Single vs. Joint Life Insurance: What You Should Know

Single vs Joint Life Insurance can provide your dependents with a financial safety net if you pass away.

April 1, 2021

If you buy a home, you get home insurance, if you purchase a car, you get auto insurance, if you have a family…well, it makes sense to purchase life insurance.

However, picking the right policy for your situation can be tricky. For instance, is a joint life insurance policy a better option than buying two individual policies, if you are in a relationship?

Continue reading to find out the advantages of joint life insurance and if it’s right for you.

What is Single Life Insurance?

Mother with her baby looking at life insurance options on Laptop from home

Single life insurance covers one person — hence the name. The policy pays a death benefit, usually as a lump sum, to the beneficiaries when the insured passes away. Unless indicated otherwise, life insurance always refers to single or individual life insurance.

If you have a partner, each with an individual life insurance policy, each policy will pay out separately upon the insured’s death. You can customize each policy according to your individual needs. If one person passes away, the designated beneficiary will receive the payout. Meanwhile, the surviving partner will continue having life insurance coverage.

What is Joint Life Insurance?

Happy family playing with their son after buying life insurance.

Joint life insurance is a life insurance product that covers multiple people. It involves one application and one monthly payment.

If you and your partner both plan to buy life insurance, a joint policy could make sense. The cost of joint life insurance is usually cheaper than two single life policies, mainly because it’ll pay the death benefit only once. Also, since research shows married people tend to live longer than single people, insurers are able to offer lower rates.

With joint life insurance, both partners get covered for the same amount, and once a payout is made, the policy ends. In the case of joint term life insurance, the coverage ends when the policy expires.

You may be wondering, what happens to your combined life insurance policy in the event of a divorce?

Some joint life policies include an option called ‘separation benefit’. It allows you to split the existing policy into two, without going through underwriting. If this option is not there, you can either cancel the policy or one of you can take over the joint policy.

Joint First-To-Die Life Insurance

Senior Couple Having great time at Cafe. Single vs. Joint Life Insurance.

Joint first-to-die life insurance pays the full death benefit upon the death of the first insured.

A first-to-die policy is suitable for those with substantial financial obligations. It’s a good option for young families, couples with a mortgage, or anyone else who will find it hard to stay financially afloat if one of the breadwinners passes away.

First-to-die life insurance works pretty much the same way as single-person coverage. Once the death benefit is paid out, the policy ends. If the surviving partner still wants life insurance coverage, they’ll have to reapply. Getting a new policy could be costly at this point, depending on their age and health.

Joint Last-To-Die Life Insurance

Joint last-to-die life insurance pays the death benefit only after both partners covered by the policy pass away. After the second insured dies, the death benefit is paid to the beneficiaries, much like a single-person life policy. Joint last-to-die life insurance is also called second last-to-die or survivorship life insurance.

Joint last-to-die life insurance doesn’t offer a financial benefit to the surviving spouse. For this reason, it doesn’t work well as income replacement. It works best as a way for paying final expenses or leaving a legacy for children. The surviving partner will have to continue paying the premiums to maintain the coverage.

How much does single or joint life insurance cost?

Hand putting money in a jar to save. Single vs. Joint Life Insurance.

Many factors impact the cost of life insurance — some are in your control, others are not.

  1. Age

Your date of birth is the main factor impacting premium rates. The younger you are, the longer your remaining life expectancy. In other words, a 30 year old is less risky to insure than someone who’s 50 years old, and this will reflect in the monthly premiums.

  1. Health

When applying for life insurance, the insurer reviews your health through a process called underwriting. You often have to take a medical test and answer questions regarding your health.

Insurers reward healthy applicants with better rates. Similarly, certain health conditions, like diabetes, can push up your premiums significantly. And if you have a serious health condition, the insurer can refuse coverage altogether.

  1. Family History

Many diseases, like heart disease, tend to run in the family. So, expect the insurer to ask a few questions about your immediate family’s medical history when you apply for coverage. A family history of certain illnesses could lead to higher premiums.

  1. Tobacco Use

Smoking is bad for your health and your wealth. If you smoke, expect to pay two to three times higher rates than a non-smoker.

  1. Gender

When it comes to life insurance, men get the short end of the stick. Men 6 to 8 year shorter life expectancies than women — and that reflects in their rates.

  1. Death Benefit Amount

Life insurance policies issued for larger amounts generally cost more than policies having smaller payouts. For instance, a $5 million policy will be more expensive than a $1 million policy.

  1. Type of Life Insurance Policy

Life insurance policies are of two types: permanent and term life. Permanent life insurance costs more because it doesn’t have an end date and often builds cash value. Within term life insurance, policies issued for longer terms are more expensive than those issued for shorter periods.

  1. Riders

Riders are features that you can add to your life policy. However, they often come at an additional cost, so pick only those that you need.  

  1. Occupation & Lifestyle

Not all jobs or hobbies are the same. If you work in a war zone or like to skydive, insurers are likely to charge you higher than normal rates.

Can You Get Joint Life Insurance If You Are Not Married?

The answer is YES.

You don’t have to be married to buy joint life insurance. Couples can purchase a joint life policy to ensure the surviving partner will be provided for after the death of one partner. Likewise, business partners can opt for a joint life policy to help the surviving business partner cover business expenses.

Why Would You Want Joint Life Insurance?

Joint life insurance offers many advantages. First of all, it is less expensive to cover two lives than it is to ensure both individuals separately. This, in turn, makes it a great option for young couples looking to save money on life insurance premiums.

Secondly, the policy pays out regardless of which partner passes away first. If one of you is a homemaker, the surviving partner will receive a death benefit if that partner is first to die. This can be critical because the financial impact of the homemaker is far too often underestimated.

Thirdly, you will only need one policy, meaning there will be less paperwork than if you were to purchase two individual policies.

What Would Be The Best Life Insurance Policy For Couples?

Happy Family Spending Good Time, as they pick a between a single vs. Joint Life Insurance.

Some think only the primary breadwinner needs life insurance. In the event they pass away, the proceeds from their policy help to keep the dependents afloat.

However, this line of thinking ignores the financial impact that the death of a caregiver has on a family. Think of all the services the non-working spouse provides for free, like caring for young children. If something happens to your at-home partner, you will have to hire someone to take care of these duties. That will mean extra expenditure.

This is where joint life insurance comes in. It pays out regardless of which partner passes away first.

These days, many households have two incomes. If you are considering a policy for yourself and your spouse, you have two options. You can buy either two separate life insurance policies or a joint life policy. The latter may prove a better option since it’s the cheaper of the two.


Joint life insurance is a unique life insurance product meant for specific situations. If a couple wants to buy coverage to replace each other’s income if they die prematurely, joint life insurance might make sense. That’s because usually, it is cheaper than two separate policies. Joint life insurance may also be worth considering if you and your partner want to leave a legacy for your heirs.

Do you feel that you need a bit more guidance? Feel free to check out our Check My Price button and a representative from Dundas Life will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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