The 5 best life insurance companies for seniors

  • New York Life — Best for Flexible Policies
  • Mutual of Omaha — Best Customer Service
  • American National — Best for "High-Risk" Policies
  • Banner Life — Best for Flexible Payment Plans
  • Lincoln Financial Group — Best for Large Death Benefits

New York Life: Best for Flexible Policies

Pros
Cons
  • Flexible death benefits
  • Generous no-exam insurance
  • Living Benefits Rider
  • Partnership with the AARP
  • Average customer support
  • Basic FAQ

Why we chose it

Flexible death benefits

New York Life offers the lowest death benefit 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 million of dollars. For most people, that means the sky's the limit.

Generous no-exam insurance

New York Life is among the few companies that sells guaranteed universal life insurance through age 85 without a medical exam. For seniors that have pre-existing health issues, this is incredibly important. It 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

Aside from 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 $50,000 in coverage and have the advantage of working with an organization they are familiar and comfortable with. As a bonus, its site includes a great learning center that walks through insurance basics and type comparisons. It’s a good place to start for life insurance first-timers. Looking for more information? Association members can apply online or phone a representative to talk about options and pricing.

Points to consider

Average customer support

In J.D. Power’s most recent Life Insurance Study, New York Life policyholders only give the company three out of five stars for customer service. That’s considered “About average,” and we can see why. When we called New York Life to request policy information, we were quickly transferred off the line and left waiting on hold. The company didn’t make it easy to get answers for specific questions about policies and pricing. If ample, personalized help is high-priority on your list, you may be better off with a provider like Mutual of Omaha or Lincoln Financial, which scored higher for service.

Basic FAQ

We also found New York Life’s FAQ to be less helpful than that of other companies. The list of life insurance questions is brief, and many answers simply point you towards a sales rep. That includes basic, extremely common queries like “How much life insurance do I need?” and “How do I get a quote for life insurance?” New York Life’s answer to those questions? “Click here to speak to an agent.” Those looking to comparison shop online won’t have much luck with New York Life. Expect to set aside some quality phone time if you’re interested in one of their policies.

Mutual of Omaha: Best Customer Service

Pros
Cons
  • Highly rated customer service
  • Easy policy management
  • Lenient medical exam requirements
  • 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 ("Better than most") for customer service in J.D. Power’s 2017 Life Insurance Study. That’s a score that none of our other picks could match. 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 to help 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 J.D. Power pollers across the board. The survey, which tallied more than 6,000 life insurance customers, also measures satisfaction with policy offerings, price, statements, and billing processes. Mutual of Omaha was rated 789/1,000 overall; it took eighth place out of 24 companies and outranks all of our other top picks that were included. Thanks to these scores, we’re confident that it’s a safe bet for a smooth signup process, easy policy management, and helpful customer 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 most 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 Northwestern Mutual. 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 states 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. Those who are buying insurance for the first time or have 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.

American National: Best Range of Coverage

Pros
Cons
  • Affordable entry point
  • Comprehensive living benefits
  • Clear coverage options
  • 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 is case of serious illness. 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.

Clear coverage options

American National is upfront with information about its coverage options and requirements. Its site states in clear terms who can get coverage, what size death benefits are available, and what riders are included with each type of policy. Other companies, like New York Life and Mutual of Omaha, are more sparing with information, prompting you to contact an agent if you’d like to learn more. While that’s not inherently a bad thing — agents will be able to walk you through benefits and answer questions — we appreciate that American National makes it easy to comparison shop and understand your options right off the bat.

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, who 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 only issues Guaranteed Universal Life policies 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.

Banner Life: Best for Flexible Payment Plans

Pros
Cons
  • Short pay option
  • Lenient underwriting
  • Useful learning center
  • Limited rider options
  • Sparse policy information

Why we chose it

Legal & GeneralBanner Life’s parent company is Legal & General, an insurer based in London, UK. While you’ll most likely see it referred to as “Banner Life” in the US, 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.

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 fairly forgiving underwriting process. This means that buyers who would normally be considered “high-risk” may be quoted more affordable premiums with Banner than with other providers. It’s especially notable for being tolerant toward individuals with preexisting conditions like diabetes and toward those with a family history of cancer.

Useful learning center

Navigating the life insurance world is often difficult, so we appreciate any company that goes out of its way to provide helpful resources for customers. 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, plus 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 or more robust coverage may prefer a company that offers a wider selection (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. For more information, you’ll have to call Banner and speak with an agent, which often puts on pressure to make a purchase. We prefer when providers (like American National) are upfront with their policy information online, allowing customers the breathing room to compare options for themselves.

