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Last updated on Jan 28, 2020

The Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

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How We Found the Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

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49 companies evaluated

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27 GUL policies compared

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5 top picks

The Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

The best life insurance for seniors over age 60, according to experts, is guaranteed universal life insurance (GUL) — especially for those buying life insurance for the first time. GUL maximizes value by pairing the permanent coverage of whole life insurance with the lower cost of term. It also has flexible coverage levels and payment plans to fit seniors’ particular financial planning needs.

“Some seniors use life insurance to cover final expenses and others use it to provide excess assets for beneficiary to inherit. The downside to life insurance is the expenses you pay while you are alive. The upside about life insurance is that the expenses you pay while you are alive provide exponential benefits to your heirs when you are gone.”


Ali Hashemian President of Kinetic Financial

With this in mind, we scoured the internet to find the five best GUL insurance companies for seniors based on their financial strength, policy options, and senior-friendly benefits. We evaluated almost 50 companies and compared over 20 different GUL policies offered. Once we had all of this information, we trimmed the list down to our five top picks. Read on to find out what makes each provider unique, or start here for more information about our vetting process.

The 5 Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

    The Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors: Summed Up

    New York Life Mutual of Omaha American National Banner Life Lincoln Financial
    Our review
    Best for
    Flexible policies Customer service Range of coverage Flexible payment plans Large death benefits
    A.M. Best financial strength rating
    A++ A+ A A+ A+**
    S&P Global financial strength rating
    AA+ AA- A AA- AA-**
    Moody’s financial strength rating
    Aaa A1 N/A A2* A1**
    J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Life Insurance Study score
    4/5 4/5 N/A N/A 3/5
    Coverage starts at
    $25,000 $50,000 $25,000 $50,000 $100,000
    Compare rates Compare rates Compare rates Compare rates Compare rates

    *Rating of Legal & General, parent company of Banner Life.
    **Rating of The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, parent company of Lincoln Financial.

    Most Flexible Policies: New York Life Insurance


    Most Flexible Policies
    New York Life
    New York Life


    Pros

    Flexible death benefits
    Generous no-exam insurance
    Living Benefits Rider
    Partnership with the AARP

    Cons

    Basic website

    Why we chose it

    Flexible death benefits

    New York Life offers some of the lowest death benefits for a GUL policy, starting at $25,000. We appreciate the affordable entry point. By offering such small policies, New York Life makes its insurance accessible to people with limited death benefit needs and to shoppers on a budget.

    That said, the company also accommodates those looking for a larger policy. Its death benefits cap out at “company retention limits” — which, according to the most recent information, are in the tens of millions. For most people, that means the sky’s the limit.

    Generous no-exam insurance

    New York Life is among the few companies that sell guaranteed universal life insurance through age 85 without a medical exam. For seniors with preexisting health issues, this may mean the difference between being allowed or denied coverage. Keep in mind that insurance is often cheaper if you do go through full underwriting (i.e., submit to a medical exam) — but for those in poor health, the price difference may be negligible.

    Living Benefits Rider

    Although it doesn’t expressly offer an Accelerated Death Benefit, New York Life does carry a “Living Benefits Rider” that fulfills the same purpose. With this add-on, policyholders can access up to $250,000 of the death benefit during their lifetime. That money can be put toward medical bills associated with a terminal illness, thus alleviating a big financial burden on the policyholder and/or their family.

    Partnership with the AARP

    Along with offering its own GUL policies, New York Life partners with the AARP to provide affordable group life insurance for retired persons. Those looking for a small to midsize death benefit can opt for up to $100,000 in coverage and have the advantage of working with an organization they are familiar and comfortable with.

    As a bonus, the NYLAARP site includes a great learning center that walks through insurance basics and comparisons. It’s a good place to start for life insurance first-timers. Looking for more information? Association members can apply online or call a representative to talk about options and pricing.

    Points to consider

    Basic website

    That said, we felt that New York Life’s primary website makes shopping around more difficult than with other companies. While it explains New York Life’s basic offerings, it does not include any exact coverage amounts. This is a way to get you to pick up the phone and speak with an agent. While speaking with a company rep will always get you more specific policy information, we would have appreciated a more detailed website to make it easier to shop around.

