The Best Life Insurance for Seniors

For many, the best option may be a Guaranteed Universal Life policy

The 30-Second Review

The best life insurance for seniors — for many, anyway — will be a Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) policy: It's the most reliable and could even end up having cheaper premiums than other types of policies. To make our top picks, we consulted with senior life insurance experts and looked for providers that include a wide range of death benefit amounts, terms up to 120 years of age, and an accelerated death benefit rider. But to find the best option for you, you’ll ultimately need to compare quotes from them all. Get quotes now.

Best Overall

North American Company for Life and Health Insurance
We liked that policies start as low as $25K, and that a flexible death benefit rider means you can access funds for strokes, heart attacks, and more — not just terminal illness. However, a medical exam is required of all customers.

Best with No Medical Exam

American National
Seniors can qualify for $25K—$250K of coverage without an exam.

Best for $50,000+ Coverage

Mutual of Omaha
A solid option, but its lowest coverage amount is $50K.

Chances are, your need for life insurance at age 55 is for entirely different reasons than at age 35. Likewise, what you pick as your policy will be different — and there are a bunch of options: The best for you might be term policy, a permanent policy designed to only cover final expenses (aka “burial insurance”), or maybe a permanent policy with a larger amount to go to your beneficiaries.

We’ve already walked through what makes the best term life insurance, and burial insurance under $25,000 is a relatively straightforward product that we’ll address later. But if you want a larger benefit that will pay out no matter when you die, your best bet is very likely Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) insurance. Our favorite GUL policy comes from North American Company for Life and Health Insurance, which offers limits as low as $25,000 for individuals up to age 80, and an accelerated death benefit rider that is flexible enough to include heart attacks, strokes, and memory loss (as opposed to just terminal illnesses). But as with all insurance, shopping around to find the best policy at the best price for you is important — and you’ll need to compare quotes.

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Why We Picked GUL

“Burial insurance” doesn’t actually exist. It's just a term for any policy that’s meant only to cover funeral/burial costs. The most common form of burial insurance is “simplified issue” whole life, so called because it doesn’t require a medical exam. But GUL policies can also be as low as $25,000 — small enough to function as a cheaper alternative to these, since they offer the chance to prove your health via medical exam and thus lower your rates.

There’s no single type of life insurance that’s best for all seniors, but we chose to focus on GUL because it’s the best guaranteed value out there: It combines the permanent coverage of whole life insurance with the lower cost of term. Think of GUL as term life insurance that covers you through age 90, 95, or even 121 — the rest of your life. Another reason we like GUL policies: The premiums don’t change from year to year.

Unlike traditional whole life, GUL doesn’t accrue much cash value (if any) within the policy, limiting your ability to borrow from it during your lifetime. That might sound like a bad thing, but it also makes GUL insurance much cheaper, since you’re not also paying to fund the cash value. And while traditional whole life policies are still popular (the American Council of Life Insurers estimates that they make up 64 percent of all policies purchased in the US), that owes more to public unawareness of alternatives than to the actual quality of the product.

“Most people are unaware that there are better value alternatives to traditional whole life, such as guaranteed universal life.”

Our Picks for Best Life Insurance for Seniors

Best Overall - North American Company for Life and Health Insurance

North American Company for Life and Health Insurance may not have a flashy name, but its Custom Guarantee GUL policy checks all the important boxes and then some. It’s available in death benefit amounts as low as $25,000 — that low a level is rare — and to seniors through age 85. Its accelerated death benefit rider can also be used in response to illnesses that aren’t necessarily terminal, such as heart attacks, strokes, and memory loss. To top it off, the company has the best financial strength ratings of any of our top three picks, including an A+ from both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s.

However, it’s important to note that North American does require a medical exam to issue the policy, something many seniors won’t want to go through. It can help lower your rates if you’re fairly healthy, but can also keep you from being approved if you’re not.

Best with No Medical Exam - American National

If you’re in decent health, undergoing a medical exam during your life insurance application is a good idea, since it’s likely to help lower your premiums. But many seniors don’t want to deal with the hassle of an exam, and if you’ve had a recent setback, it could also be the reason you’re denied coverage. American National’s GUL policy is very similar to North American’s, with one key difference: Coverage amounts from $25,000–$250,000 can qualify for no medical exam underwriting (if you want more death benefit, though, the exam is a must). Skipping the medical exam doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be approved, as there’s still a health questionnaire to fill out. It will also result in higher premiums as compensation for the company effectively “taking your word for it” that you’re likely to live awhile and keep paying premiums — but at least you’ll be covered.

