If you are considering end of life insurance, then give yourself a pat on the back. You are thinking ahead … and beyond. For most of us, retirement planning involves figuring out how to make our money last as long as possible.
Some folks sadly don’t necessarily consider how much money will be needed to wrap up our affairs after we’re gone and the money pit they could leave behind for their family.
So you are ahead of the game, but whether or not to buy funeral insurance and which policy to buy is not always simple decision. That’s because, like most insurance, end of life or funeral insurance has a language of its own. To make this easier, we’ve completed a lot of legwork for you. Here is a recommended process, step-by-step, to aid you in making a comfortable decision.
Now, some folks just call it funeral insurance but it’s also commonly referred to as burial insurance or final expense insurance as well. There are some subtle subjective differences but for ease of illustration and some simplicity, these products are all insurance for end of life expenses.
- Which type of policy to purchase? Temporary or Permanent?
- Can you afford the policy amount you want?
- Where should you buy the final expense policy?
- How to get started shopping for funeral insurance?
- Do I actually need funeral insurance?
How To Buy End of Life Insurance
- Estimate Your Final Expenses.
- Determine If You Will Leave Behind Enough Money.
- Decide If You Need Funeral Insurance.
- Decide on the Type of Insurance You Want.
- Get a Funeral Insurance Quote.
- Decide If You Can Afford The Coverage You Want.
- Choose a Funeral Insurance Provider.
Step 1: Estimate Your Final Expenses
Your first step is to figure out how much you’ll need to cover your end-of-life expenses. The cost of your funeral is the first thing that comes to mind and it’s often the largest single cost. But there are other “final expenses” to consider – remaining medical bills, legal costs, living expenses, and credit card bills, to name a few. Visit our Funeral Costs page for a complete explanation of these final expenses. This page also has 2 handy tools that can help you determine how much your final expenses might be.
Step 2: Determine If You Will Leave Behind Enough Money to Cover Final Expenses
The key question is will there be enough money in your estate to cover your final expenses? You may need the help of a financial advisor to figure this out. A secondary question is–will your survivors have immediate access to the funds in your estate to pay your bills? Your money could be tied up in probate and that could be a problem since funeral providers (and cemeteries) expect payment at the time of the funeral. It’s likely there will be other bills that come due upon your death. Who is going to pay them if your money is not readily available? See our article on what to do after the funeral for helpful tips.
Step 3: Decide If You Actually Need Insurance For End Of Life Expenses
If you believe you will probably not have money at the end of your life to comfortably cover any final expenses then a Final Expense insurance policy might make a lot of sense for you. Remember, even if you expect you will have enough money left over from funeral and burial expenses, you may not want your estate to be depleted by your final expense costs. Having a final expense policy in place is one way to ensure that your entire estate will be available to your family or that the full costs that burden your family otherwise are covered.
- Level premiums – premiums never increase.
- Top rated insurance company – with an A.M. Best rating of A- (Excellent) or better.
- No medical exam – although you will have to answer very basic health questions for an underwritten policy. Coverage is designed typically for people 50-85 at the date of application.
- Ideally a permanent policy – that can stay in force until the end of your life and may also offer cash value accumulation.
Step 4: Decide on the Type of End of Life Insurance You Want
There are many specialized policies available on the market today to help you cover your final expenses.
Mentioned ealier, they may be marketed as funeral insurance, burial insurance or final expense insurance. One feature these policies have in common is that the coverage is typically capped at $25,000 to $40,000, as compared to regular life insurance coverage of $50,000 or more. The lower coverage is because these policies are specifically designed to pay only enough to cover final expenses. They are not intended to provide supplemental income to your survivors like regular life insurance. Here are the key questions about funeral insurance and what you need to know:
What is the difference between Guaranteed Issue and Medically Underwritten Policies?
When choosing an insurance policy for final expenses you have two basic options: guaranteed issue or medically underwritten. Knowing the difference is important, particularly if you have concerns about your medical history.
With guaranteed issue policies, almost everyone is accepted regardless of age or medical history. In fact, you don’t even need to answer health questions to apply.
So what’s the catch?
There’s no catch really. But there is more risk being assumed by the insurance company so the cost may be higher than for other types of policies.
A guaranteed issue or “guaranteed acceptance” policy will not have full benefits during the “waiting” or “limited” benefit period. That means that the full death benefit for natural death will not be available until the policy has been in effect for some specified period of time — usually 2 or 3 years.
The time period varies by policy so be sure to look out for this important detail. Should you die before the grading period is over, your beneficiaries will only receive a limited portion of the proceeds.
With a medically underwritten policy, the insurance company “underwrites,” or evaluates, your health based on your answers to a series of questions regarding your medical history. End of Life insurance typically is offered to seniors in a no medical exam, whole life insurance policy. Larger insurance policies in excess of $25,000 are usually best served by a guaranteed, no lapse universal life policy though whole life insurance is more popular among seniors do to the ability to purchase death benefit amounts as low as $2000.
Since burial insurance limits are lower than traditional insurance, the underwriting requirements are generally less rigorous, but it is still possible for you to be declined based on health or lifestyle factors. Pre-existing conditions, smoking, or taking part in risky activities can all cause your application to be declined. However, working with an independent professional who works with all the top carriers and their products helps you find a policy that is the ideal fit for you.
So which type do you choose? Of course, that will depend on your particular situation but if you have concerns that your health may cause you to be denied for coverage, or just do not want to share any health information, then you should talk with professional about a guaranteed acceptance whole life policy.
Guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance should be the last policy to choose. It is high risk life insurance which carries limitations with it.
What is the difference between Whole Life and Term Life Insurance?
As if deciding between guaranteed issue and medically underwritten were not enough, you also need to determine if a whole life policy is best for you or if you should turn to term insurance. Both guaranteed issue and underwritten policies can be whole life or term life.
The key difference between these types of policies is that a whole life policy or guaranteed, no lapse universal life insurance are permanent policies.
A term policy premium will expire at a specified point in time. The time period may be a span of 10, 15, or 20 years, or expire when you reach a certain age, such as 75 or 80 years old.
The distinction between whole life and term life is particularly important when it comes to funeral insurance if you want to be sure that your coverage is in effect at the time of your death.
A permaent policy, while it can be somewhat more expensive than term life, will ensure that you have coverage when you need it. (For more on Whole Life versus Term click here)
Wise Shopper Tip: When shopping for funeral insurance be sure to read the fine print. For example, it’s not always clear whether the advertised policy is whole life or term life. You don’t want to be fooled into thinking that you are getting a great deal on a whole life policy only to find out later that it is really a term policy.
We always recommend permanent life insurance for end of life expenses.
What is Pre-Need Insurance?
Pre-Need Insurance is linked to a funeral goods and services contract with a specific funeral provider, such as a funeral home. The contract spells out all of your funeral arrangements in advance and you are billed at current prices.
It may be possible to transfer the contract to another funeral provider if the need arises, but this is not always to case. There are risks to these kinds of policies so you need to be sure that you are contracting with a reputable provider that will still be in business when you need them. If you are ready to nail down your funeral arrangements and know which funeral provider you want, then pre-need insurance is an option to consider. The key advantage to a Pre-Need policy is the ability to lock in today’s prices for your funeral. (For more on Pre-Need Funeral Insurance click here)
Does Life Insurance Cover a Funeral?
For most of us the main purpose of life insurance is to provide financial security for our survivors. If your family depends on your income, life insurance can partially replace the income lost due to your death. It can also provide an inheritance for your heirs even if you do not have assets to leave them. Life insurance policies are generally purchased for larger coverage amounts than the $25,000 to $40,000 limits for funeral insurance. As we have discussed, unlike life insurance, the main purpose of funeral insurance is to cover only your funeral costs and final expenses. You might want both, as funeral insurance is often used as supplemental coverage so that your life insurance proceeds are not depleted by your final expenses.
Step 5: Request a Quote
Since the exact price of funeral insurance will depend on your unique situation, the only real way to know what it will cost is to request a quote. Our funeral insurance finder is a great way to start. It is absolutely free and you are under no obligation.
It may be possible to complete the entire shopping process online but we highly recommend that you talk with an insurance agent. You will get the best possible coverage at the lowest price if you are buying only what you absolutely need. The best way to do this is to talk with an agent so that you can ask questions, get clarifications, and make sure that you understand exactly what you are buying.
Step 6: Decide If You Can Afford End of Life Coverage You Want
Are you a savvy consumer? Do you pride yourself on finding the best deal? If so, you might be in for a rude awakening when shopping for life insurance because you won’t find any “deals.”
Insurance is a highly regulated product. Policies and rates must be filed state-by-state by the insurance companies and are not offered later at a discount. Rates will vary from policy-to-policy and also from state-to-state due to differing state regulations for funeral insurance.
Always be wary if you see an offer for a great deal on funeral insurance. Be sure to read the fine print and research the company offering the policy. It doesn’t do much good to get a good deal if the policy has limitations built into the policy you did not know about.
What If I Cannot Afford To Pay The Quoted Rates?
You have a couple options if the monthly premium quoted is more than you can afford. Your first is to rework specifically what you will be doing for your funeral and burial plan. You can go down to the funeral home of your choice and discuss want you want. They can work with your policy and budget to design and record your funeral plan. This is then attached to your policy and kept with your important records. See our Funeral Costs article for tips on managing your funeral cost.
Another option is to consider buying a term policy instead of whole life. Term policies are less expensive than whole life. The risk is that your term policy could terminate before you die and you will be left without coverage. Term insurance may not a perfect solution but, under certain circumstances, it may be your best option.
Term should not be considered an ideal option.
Step 7: Choose an End of Life Insurance Provider
Final Expense insurance policies can be purchased through insurance agents and through funeral service providers and their agents.
In some cases they can also be purchased directly from the insurance company. This however is not a good choice and you do not save a nickel in doing so. All rates are set with your state. Rates are based on you as a “risk” and nothing else.
The advantage of buying through an independent agency like Special Risk Life is that it gives you have access to the full spectrum of policies out there. We help you save money by shopping your needs out. The insurance company compensates us.
We are a specialist agent of the top life insurance companies in the industry. Why not go straight to the agent that has the most affordable rates from the top life insurance companies?
Remember, A funeral home is not a specialist in health risks or in the business of getting consumers the the most competitive rates in the industry.
Whether you buy from an agent in a insurance company’s home office (cannot shop rates for you) or from an specialist independent agent like Special Risk Life, you should purchasing coverage issued by a top rated insurance company.
A.M Best is usually the go to resource for reviewing the financial stability of insurance companies you may be considering.
Any insurance coverage from an insurance company with any of these top ratings is going to be a very safe best. Companies below that can be safe, but we do not explicitly advocate anything but the best for our policyholders.