    Best Customer Service: Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance


    Best Customer Service
    Mutual of Omaha
    Mutual of Omaha


    Pros

    Highly rated customer service
    Easy policy management
    Lenient medical exam requirements

    Cons

    Not the most affordable option
    Limited policy information online

    Why we chose it

    Highly rated customer service

    Mutual of Omaha earned four out of five stars for customer service in J.D. Power’s 2018 Life Insurance Study. That’s considered “better than most”: a score shared with New York Life (and none of our other top picks).

    Why do customers like working with Mutual of Omaha? Most likely it’s the company’s thoughtful touches. For instance, its website lists agents in your area with profiles and individual phone numbers, so you can contact someone you’re comfortable talking to. It also has an intuitive “determine your need” calculator that helps customers understand how their death benefit requirement should be calculated.

    Easy policy management

    Mutual of Omaha doesn’t just shine for customer service. It did well with pollers across the board, scoring highly for price and customer interactions with providers. Mutual of Omaha took fifth place out of 23 award-winning companies in J.D. Power’s survey, outranking all of our other top picks that were included. Thanks to these scores, we’re confident in the company’s smooth sign-up process, easy policy management, and helpful resources.

    Lenient medical exam requirements

    Like New York Life, Mutual of Omaha issues GUL policies through age 85 — but it takes a slightly different approach to medical exams. With this company, you won’t be required to take an exam for any policy that has a death benefit under $250,000. That means guaranteed coverage for death benefits that will suit most people’s needs.

    Points to consider

    Not the most affordable option

    Mutual of Omaha requires a higher death benefit than some of our other top picks, starting at $50,000 for a Guaranteed Universal Life policy instead of $25,000. That means that its policies will be a little more expensive by default (a larger death benefit always means higher premiums). This isn’t a negative thing in and of itself; those with heftier death benefit needs will find a lot to love at Mutual of Omaha. But its policies are not as accessible to shoppers on a budget or those with minimal coverage requirements.

    Limited policy information online

    Mutual of Omaha’s website is incredibly scant on policy information. It shows that the company offers guaranteed universal life, and it gives a brief overview of how GUL works — but beyond that, there aren’t any details on specific coverage options or requirements.

    Anyone buying insurance for the first time (or anyone with lots of questions) may feel left in the dark. You’ll have to call up Mutual of Omaha and spend some time on the phone to learn more. On the bright side, the company is highly rated for customer interaction, so you can expect a friendly and helpful rep on the other end.

    Best Range of Coverage: American National Life Insurance


    Best Range of Coverage
    American National
    American National


    Pros

    Affordable entry point
    Comprehensive living benefits
    Clear coverage options

    Cons

    Limited age of issue
    Less tolerant toward smokers

    Why we chose it

    Affordable entry point

    American National is one of only two top providers (along with New York Life) that offers guaranteed universal life policies starting at $25,000. Like we said before: The lower the death benefit, the lower your premiums will be. That means people who have limited needs — say, funeral costs and estate settlement — can purchase a moderate policy with American National that will help get their affairs in order without breaking the bank.

    Comprehensive living benefits

    American National’s living benefits offer a broad range of protection in case of serious illness late in life. Along with its accelerated death benefit rider, American National offers chronic illness and terminal illness riders at no cost to you — most companies charge a fee for any additional riders. These add-ons can help boost financial aid by making 50% or up to $250,000 available during the insured’s lifetime. That’s a fairly generous amount, as some companies restrict their living benefits to as little as 25% of the policy’s value.

    Points to consider

    Limited age of issue

    American National only sells guaranteed universal life insurance through age 80, which is a bit less generous than other companies. Individuals looking for coverage later in life will have more luck with New York Life or Mutual of Omaha, which write policies through age 85.

    Less tolerant toward smokers

    American National is the only one of our top picks that expressly limits insurance options for smokers. It issues Guaranteed Universal Life policies only through age 75 to those who test positive for nicotine. Tobacco-users (especially those shopping after age 75) may have more luck with one of our other top picks. We recommend starting with Banner Life, which is reputed to have fairly forgiving underwriting standards.

    Most Flexible Payment Plans: Banner Life Insurance

    Banner Life’s parent company is Legal & General, an insurer based in London, U.K. While you’ll most likely see it referred to as “Banner Life” in the U.S., the company does go by both names. If you’re looking at a policy from Legal & General, know that you’re in the same good hands.

    Why we chose it

    Short pay option

    Most GUL policies allow for some flexibility with monthly payments so long as your annual premium stays the same. Banner Life takes that convenience one step further by offering a “short pay” option. With its Life Step UL, you can choose to pay off your entire policy in either 10 or 15 years — say, while you’re still in the workforce and have a steady income. This allows you to maintain a lifetime of protection without paying for your whole life.

