Joint and Survivorship Insurance: What You Need to Know

  • Life Insurance

A joint insurance policy is one taken by two people, offering benefits that aren’t provided by single policies and allow you to save a few bucks in monthly premiums. If you’re married and want your spouse to receive a benefit if you die and your children to receive one if you both die, it seems like the best choice.

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But that isn’t necessarily the case. Joint life insurance policies certainly serve a purpose, but there are some major flaws to consider as well.

What is Joint and Survivorship Insurance?

There are two types of joint life insurance policies: First-to-die and Second-to-die. In both cases, these options are generally cheaper than a single life insurance policy that offers the same benefit. As a result, they’re often taken by married couples who only have each other and their children to consider.

For instance, if you’re married with two young children and all your death benefit will be paid to your spouse and then, if they die, to your children, it can seem like the best option. You’ll be offered cheaper premiums, you’ll get your wish, and at the same time, you’ll be covered if anything happens to your partner.

Perfect, right? Well, not quite, as there are some problems to consider.

First-to-Die

A first-to-die policy pays money to one policyholder when the other dies. If you have a $500,000 policy charging $100 a month, then you and your spouse are responsible for paying the $100 and if one of you dies, the obligations will end and the $500,000 will be released to the surviving spouse.

Pros and Cons of First-to-Die Insurance

This insurance policy seems like a win-win on the surface. Insurance companies can save money by acquiring two customers at once and reducing liabilities slightly, while the policyholders can get the benefits provided by two policyholders.

But what happens if you break up? These policies are often acquired by married couples in their 30s and can last for several decades. At that point, they may have spent anywhere from 5 to 15 years together and are assuming they will spend the next 30 or so years together as well. But the average marriage lasts for just 8 years and no matter how connected you feel today, there’s just no way of knowing that your relationship will last.

If anything does happen, all those premiums could be for nothing. The policy will still exist and if you keep making the payments, you’ll keep the death benefit alive. But if you remarry, you’ll likely want the money to go to your new partner and not your ex.

This is the biggest issue with these policies and it’s why many insurance experts don’t recommend them for young couples. If you had two policies, you could just as easily make your spouse the beneficiary and if the relationship ends, you could remove them from the contract and add the name of your new partner.

What’s more, there’s no guarantee that this policy will be cheaper than two separate policies. First-to-die policies are actually quite rare, which means the market isn’t very strong. When competition is weak, prices are high, and in many cases, you may struggle to find a joint policy that is cheaper than separate ones.

Finally, let’s assume that the applicants are in their thirties and one of them dies when they reach 50. The surviving spouse then collects the money and can live comfortably thereafter. But what about their children? What about their new partner, assuming they find one? That policy will have finished, which means the surviving policyholder now needs to pay for additional insurance if they want to remain covered. That can be tricky for a 50-year-old widower, as premiums will have increased significantly.

Second-to-Die

A survivorship policy, also known as a “second-to-die” policy, is more common than the option outlined above. It is frequently acquired by married couples who want to provide cover for their children, and it pays out only when both of them die.

Pros and Cons of Need Second-to-Die Insurance

A second-to-die life insurance policy has its uses. It’s often recommended to individuals with large and valuable estates, as it can give heirs money to cover inheritance taxes and other costs and allow them to better prepare for the transition. 

However, if you’re an average married couple without sizeable assets, it likely won’t provide the benefits you need. Firstly, the surviving spouse won’t be provided with a death benefit and will be tasked with continuing to pay insurance premiums every month. If they have any financial issues, not only will they struggle to stay in the black, but they may be forced to stop making those monthly payments, thus rendering all previous payments redundant.

On the plus side, second-to-die life insurance is often cheaper than purchasing separate life insurance policies. It’s also much easier to acquire, as the insurance company is insuring two people and not one, which greatly reduces their risk and means they are less concerned about health questions and medical exams.

It can also improve the value of your estate, which is important if you’re giving this away to one or more heirs. Again, though, we have to stress that the benefits may not be enough for the average married couple and they should instead look into separate life insurance policies.

Which Policy is Right for You?

With all things considered, how do you know which policy is right for you?

Multiple options and several factors to consider, but it’s actually quite simple. Unless you have a large estate, you should look into getting separate life insurance policies for both you and your spouse. You can make each other the main beneficiaries and then add the names of your children just in case you both die at the same time.

If you have a large estate and your spouse will not be left financially destitute in the event of your demise, second-to-die life insurance should be considered. 

With all options, however, you can get quotes, compare the premiums, payouts, and benefits, and then see which one stands out the most. 

Look into term-life insurance, whole-life insurance, and accidental death insurance when considering an individual policy, as they all provide something a little different and both the costs and cover varies greatly.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is Accidental Death Insurance, and do you Need it?

