The Best Life Insurance for Seniors

Experts generally agree that guaranteed universal life insurance (GUL) is the best option for seniors over age 60 — especially 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.

We found the five best GUL insurance companies for seniors based on their financial strength, policy options, and senior-friendly benefits. 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

Best Life Insurance for 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 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 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

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, 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 FAQ

We found New York Life’s FAQ to be less helpful than those of other companies. The list of life insurance questions is brief, and many answers simply point you toward 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?” 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 its policies.

Best Life Insurance for 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 24 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 Life Insurance for 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.

Clear coverage options

American National is upfront with information about its coverage options and requirements. Its site clearly states 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, 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.

Best Life Insurance for Flexible Payment Plans: Banner Life Insurance


Most Flexible Payment Plans
Banner Life

Banner Life

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

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.

Best Life Insurance for 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
No life insurance calculator

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.

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.

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 have “Superior” 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” from S&P Global or “Excellent” 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 Senior Citizens

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
  • You can usually qualify with a health exam
  • Can be purchased without a medical exam at a higher cost
  • You can borrow or withdraw from the policy

Term Life Insurance

  • Only provides death benefits
  • Only pays benefits if you die while term of policy is in effect
  • In effect for a specific time period or term
  • Term must be renewed if you want continued coverage
  • 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

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

Seniors Life Insurance FAQ

Can you be too old for life insurance?

Even if you’re in your 70s or older, life insurance is still an option. Different companies have different maximum age cut-offs, with some life insurance companies insuring people up to age 85 or 90. Even with previous health concerns, people over the age of 70 may still be eligible. All of our top picks offer life insurance to seniors up to age 80, with some (like New York Life) offering an even more generous age of issue.

Can seniors get life insurance without a medical exam?

With the best senior life insurance companies, seniors can get no-exam life insurance through age 80 or above. However, experts generally don’t recommend no-exam life insurance for seniors. The reason? Taking a medical exam generally means cheaper coverage. Without health information, providers can’t evaluate potential losses and thus charge higher premiums. No-exam insurance is the best option only for individuals with serious health issues who may be denied coverage otherwise.

Do seniors 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.

What’s the best life insurance for seniors?

Most seniors will be best served by a Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) policy. GUL is generally the best value for senior citizens: It combines the permanent coverage of whole life insurance with the lower cost of term. Plus, payments are flexible, meaning that if you miss a payment or need to consolidate a few months’ premiums, the policy won’t lapse.

What’s the most affordable life insurance for seniors?

Finding the most affordable life insurance provider is difficult because your budget for insurance is very personal (as is your definition of affordable). In order to find a life insurance provider that won’t break the bank, we recommend getting as many quotes as you can from several providers before making a decision. Here are a few places to start looking:

  • For the most affordable life insurance for seniors: Banner Life and New York Life
  • For the best term life insurance rates for seniors: TIAA Life

How much does senior life insurance cost?

Senior life insurance premiums are based on an evaluation of your individual “risk factors”: age, health, family history, and so on. Each company rates these factors a little differently — for instance, one may be more forgiving of preexisting conditions than another — so you won’t know which can offer you the best rates until you compare quotes. That’s why we recommend getting estimates from more than one provider before selecting a policy.

How much life insurance do senior citizens need?

Seniors generally consider life insurance for end-of-life expenses, but determining the right amount can still be complex. Funeral costs, estate management, debts, inheritance, and other financial obligations need to be considered. We recommend using a life insurance calculator for an accurate estimate. Try starting with Mutual of Omaha’s; it’s one of the best we’ve tested.

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

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.

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