    Lenient underwriting

    Underwriting standards are different at every company, so no single insurer is guaranteed to have the best prices for everyone. That said, Banner Life is generally considered to have a forgiving underwriting process. Buyers who would normally be considered “high-risk” may be quoted more affordable premiums here than at other companies. Banner is especially notable for being tolerant toward individuals with preexisting conditions like diabetes and toward those with a family history of cancer.

    Useful learning center

    Banner does an especially good job covering life insurance basics for first-time customers. Its learning center walks through different scenarios (single, married, stay-at-home parent, etc.) to help people understand what their own death benefit needs might look like. It also includes a fairly comprehensive glossary that tackles most need-to-know life insurance terms. These foundational resources are a good place to start before choosing a specific policy.

    Points to consider

    Limited rider options

    Banner Life is the only provider we’ve seen that limits GUL customers to two rider options: accelerated death benefit and a partial surrender benefit that lets you withdraw a portion of the cash value if need be. While we appreciate the inclusion of ADB — often the most valuable rider on a senior’s policy — this doesn’t leave much room for customization.

    Those looking for a longer-term GUL policy may prefer a company with more robust coverage options (a waiver of premium rider that forgives payments if you become disabled, a spouse insurance rider that extends coverage to your partner, etc.). For broader coverage needs, try a provider with more options, like Lincoln Financial or New York Life.

    Sparse policy information

    While Banner does a good job explaining insurance basics, its website is light on specific policy information. For GUL, the webpage gives a brief overview of benefits and nothing more. This means customers will have a harder time comparison shopping.

    Large Death Benefits: Lincoln Financial Life Insurance


    Best for Large Death Benefits
    Lincoln Financial
    Lincoln Financial


    Pros

    Decent customer service
    Robust rider selection
    Cash value accumulation

    Cons

    Expensive entry point

    Why we chose it

    Decent customer service

    Lincoln Financial’s support systems were rated “about average” by J.D. Power respondents. This means you shouldn’t have an issue finding helpful reps to guide you through the complexities of building a good policy.

    Robust rider selection

    Accelerated death benefit is the only rider we required, as it is the most valuable add-on for seniors. That said, there are plenty of others that can help boost your coverage. Those looking for a longer-term, more robust policy will appreciate that Lincoln Financial carries child term and spouse term riders (which allow you to add family members to your policy), a guaranteed insurability rider (which lets you increase the death benefit at any time), a disability waiver of premium (which excuses payments if you become disabled), and more.

    Cash value accumulation

    Lincoln Financial’s death benefits start at $100,000, offering sizeable cash value growth potential right off the bat. A larger death benefit means larger premiums and therefore more money being deposited into your cash value account. And since cash value grows with interest, earnings will be higher with a bigger policy.

    Points to consider

    Expensive entry point

    Lincoln is only available to those looking for a bigger policy. While that $100,000 is great for cash accumulation, it’s also a much higher entry point than any of our other top picks. Of course, the higher cost means you have access to Lincoln’s excellent rider options and strong customer service. But this company won’t be a good fit for those with minimal death benefit needs or people looking for coverage on a tight budget.

    Recap: The 5 Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

    How We Chose the Best Life Insurance Companies for Seniors

    Financial stability

    An insurance company is only as good as its ability to pay out on claims. We checked each provider’s financial stability to make sure they could hold up that end of the bargain. Our top picks range from “Superior” A++ to “Excellent” A+ marks from A.M. Best, an independent agency that exclusively rates the financial health of insurers. And since the Insurance Information Institute recommends comparing two or more ratings, we also required top marks from a second major agency: either “Very strong” (usually in the range of AAA to A-) from S&P Global or “Excellent” (usually in the range of Aaa to A) from Moody’s.

    Lenient age requirements

    To ensure that policies would be available to most seniors, we looked for companies with a forgiving latest age of issue. Most will write GUL through age 85 if the insured agrees to a medical exam. However, taking an exam could potentially mean being denied coverage for seniors with serious health conditions. Keeping this in mind, we set our age-of-issue requirement at 80 years, the latest age that many providers will issue no-exam GUL.

