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Life insurance

Compare life insurance quotes from a range of providers to find a policy that can help your loved ones by providing a lump sum payment when you die.

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What is life insurance?

Life insurance helps to protect your beneficiaries – the loved ones you choose to name on the policy – by paying out a lump sum if you pass away during the policy's term.

In general, life insurance only covers you in case of death. You need a different type of income protection – such as critical illness cover – if you want to be protected financially if you become ill or disabled.

There are three main types of life insurance:

  • Level-term life insurance: Where your insurer pays a lump sum, agreed when you take out the cover, if you die during the policy's term.

  • Whole-of-life insurance: This covers you for your entire life, with the insurer putting your premiums in a fund until a claim is made. The insurer may increase the premium if the invested fund underperforms, but the amount of cover it pays out remains unchanged.

  • Mortgage-protection insurance: Also known as decreasing-term insurance, this pays out the outstanding balance on your mortgage at your time of death. If you have mortgage-protection insurance, it's important to review it if you move home or increase your mortgage for any reason.

Man Working with Computer Life Insurance

Do you need life insurance?

Family

There's no rule that says you have to have life insurance, but if you have financial commitments that your family would struggle to meet if you died, you may wish to consider it.

Payouts from life insurance companies can help clear the mortgage or pay school or university fees for example. Or it could be used to repay outstanding debts, cover recurring expenses or compensate for your lost income.

It's not just the principal wage earner who needs life insurance, however. If you have young children, losing one half of a couple invariably means higher childcare costs for the remaining parent or a lost source of income. A suitable policy can help remedy this.

Life insurance is less critical for people who have no financial dependents – there's not much point in covering the remaining cost of your mortgage if there's no one else living at the property who is reliant on your income, for example.

Which type of cover is the best life insurance?

There are a few distinct types of life insurance, which offer different levels of cover to suit your needs and circumstances. It's worth checking them all to see which is right for you:

Critical illness life cover

This covers you if you become seriously ill or are diagnosed with a severe medical condition (one that stops you from working but isn't terminal) during the policy’s term. In most cases, critical illness cover pays out a fixed lump sum. It can be added as an extra to another life insurance policy.

Whole-of-life cover

This covers you for your entire life. You pay a premium each month and it pays out a fixed lump sum when you pass away. With whole-of-life insurance, your premiums might increase but the amount of cover you receive will remain the same.

Over-60s life insurance

This cover is designed for people between 50 and 80 years old and can be obtained without handing over any medical details. You pay fixed premiums until you’re 85 or 90, depending on the provider, after which time the premiums end, although you’re still covered until you die.

Level-term life insurance

This is the simplest life insurance, though not necessarily the cheapest. When you take out the policy, you choose the amount of money you want your beneficiaries to receive and how long the cover will last. It pays out a fixed sum, regardless of when a claim is made, as long as it’s within the term of the policy.

Joint-life insurance

In general, this type of policy covers two people, usually a couple, but only pays out once. The payment is usually in the form of a lump sum and tends to be paid to the surviving individual. The survivor usually has to take out a new life insurance policy, if they want their beneficiaries to receive something after they die.

Decreasing-term life insurance

With this type of insurance, the amount of cover decreases over time, although premiums stay the same. It’s usually cheaper than level-term insurance and works well to cover debts, like mortgages, which reduce over time.

How to choose the best life insurance for your needs

The best life insurance is not the same as the cheapest life insurance; the best life insurance is the one that suits your circumstances. Not all policies are the same, so it's worth thinking about the type of cover you need from the outset.

You can start by looking at your debts as well as your family’s needs and lifestyle. This will help you work out how much life cover is required and how long it needs to be in place. Once you’ve decided what it is you need to buy, you can compare life insurance quotes to get the best deal.

How much life insurance cover do you need?

The amount of cover – also known as the sum insured – should be sufficient to pay the remaining balance on your mortgage plus provide a little extra to make it easier for your family to cover some of their other expenses after you’re gone.

