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Joint Life Insurance for Married – Is it a Good Option?

Several life insurance companies have recently begun introducing joint life insurance policies for couples. The logic - Buying a single policy is a cheaper alternative to buying two separate policies. As opposed to a regular life insurance policy where a nominee or beneficiary is mentioned - in Joint Life Insurance, both partners qualify as owners as well as beneficiaries. If something untoward happens to one individual, the other receives the life cover’s benefit.

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The recent frenzy surrounding joint life insurance policies necessitate an in-depth evaluation of their real value – are these policies suitable for all couples, are the extra benefits offered just an eyewash or really worth it? Read on to find out.

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Types of Joint Life Insurance

A Joint Life Insurance plan can be either an endowment policy or a basic term plan, wherein two lives are covered instead of one.

Joint Term Plan: In this type of joint life insurance, both individuals pay a single premium for a fixed period. In this type of joint life insurance, if one of the partners passes away, the surviving partner can claim for the life cover amount, after which, the cover expires. Some policies of this type of joint life insurance have a limit on the claimable cover amount.

Joint Endowment Plan: An endowment policy has an investment angle to it. Like a term plan, it is valid for a certain period, typically until the policyholder’s retirement. After this, the insurance company pays the policyholder a certain amount, called the ‘endowment’.

In this type of joint life insurance, the couple receives an assured sum after the policy’s expiration. This holds good even in case of death of one of the individuals, in which case, the other person receives the cover after the partner’s death and the endowment money on maturity of the pre-decided period. The premium payments for this type of joint life insurance need not continue after the first death.

PNB MetLife, Aegon Religare and State Bank of India (SBI) Life have recently launched this type of joint life insurance that cover couples under one policy. While PNB MetLife and AegonReligare are offering this facility as a part of online term policies, SBI Life’s offering is an endowment plan.

Reasons to consider a Joint Life Insurance Policy

A key reason why couples could consider getting any type of joint life insurance is to avail of the premium waiver benefit, as it turns out to be cost-effective in the long run. If one partner passes away, the surviving spouse is not only entitled to receive the full assured sum on the primary policyholder’s cover, but he/she also does not have to pay future premiums to keep his/her cover for this type of joint life insurance in force.

To illustrate, a couple – husband aged 36 and wife aged 35, choose from the many types of joint life insurance policies for INR 50 lakhs and INR 25 lakhs respectively. In case of the husband’s death, the wife will get the sum assured of INR 50 lakhs. Additionally, her own life insurance of INR 25 lakhs will continue without her having to pay the premiums.

MetLife’s Mera Term Plan gives the secondary policyholder up to 50% per cent of the primary policyholder’s sum assured. If a husband/wife is buying the policy (primary policyholder), their working wife/husband gets up to 50% of the primary policyholder’s sum assured, whereas a homemaker only gets 25%. PNB MetLife’s product offers a cover of up to INR 25 lakhs for homemakers. This can be taken by earning spouses looking to cover their non-working better halves.

Bajaj iSecure has no restrictions on the sum assured. With Aegon Religare’s iSpouse, this facility comes as a rider. Smart Hamsafar from SBI Life and PNB MetLife’s Mera Term Plan have the premium waiver clause built-in.

In some policies of this type of joint life insurance, in case of one partner’s death, the beneficiary may opt to receive either a lump sum or monthly payments for up to 10 years. In case of the main policyholder’s death, the policy continues for his/her partner and all future premiums are waived off. If the spouse, not the main policyholder, passes away, the latter’s policy continues the way it is with the same premiums. Some products despite being online policies, require policyholders to get regular health check-ups done, depending on the sum insured.

Nominee: When a couple takes a joint life insurance plan and declares their child as the nominee, the ‘regular income’ feature comes to the child’s aid in the event that his parents pass away. The child receives a lump sum or a regular monthly income, which can help fund his/her education or other financial needs.

It makes sense for a couple to assess their life situation before zeroing in on a joint life insurance plan.

For instance, joint plans are useful for couples who may want to purchase a life cover bearing in mind their housing loan liability – since they have taken a joint home loan, it is easier to manage one policy and track single premiums, and the heirs stay protected from liability as well.

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When a Joint Life Insurance Policy does not make sense

    • Financial planners opine that covers for homemakers are not really necessary because the core objective of joint life insurance is to replace the life insured’s income for his/her dependents’ benefit.
    • If the surviving spouse earns well and manages all household finances, paying a higher yearly premium simply for the premium waiver benefit does not make much sense.
    • The savings is not huge. The premium for joint life insurance policies is lower than that of regular life insurance policies by just INR 700-1,000 per annum (approximately). Premiums also vary depending on the individuals’ health conditions, habits and overall lifestyle. A small difference therefore takes away flexibility and a couple stays locked into the policy for a good 15-20 years.
    • If one of the two discontinues the policy, they still need to pay the same premium.
    • A disturbing yet practical point is the possibility of a divorce, in which case, the estranged couple’s insurance needs become separate. Therefore, the couple will have to give up the purchased joint term life plan or wait for it to lapse and buy a fresh cover, which by virtue of progressed time will carry a higher premium. If it is an endowment policy, premature liquidation will be necessary, leading to lower returns and loss of embedded life cover.

A smart alternative

Financial planners typically break up their clients’ life insurance requirements in different life stages, then purchase three-four different covers with varying tenures at different ages through the clients’ entire life span. This offers the needed flexibility and also works out less expensive than buying a single joint life insurance policy with a big cover.

After weighing the specific utility and convenience of joint life covers, it may be a good idea to split your insurance requirements between a regular term plan and a joint life insurance policy.

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