    We also looked for a generous expiration date. Like term life insurance, GUL technically expires at a set date — it’s just that a GUL policy is expected to outlive the policyholder. Insurers generally write policies through age 90 to age 121. A policy that lasts to 95 costs less than one that lasts to 120, but since we were looking for providers who put the “guarantee” in guaranteed universal life, we required coverage offered through age 120.

    Range of policy sizes

    The best insurance policy is one that fits your death benefit needs and your budget. For seniors, those needs can vary widely. Someone setting aside funds for end-of-life and funeral expenses may be looking at a policy around $15,000, whereas someone hoping to set up an inheritance may want to channel hundreds of thousands of dollars into their life insurance. Of course, the size of your policy will determine how much you pay for it. The bigger the policy, the bigger the premiums, and vice-versa.

    Our top picks offer a range of good policy options. Death benefit requirements start as small as $25,000 with New York Life or American National, and most stretch as far as company retention limits will allow (read: millions). That means that just about anyone will be able to find a fitting death benefit for their needs — and one they’ll be comfortable paying for.

    Guaranteed level premiums

    We only considered providers that offer GUL insurance with guaranteed level premiums, meaning prices will remain the same throughout the life of your policy. This is an important safeguard, as some companies offer competitive pricing upfront, only to hike your rates up year after year. All of our top picks guarantee that the premium you pay in year one is the premium you’ll pay for life — no surprises.

    Generous living benefits

    For seniors at risk of health complications, “living benefit” riders are a crucial life insurance add-on. These can pay for treatments, medical care, and assisted living: costs that would normally be a heavy burden on the insured or their family. We made sure that all of our top picks offer an accelerated death benefit rider, which tends to be the most generous living benefit.

    Keep in mind that these payments usually come out of the death benefit and deplete the amount that your beneficiaries will ultimately receive. Still — a smaller death benefit is likely preferable to large medical debts incurred during the insured’s life.

    Guide to Life Insurance for Seniors

    How to find the right life insurance for you

    Understand the difference between whole life insurance and term life insurance

    Whether you’re looking for the best rates for whole or term life insurance, it helps to understand some of the major differences between the two.

    Whole Life Insurance

    • Provides death benefits and cash value accumulation that increases during life of policy
    • Covers you for life
    • Can usually be purchased after a health exam
    • Can be purchased without a medical exam at a higher cost
    • Can be borrowed or withdrawn from

    Term Life Insurance

    • Only provides death benefits
    • Only pays benefits if you die while term of policy is in effect
    • Is in effect for a specific time period or term
    • Must be renewed if you want continued coverage
    • Is comparatively more affordable

    Consider whether GUL is right for you

    Remember: GUL isn’t best for everyone. Different goals and financial situations may make term or whole life insurance the more practical option. For example:

    • If you’re under 70 and if providing an inheritance is less important than covering outstanding debts and mortgages, a cheaper term policy might the most sense.
    • If you’re looking at life insurance as an investment that will accrue cash value — and you can keep up with the very hefty premiums — whole life may be the right choice.

    Anyone on the fence should consider speaking with a licensed independent agent or financial planner. These professionals can help walk you through your options and choose the policy that provides the most value for you.

    Ask about important riders

    rider allow you to tailor life insurance to fit your individual needs. “For seniors, especially,” says Gordon Conwell of AmericanTerm.com, “life insurance policies with chronic illness or LTC riders are a great option.” These “living benefits” help offset costs associated with illness or assisted living. When calling to request a quote, make sure to discuss rider options that could help bolster your GUL policy.

    Shop around

    Our biggest piece of advice? Don’t settle on the first provider you look at. Your individualized quotes will be different from each company — which means you will likely have to request more than one to find the best combination of price and coverage.

    All five of our top picks are solid providers; we recommend getting in touch with a few of them to see which offers the coverage you need at a premium you’re comfortable with.

    Life Insurance for Seniors FAQ

    Our Other Life Insurance Reviews

    Though GUL is often the right choice for seniors, it’s not the only kind of life insurance available. A term or whole life policy may end up being the best fit based on your individual needs. Interested in learning more? We’ve done in-depth reviews on each type of insurance to help you find the perfect policy:

    If you need a little help navigating the term-whole-universal landscape, start with the life insurance shopping guides below. These run through each type of insurance by scenario to help you understand which one best aligns with your needs.

    About the Authors

    Maggie Overholt

    Maggie Overholt Contributor

    Maggie is a former lead insurance editor at Reviews.com. She's written more than 70 insurance articles covering homeowners, auto, life, motorcycle, travel, and more.