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*Based on £150,000 of level-term cover for 25 years for a 30-year-old non-smoking male with no pre-existing medical conditions (March 2023)

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Last updated
November 14, 2023

What is whole life insurance?

Whole life insurance, also known as whole life assurance, is a type of life cover

It pays out a lump sum to your family or nominated beneficiary whenever you die, rather than if you die within a set time frame.

How does whole of life insurance work?

When you set up your whole life insurance policy, you’ll have to choose what payout you want. Then you’ll start paying a monthly premium.

Providing you don’t miss any premium payments, the policy will pay out to your family when you die.

Whole life insurance rates are usually higher than with other types of life insurance, because the policy lasts your entire life.

Whole of life claims paid in 2022[1]
213,064

What types of whole of life insurance are there?

There are three main types of whole life insurance UK companies offer:

Non-profit whole of life insurance

This is when you pay a set premium throughout your life. Your insurer then pays out a fixed cash sum when you die.

With-profit whole of life insurance

This when you pay a set monthly premium which your insurer invests on your behalf. The payout when you die is based on how the investments perform, so you could end up with a bigger or smaller payout.

Unit-linked whole of life insurance

This is when your monthly premiums are based on the size of the payout you want. The insurer invests your premiums into the stock market. This means you might need to pay more in if the investments underperform.

How can I get the best whole life insurance?

When you start looking for whole life insurance, you’ll need to find the policy that offers you the cover you need, at the best price.

Things to consider when considering a whole of life insurance policy:

  • Amount of cover: Before you start looking at whole life insurance, think about how big you want the payout to be. For whole of life insurance, UK companies will mostly let you choose any amount but the higher the payout, the more expensive the monthly payments.

  • Your age: You’ll also need to think about how your age could affect the price of your monthly payments. The older you are, the more expensive your whole life insurance will be.

Once you’ve thought about these points, you can do a life insurance comparison and get the best quotes for whole of life insurance.

Should I get whole life insurance?

You might decide you only need life insurance for a set amount of time. For example, you might want it while you’re still paying off your mortgage

If that’s the case, then whole life assurance probably isn’t a cost-effective option for you because it’s a permanent life insurance.

You could think about getting term life insurance instead.

Pros and cons

Pros

Help your family out with a lump sum of money when you die.
It could also help cover the cost of any inheritance tax they’d be charged on your assets.
This insurance covers you for your entire life, as long as you continue to pay any premiums on time.

Cons

The amount you pay in premiums could be more than what your policy pays out when you die.
Your family won’t get a payout if your cause of death isn’t covered in your policy.
There can be expensive premiums, and it can be more costly than other life insurance options.

How much whole life insurance cover do I need?

The amount of cover you’ll need from your whole life insurance might change as you go through life. If you pay off your mortgage, for example, your family might not need as much.

Or, if you start having children, you might decide to get whole of life insurance that offers more cover.

Insurers usually let you review your whole life policy after a set amount of time, such as 10 years, or if your circumstances change. For example, if you move home, have kids or get married. You should talk to the life insurance companies about this option when you set up your whole life policy.

Even if you don’t want to change how much cover you have, you might find that your premiums still go up, due to your changing age and health.

How much does whole life insurance cost?

The price varies depending on your age, medical history, and how much cover you want. Here are some ideas on how to cut the cost of life insurance.

You could consider getting a joint whole life insurance policy as it’s usually cheaper. You don’t have to be married or in a civil partnership to take one out, unmarried couples and even business partners can buy a joint life policy. But remember that these only pay out once – after the first person on the policy dies. A joint policy is usually cheaper than two individual policies.

You’ll probably find it harder to get accepted if you have a poor medical history. Health issues can also make whole life insurance more expensive. 

You should get as many whole life insurance quotes as possible, until you get accepted for the cover you want for a reasonable price.

Does whole of life insurance always pay out?

Yes, in almost all cases. The only reasons your whole life insurance might not pay out would be if you lied when you set up your policy, or your cause of death wasn’t covered. 

For example, if you don’t tell your insurer about your pre-existing medical conditions or your family’s medical history, you might not get a payout.

It’s important to check which causes of death are covered by your policy before you apply. 

Different life insurance companies and policies have different exclusions that mean you won’t get a payout. The exclusions might include death linked to alcohol or drug abuse.

Percentage new whole of life claims paid in 2022[1]
99.99%

FAQs

Is whole of life insurance guaranteed to pay out?

Yes, whole of life insurance should pay out - unless you lied on your application, your cause of death is not covered by the policy or you miss your monthly payments. 

How life insurance works

Can I get a joint whole of life insurance policy?

Yes, you can get a joint whole of life insurance policy but it only pays out once, after the first person on the policy dies. A joint policy is usually cheaper than two individual policies.

Can I still get whole of life insurance if I have poor health?

Yes, you can get whole of life insurance if you have poor health, but you may find it harder to get cover and it can be more expensive. Get as many quotes as you can until you are accepted for the cover you want.

Explore our life insurance guides

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Which life insurance policy is right for you?
Which life insurance policy is right for you?
How to claim on a life insurance policy
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What is a whole of life insurance policy?
What is a whole of life insurance policy?

About the author

James Andrews
James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments

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References

1. Association of British Insurers: See table: Breakdown of combined individual and group data Protection insurers pay out £6.85 billion to support individuals and families