What is a Survivorship Life Insurance Policy?

There are many kinds of life insurance that can be used in an estate plan. One type, survivorship life insurance, covers two people on a single policy. Another name for survivorship life insurance is second-to-die joint life insurance. It pays out a death benefit once both policyholders have died. This article will examine the benefits of this type of policy and how survivorship life insurance works.

What triggers the payout?

  • This policy pays out only after both people have passed away.

Do you have to be a married couple to purchase survivorship life insurance?

  • No, although married couples are often the ones who do purchase this type of coverage, the joint policyholders are not required to be married.

 What are some of the situations where survivorship life insurance is typically used? 

  • High net worth household – after the second spouse dies, the benefit from this policy can be used to pay estate taxes so that the heirs do not have to worry about selling assets to pay the estate taxes.
  • Business succession – this policy can be used to transfer business ownership if both partners die.
  • Special needs child – This policy can be used to fund a trust to provide care for a special needs child.
  • Leaving a legacy –  The death benefit from the policy can help any beneficiary you select, which can include a charity.

 Is survivorship life insurance different from joint life insurance? 

  • First to die vs. second to die – Joint life insurance can refer two any policy that covers two people under one policy. There are two types of joint insurance, first to die and second to die (survivorship life insurance). So, survivorship life insurance is really a subset under the general umbrella of joint life where the trigger is the second death.
  • Different goals – The main goal of the first-to-die joint life insurance policy is to cover the surviving spouse to provide that person with enough funds to replace the lost income from the spouse that passed away. The second-to-die policy has a goal to provide heirs or a charity with the benefit rather than the spouse.


There are many estate planning tools to choose from, so it is vital to create a customized plan that is right for your goals, assets and loved ones. If you want to get started on an estate plan, contact the Law Office of David Knecht. Call us at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience in estate planning.