Life Insurance for Seniors Over 80: Exploring Your Options

In this article...
  • With fewer options available, buying life insurance for seniors over 80 can be challenging. Learn what policies are available and what factors determine cost.

For seniors over 80, purchasing life insurance can be challenging at best. There are fewer options for older plan purchasers, and the policies that are available are often prohibitively costly. The good news is that many insurance companies offer affordable policies that may suit the unique financial needs of older Americans. In this article, you’ll discover the types of policies available to people over 80 and learn how to assess your specific coverage requirements.

Can You Get Life Insurance at Age 80?

Although many insurance companies place an upper limit on the age of a life insurance applicant, there are policies available to individuals who are 80 or older. Typically, these plans fall under the category of whole life insurance, which are permanent policies that pay out a death benefit when you die, as long as your account is in good standing. Depending on the carrier you choose, a few term life plans may also be available for individuals over the age of 80, but many require a life insurance physical prior to approval, which can increase the risk of denial for seniors who have health issues.

What Type of Life Insurance Is Available to Seniors Over 80?

Although options for life insurance for seniors over 80 is typically limited, you may be able to purchase plans in the following categories: term, whole, universal, burial insurance and guaranteed issue.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance, which is typically issued in 5-year increments, is designed to pay out a death benefit if the insured individual dies during the policy’s contractual coverage term. If the insured individual outlives the policy, it expires and no death benefit is paid. However, some companies offer policyholders the option to extend the term. Insurers typically sell term life plans of up to 10 years to individuals over the age of 80, but these policies are likely to be costly and may require the applicant to undergo a medical exam before receiving approval.

Whole Life insurance

A whole life policy is a type of permanent life insurance that pays out a death benefit as long as you’ve paid your premium payments according to the contract. These plans also include a cash value component, which may be withdrawn or borrowed against as funds accrue.

Although many insurance companies won’t sell whole life insurance to anyone 80 or above, a small selection of plans may be available through some carriers. However, the amount of coverage available may be limited and often comes with a high price tag.

Universal Life Insurance

Like whole life insurance, universal life plans provide lifetime coverage and are comprised of two components: the death benefit and a cash value subaccount that may be withdrawn or borrowed against. Where UL policies differ from whole life plans is flexibility. UL policies often offer an adjustable death benefit and flexible premium payments so they can change as your needs change.

Depending on the carrier, UL plans may be available for purchase by adults up to age 89, but most companies require a medical exam, which can make approval difficult. Additionally, the stringent underwriting process for UL plans may mean higher premiums for seniors who have health conditions such as diabetes.

Burial insurance

Burial insurance, which is sometimes referred to as a final expense plan, is a type of permanent life insurance plan with a small death benefit — usually between $5,000 and $25,000 — that’s designed to help cover end-of-life costs, such as funerals, burials and outstanding medical bills. Burial insurance is often available to seniors over 80, who can be approved after answering a few basic health-related questions. Policies typically have low premiums, and most carriers don’t require a medical exam, making burial insurance ideal for seniors who want to leave loved ones with money to cover basic expenses. 

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

When you apply for guaranteed issue life insurance, you can't be declined due to risks, including age or health issues, making this type of policy ideal for older purchasers. The application process is quick and requires no medical underwriting. However, guaranteed life plans typically offer lower death benefits and have higher premiums than traditional policies. Guaranteed life plans are often considered a last resort when a potential policyholder can’t qualify for another type of policy.

How Much Does Life Insurance Cost for an 80-Year-Old?

If you’re 80 or above, life insurance can be costly, and monthly premiums can be as much as several hundred dollars monthly, depending on your risk profile and the type of insurance you purchase. The exact cost of a policy will likely depend on several main factors, including:

  • The insurance company
  • The type of policy
  • The amount of coverage
  • Your gender
  • Your exact age
  • Your state of residence
  • Your overall health, including current or past health issues

Because of the high cost of life insurance when you’re over 80, researching multiple insurance companies can be a great way to find the best price for the coverage you need. Many of today's insurers offer online quote wizards that can estimate the premiums for the type of coverage you want and your specific risk factors.

Assessing Your Needs

When it comes to purchasing life insurance, assessing your needs prior to shopping for a plan can help you narrow down your choices. By age 80, many seniors are retired, have adult children who are financially independent and have paid off their mortgages and other major debts. Consequently, older Americans may not require as much life insurance coverage as a younger person who needs a policy to replace their income, pay off outstanding debts and keep their family financially secure if they die.

The amount of coverage you need typically depends on how much coverage you can afford and what the money will be earmarked for. For example, a burial plan may be sufficient for seniors who want to help their loved ones cover the cost of funeral services, and a more traditional life insurance plan that offers slightly higher coverage may be better suited to seniors who wish to leave behind an inheritance and can pay for the higher premiums.

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