if you’re physically healthy. Losing weight and skipping on tobacco and/or alcohol lowers your rate.
  • Stick with term life insurance: Term life insurance is the cheapest life insurance option available. Premiums are lower than a permanent policy.
  • Comparison shop: The easiest way to lower premiums is to shop around and compare quotes.

Consult a Financial Professional Before Making Any Decision

A certified financial planner (CFP) can create a financial plan and help you determine both whether you need life insurance and which product best aligns with your financial goals. Of course, this service can have high fees and may not be for everyone.

According to Malik Lee, CFP and founder of Felton & Peel Wealth Management, the benefit of consulting a certified financial planner before getting life insurance goes back to the fiduciary standard.

“When you are going to a regular life insurance agent, they will offer you options based on a suitability standard or whether or not you can afford the policy. Whereas a certified financial planner, or somebody bound by fiduciary standards, is looking at how the policy fits your goals and plans,” said Lee.

“Think of it as going to a car dealership. If you go to a car dealership and say you have $30,000, they’re gonna try to find you a car for $30,000. Whereas if you went to a car dealership that was a fiduciary, they’d ask you if you have lots of family members or if you do a lot of driving, and this can mean the difference between walking away with an eight-cylinder car vs. a four-cylinder SUV,” he added.

Best Life Insurance For Seniors FAQ

What is the best life insurance for seniors?

There’s no easy answer to this question since it depends on each person’s circumstances. Our list of the best life insurance for seniors has several different categories to choose from.

What is the cheapest life insurance for seniors?

Term life insurance is the most affordable option and can be a great solution for individuals in good health with temporary financial obligations such as a mortgage or private student loan debt.

Do I need life insurance after I retire?

If you have enough savings to cover funeral and burial expenses and don’t have any dependents, you may not need life insurance. Depending on what you want to do with the policy and how much it would cost you to get insured based on your age and health, you may be better off self-insuring or purchasing a different kind of policy than a life insurance one.

What can I do if my life insurance policy has lapsed?

If you’re over 60 and your policy has lapsed, try and talk to a financial advisor before looking for a new policy. You may not need to shop for a new policy or undergo additional underwriting to reinstate coverage.

Can I buy term life insurance after 60?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some insurers have adopted more stringent underwriting guidelines that don’t favor seniors, people with pre-existing conditions, or those who have recently traveled outside the U.S. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any options for people over 65. Even a product like a term life insurance — which can become more expensive the older you get — is still available to people well into their 70s, albeit for shorter terms.

As a senior, how much life insurance coverage should I buy?

When choosing the death benefit and face coverage amount of your policy, there isn’t a specific rule of thumb. Consider the following:

  • the number of dependents and their age
  • other sources of income your dependents may have
  • your gross income
  • any services you provide for your dependents
  • additional benefits you receive
  • potential medical bills
  • outstanding debt
  • funeral expenses
  • financial obligations
  • college expenses for surviving children
  • inflation

How We Chose the Best Life Insurance for Seniors

With so many contenders in the life insurance industry, we wanted to pick companies that appealed to seniors and offered great plans and benefits with little-to-no restrictions. To do this, we evaluated each company using three factors: age/benefit limits, plan, and rider availability, and nationwide availability.

Age, Year, and Benefit Limits

Since age limits vary greatly in the life insurance industry, we wanted to ensure that our top picks could benefit as many ages as possible. Therefore, companies with wider age and year restrictions scored higher than us. For example, while typical term life insurance plans cap at 30 years, Banner’s caps at 40, helping you keep your term life policy for longer.

Plan and Rider Availability

We wanted to review companies with more than just the basic term and whole life plan option for seniors. That’s why all the companies we picked have a wide variety of plans. We also wanted to help you customize your plan to fit your needs, so every company had various riders to choose from.

Nationwide Availability

Companies with statewide availability scored higher with us, while those limiting their services to a few states were not considered. Except for Banner, which is unavailable in New York, all our top picks are available nationwide.

Summary of Money’s Best Life Insurance for Seniors of 2021