American National also stands out for allowing up to 100 percent of the death benefit to be “accelerated” in the case of a terminal illness (North American maxes out at 75 percent). While it’s rated practically the same as North American for financial strength (which is to say excellent), there is one drawback to American National’s Signature GUL policy: It’s only available through age 80.

Best for $50,000+ Coverage - Mutual of Omaha

If you’re looking to leave behind more than just funeral expenses, Mutual of Omaha is a great option for higher death benefit amounts. The company has exemplary financial strength and will issue its GUL policy to seniors up to age 85. Its accelerated benefit rider allows up to 80 percent of the death benefit to be accessed early, and like American National, Mutual of Omaha also grants the option to bypass a medical exam for death benefits up to $250,000.

Did You Know?

Buying sooner is cheaper and safer.

No matter what, the older you get, the more expensive life insurance is. If you know you want it, don’t wait — and rest assured that your dependents are protected.

GUL’s dependability sets it apart from other types of universal life insurance.

Universal life is a type of permanent life insurance and GUL is a subtype of that. We prefer GUL because the premiums for GUL always stay the same, making it easy to budget to keep your coverage active. While other types of universal life have the potential to be cheaper than GUL, their premiums are tied to other factors like interest rates or the stock market, so they could also wind up being more expensive. With non-guaranteed universal life, a market downturn or low interest rate climate (like today’s) could result in your premiums going up without warning, and you might not be able to keep your coverage in force.

"A guaranteed level premium is particularly valuable today, because the sustained period of low interest rates has made rate hikes more likely."

Beware of low-cost life insurance offers that sound too good to be true.

Maybe you’ve seen ads on TV for life insurance starting at $1 per month and thought, “What do I have to lose?” Unfortunately, it may be more than you think. Many AARP-sponsored whole life policies raise rates every five years. If you’re still living, these can eat away at your savings to the point where you have to cancel the policy with nothing to show for it. If you get an unsolicited policy brochure in the mail, or request information from TV, make sure you read the fine print carefully to see how much the policy will cost over your projected lifetime, not just the first few years.

“Simplified issue” and “guaranteed issue” policies have extra built-in costs.

Insurance companies often market products as “guaranteed issue” or “simplified issue” because they don’t require a medical exam. No one loves getting poked and prodded, but there’s a trade-off in the form of higher premiums, since the company is taking on more risk given less information about your health. If you’re fairly healthy and don’t mind undergoing an exam (which can usually be conducted in your home), it will save you significantly on premiums.

Death benefits under $25,000 are typically “simplified issue” only.

If you simply want so-called “burial insurance,” you’re probably looking at death benefits of under $25,000. But you may not know that under this threshold, most companies only offer “simplified issue” policies (which, because of those built-in extra costs, are more expensive per dollar of coverage). While the median price of a funeral in the US today is about $7,200, it can often run significantly higher. Be sure to shop around and compare GUL policies of $25,000 or more that will let you take a medical exam and potentially lower your rates.

"If you're in reasonable health, a GUL policy of $25,000–$50,000 can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional burial insurance."

If you’re under age 70, term might still be your best option.

We’ve dedicated this review to permanent insurance, but if you haven’t retired yet and still have a temporary need for coverage, term could be your best bet. There are a few extra factors to consider when buying term insurance as a senior. First, if you’re 70 or older, term lengths longer than 15 years generally aren’t available. Also, all life insurance gets more expensive the older you get, so if you’re older than 70, it’s worth comparing the cost of a GUL policy too — you might be surprised how close it is to term. In general though, the same rules apply for seniors buying term as for new parents: Look for highly rated, flexible coverage with level premiums, and shop around for the best price.

The Bottom Line

Everyone has different goals, health, and financial resources, so it’s rare that a single policy will make perfect sense for even two friends of the same age, let alone everyone else. To find the best coverage for you at the cheapest price, you’ll need to shop around and compare quotes. Overwhelmed? An experienced advisor will not only understand the marketplace, but can also point you to the companies that have the most competitive rates for your specific health concerns. The Society of Financial Service Professionals can help you find a broker you can trust.

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