Lincoln Financial Group: Best for Large Death Benefits

Pros
Cons
  • Strong customer service
  • Robust rider selection
  • Cash value accumulation
  • Expensive entry point
  • No life insurance calculator

Why we chose it

Strong customer service

Lincoln Financial is the only company on our list that tied with Mutual of Omaha for customer service ratings, scoring four out of five stars in J.D. Power’s 2017 survey. That means its support systems are “Better than most.” This is important for a few reasons. First, because life insurance is a complex product and helpful reps are key to building a good policy. Second, because policies are only needed during a difficult time — and your provider should ease that process by being responsive and easy to work with.

Robust rider selection

An Accelerated Death Benefit rider is the only option we required for GUL providers, as it will be the most valuable add-on for seniors. That said, there are plenty of riders can bolster your coverage. Those looking for a longer-term, more robust policy will appreciate Lincoln Financial’s coverage roster. Beyond ADB, it carries Child Term and Spouse Term riders that allow you to add family members to your policy, a Guaranteed Insurability rider that lets you increase the death benefit at any time, a Disability Waiver of Premium that excuses payments if you become disabled, and more.

Cash value accumulation

One of the benefits of a permanent life insurance policy is the ability to build cash value. If you’re looking to put away some savings with your guaranteed universal life insurance, you should begin with a decently sized policy. Lincoln Financial’s death benefits start at $100,000 — offering sizeable 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.

No life insurance calculator

Lincoln Financial is our only top pick that doesn’t offer an online life insurance calculator — a useful tool for choosing the right size death benefit. Without it, you’ll have to speak to an agent directly about your death benefit needs. While a professional can help walk you through options, it often puts on unneeded pressure to buy a policy.

Guide to life insurance for seniors

How to choose a life insurance company

Consider whether GUL is right for you

GUL is a great option for most seniors, as it offers a guaranteed death benefit payout at an affordable price. That said, it’s not the only option. Term insurance is even more affordable than GUL, although it expires after a set timeframe and does not guarantee a death benefit payout. On the other end of the spectrum is whole life insurance, which lasts a lifetime and accrues greater cash value than GUL but is much more expensive.

Compare life insurance types

If you’re still wondering about the best type of life insurance for you, take a look at the more in-depth comparison in our review of the Best Life Insurance. Below, we’ve recapped the major pros and cons of each type.

Guaranteed Universal Life
Term Life
Whole Life
Monthly premiums
Mid-range
Cheapest
Most expensive
Cash value
Typically small
N/A
Typically large
Guaranteed death benefit payout
X
Flexible premium payments
X
X

Ask about important riders

Riders 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 who offers the coverage you need at a premium you’re comfortable with.

Life insurance FAQs

Do I need life insurance?

Life insurance is a sound financial decision for seniors. Instead of stashing away thousands in savings, you can pay a small premium each month for a GUL policy and be guaranteed a death benefit payout. It’s an affordable way to ensure that funeral costs and estate planning will be taken care of.

How much life insurance should I buy?

Seniors may only need insurance for end-of-life expenses, but determining the right amount can still be complex. Funeral costs, estate management, debts, inheritance, and other outstanding obligations need to be considered. Joel Ohman, Certified Financial Planner, recommends using a life insurance calculator for an accurate estimate. We’d suggest starting with Mutual of Omaha’s; it’s one of the best we’ve tested.

How much does life insurance cost?

Your premium is based on an evaluation of your individual “risk factors”: age, occupation, health, family history, and so on. Each company rates these factors a little differently — for instance, one may be more “smoker-friendly” than another — so you won’t know who offers you the best rates until you compare quotes. That’s why we recommend getting estimates from more than one provider before selecting a policy.

Do I need to take a medical exam to get life insurance?

Taking a medical exam usually means cheaper coverage. As Jason Fisher of BestLifeRates.org says, “A little extra work on the front end can save you hundreds (or thousands) over the life of the policy." Without health information, providers can’t evaluate potential losses, and therefore charge higher premiums. No-exam insurance is only the best option for individuals with serious health issues, who may be denied coverage otherwise.

The best life insurance for seniors: Summed up

New York Life
Mutual of Omaha
American National
Banner Life
Lincoln Financial Group
Best for Flexible Policies
Best Customer Service
Best Range of Coverage
Best for Flexible Payment Plans
Best for Large Death Benefits
A.M. Best Financial Strength Score
A++
A+
A
A+
A+
J.D. Power Overall Customer Satisfaction Score
782/1000
798/1000
N/A
N/A
781/1000
Coverage Starts At
$25,000
$50,000
$25,000
$50,000
$100,000
Guaranteed Level Premiums
Cash Value Potential
Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
No-Exam GUL Through Age 85
X
X
X

Our Other Life Insurance Reviews