Think carefully about how the situation might change if you weren’t around. For example, if you work part-time so you can look after your children, what would your partner do if you weren’t around anymore? They might need to pay for childcare, or they might need to work less. Either way, it would affect their financial situation.

How long should life insurance cover last?

The life insurance policy's term should last at least as long as your mortgage so that it can pay off the remaining balance.

How much does life insurance cost?

Life insurance costs between £5 and £100 per month depending on the type of cover you want and your personal situation.

The cost of life insurance is affected by your:

  • age

  • medical history

  • height and weight

  • smoking status

  • alcohol consumption

  • salary

  • policy duration

  • sum insured

Life insurance

What do the best life insurance companies cover?

Most of the time, you’ll be covered if you die or are diagnosed with a terminal illness (with a life expectancy of less than 12 months) during the policy’s term.

For example, life insurance polices have been paying out £553,000 a day to Coronavirus victims since the start of the pandemic, according to the Association of British Insurers¹, with one policy delivering £250,00 the day after the insurer was notified of the death.

Even with the best life insurance companies, you usually won’t be covered if you die due to suicide, serious self-injury, a drug overdose or a reckless act. Your cause of death must be covered by the policy if your family is to get a payout.

You also won’t be covered if your payments aren’t up to date. You should read your policy booklet carefully so you understand the terms of conditions of your particular policy.

What kind of payout do you need?

Your policy payout will come in one of two types, depending on the policy you choose:

1. Lump sum

If you choose a lump sum payout, your loved ones will get the entire amount in one go.

2. Income

If you die early on in your policy’s term, an income will pay out for the remaining years on the term.

Are you eligible for life insurance?

Most people can get life insurance as long as they’re over 18 and live in the UK.

It might be harder to convince life insurance companies to cover you have health issues, or you might have to pay higher premiums. It’s a good idea to get as many quotes as you can from life insurance companies, until you get accepted.

There are also specialist options for older people, where you're more likely to be accepted if you're struggling to find life insurance with a major provider.

You need to make sure you’re as accurate as possible when you answer the questions during your application, and when you compare life insurance. If you don’t answer truthfully, you might find your policy is invalid when you come to make a claim.

Life insurance exclusions

Life insurance doesn't cover quite everything. While the exact details vary by policy, there are some common exclusions:

CoveredNot coveredPossibly covered
Accidental deathPre-agreed conditionsTerminal illness
Unexpected illness/diseaseDrug and alcohol abuseCritical illness or injury
CancerDangerous activitiesSuicide
Heart attacksUndisclosed health issues

When should you get life cover insurance?

Life cover insurance is a good thing for all adults to think about having, whatever their age - but there are key times when it's a good idea to either take it out, or review your cover.

These include:

  • Buying a house with a partner - Life insurance can offer both of you reassurance that if the worst should happen, at least the mortgage will be taken care of

  • Having children - Making sure the little ones are provided for is a key motivation for people taking out cover

  • Your children leaving home - If your cover id designed to include childcare or school and university fees, it might be time to look again when your children leave home

  • Paying off your mortgage - If your life cover is tied to your home loan, then reviewing it when you pay this off

Life insurance FAQs

Joel Kempsonquotation mark
Life is uncertain and anything can happen. We should be prepared for the worst, just in case. The best life insurance can give you peace of mind, because it will give your loved ones a payout if you die during the policy’s term.  But don't go just go for the cheapest option – find the best cover for your circumstances and your family's needs.
Joel Kempson, Life Insurance Expert

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Why compare Life insurance with money.co.uk?

By comparing life insurance, you could save money on the policy. The best value life insurance will offer the cover to you and your family. Choose a life cover plan from one of the best UK life insurance companies and see the online discounts they offer.

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¹A total of £202 million – the equivalent of £553,000 a day - was paid to support the families of people who died due to COVID-19 in 2020 according to figures from the ABI.

Last updated: 8 July 2022