  • Life Insurance

Accidental death insurance, also known as accidental death and dismemberment insurance, is a type of limited life insurance often acquired for a nominal fee or added to an existing policy. As the name suggests, it releases a benefit if the policyholder dies from an accident or suffers a dismemberment. 

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Accidents kill an estimated 160,000 Americans a year and are far more common amongst men aged between 18 and 44. Many of these deaths occur as a result of falls and motor traffic accidents, both of which are covered by most accidental death insurance policies.

When You Don’t Need Accidental Death Insurance

If you already have life insurance, you can probably overlook accidental death insurance. In such cases, it will simply increase the value of the payout when you die, known as “double indemnity” coverage.

Unlike whole-life insurance policies, it does not provide policyholders with a separate investment vehicle that they can cash out at a later date. Generally, accidental death insurance doesn’t offer anything that a traditional life insurance policy can’t provide, and it may therefore be deemed an unnecessary expense.

However, there are exceptions.

When You Need Accidental Death Insurance

An accidental death benefit can’t provide you with anything that you won’t get from a traditional life insurance policy. However, it’s a different story with dismemberment insurance. This will cover you in the event that you lose a finger, toe or arm, which means you’ll have the money you need for medical costs and may be compensated for lost work.

Accidental death insurance can also help to cover any additional medical fees that result from necessary treatment taken after an accident and before death. Your family may be forced to cover these bills, and an additional death benefit can help them with that. 

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance is not something we would recommend in lieu of traditional life insurance, but if you have the option to add it to an existing policy for a few bucks a month, it’s well worth considering.

How Much Does Accidental Death Insurance Cost?

The price of your accidental death insurance premiums will depend on your payout as well as your risk factor. The average person can expect a charge of roughly $5 per month for every $50,000 of coverage, which means a benefit of $100,000 could cost as little as $10 a month.

But, as we have discussed many times before, underwriters focus on probabilities. The more likely you are to die from an accident, the higher those premiums will cost. For instance, if you’re an 18-year-old who has just started driving and enjoys a few high-risk hobbies, you may see those premiums climb.

How Long Does Accidental Death Insurance Last?

Accidental death insurance policies typically run for up to 40 years. You choose the desired term at the start and this is used to calculate your premiums, with longer terms leading to higher prices on account of the increased risk.

What is Not Covered by Accidental Death Insurance?

Accidental death insurance generally doesn’t cover all accidents and all dismemberments. The exact coverage will depend on the policy, and it’s possible to tailor your policy to include some of the things not traditionally included, but this may increase the premiums.

Suicide

Suicide is a tricky one. Many life insurance policies will payout if the policyholder commits suicide, but only if it occurs after the first two years and it is proved that they committed suicide so their loved ones would benefit (although this is not easy to prove).

However, accidental death insurance policies tend to rule suicide out altogether. Many deaths caused by misadventure may be queried as suicide, such as falls and drownings, but unless there is actual proof that they intended to take their life, the death will often be ruled as misadventure, in which case an accidental death insurance policy may payout.

War Injuries

Accidental death insurance rarely pays out for deaths resulting from war injuries. This is true whether the policyholder is shot or dies from an explosion or fall. That death was certainly not intentional, so you could argue that the policy should pay, but most insurers will refuse.

Illness and Disease

An accidental death insurance policy is not designed to payout in the event that you die from an illness or disease. Your beneficiaries may also face some resistance if you had a serious illness or disease at the time of your death but an accident was ultimately the thing that killed you.

For instance, if you have a serious mobility problem and this causes you to fall, hit your head, and die, then technically an accident killed you, but that accident wouldn’t have happened if not for the illness, creating some technicalities that will no doubt lead to problems when filing a claim.

Drugs or Alcohol

An accidental overdose is rarely covered by accidental death insurance. There will be no benefit for your loved ones if it leads to your demise, and no benefit for you if it leads to long-term health complications.

This is not true for all policies, however, and there may be exceptions for drugs that were prescribed.

How Can the Cause of Death be Proved?

As alluded to already, the cause of death isn’t straightforward. With a traditional life insurance policy, if the policyholder dies outside of the contestability period, the insurers will rarely get involved. That changes if they have suspicions about the death and believe that a crime was committed (fraud, murder) but it’s rare.

With accidental death insurance, however, there are many more nuances. As a result, an official investigation may be ordered, and this can include an autopsy.

How Does the Dismemberment Payout Work?

If the policyholder losses an appendage as a result of an accident, they may receive a partial benefit paid direct to them. The policy will dictate how much is paid and why, but generally the payout will be made following a non-excluded accident that results in the loss of:

  • An arm
  • A leg
  • A finger
  • A toe
  • Sight

Higher payouts may also be provided if the policyholder suffers complete paralysis.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

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Good Financial Cents, and author of the personal finance book Soldier of Finance. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran and served 9 years in the Army National Guard. His work is regularly featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.