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A single or a joint life policy?
Should you buy a single or a joint life policy?

If you and your partner are looking into life insurance, the big question you need to answer is whether to go for a single or joint policy.

This will depend on:

Here’s a simple guide to help you decide. 

What is single life insurance?

As the name suggests, a single life insurance policy covers one person and pays out if that person dies during the length of the policy. 

The policyholder needs to choose the amount of cover and for how long they want it to be in place. To make sure the money goes to who you want it to, having an up-to-date will or placing the policy in trust is really important.

You and your partner can each hold single policies. That way, if one of you dies, the surviving partner still has their own policy. And you can select different amounts and lengths on each policy, so you can tailor it to your individual needs.

What is joint life insurance?

A joint life insurance policy covers two lives, so it pays out if either person dies during the length of the policy. It involves one application and just one monthly payment.

You don’t have to be married or civil partners to take joint cover. Any two people can take out a joint policy, including same-sex couples, to protect each other financially. 

The payout automatically goes to the other policyholder. Both partners are insured for the same amount so the payout is the same whoever dies.

The key thing to remember about a joint life policy is it pays out only once – usually when the first partner dies. After this, the policy automatically ends, leaving the surviving partner with no cover left in place.

Which is the best life insurance for couples?

This will depend entirely on your circumstances. Here are a few questions to help you decide:

Do you have other dependents?

Having others to care for can determine whether you and your partner will need one payout (provided by a joint policy) or two (provided by two single policies). 

If you have no other dependants

If your partner is the only person who depends on you financially, a joint policy could make sense. One payout for your partner would be enough as there’s no-one else for a second payout to go to.

If you do have dependants

If you have children, for example, or you care for an elderly relative, a joint policy may not provide the protection you need. Remember, a joint policy only pays out on the death of the first policyholder – at which point the policy ends.

This means the surviving partner might need to take out another policy to protect the children. However, as they are likely to be older, this could make the cost of buying a new single policy significantly more expensive.

What level of cover do you need?

Another consideration is the amount of life cover each partner needs. 

Taking out separate policies allows you to select different amounts of cover. Whereas with a joint policy, both policyholders would receive the same level of cover.

If your family has 2 breadwinners, you’ll probably want to consider insuring both of you.

As well as your family’s income, it’s important to think about your role and how your circumstances could change if you were no longer here. Because while there may not be a loss of income, there could be new costs to pay. 

If one of you is the primary carer for example, replacing this role could be expensive. For example, the average cost of sending a child to nursery part-time is over £7000 a year.

So, if you’re in a 2-parent family – regardless of how much you earn – you should both consider taking out life insurance. It would make life a lot more comfortable if either of you had to face the future alone.

What’s your budget?

A joint policy is generally cheaper than taking out two separate policies for the same level of cover. If you’re on a tight budget, a joint policy may be more affordable.

Think about whether the surviving partner would need to take out individual cover later in life. While a joint policy may be cheaper than two single policies initially, a joint policy plus an individual policy taken out when the surviving partner is older, could be costly.

The cost difference between buying a joint policy and 2 separate policies can often be quite small. It’s worth getting quotes for both options.

If there's not much in it, you may prefer the extra protection that separate policies can offer. Remember, 2 single policies offer 2 payouts – so you’d be getting twice the cover.

Do you want flexibility for the future?

If you’re looking for flexibility, you might prefer to take 2 single life insurance policies. 

They would be independent from each other so you could each increase or decrease your individual covers as your circumstances change. Another consideration is that if your relationship was to end, your cover would be unaffected.

If you take a joint policy, you would both be insured for the same amount. And if you and your partner were to separate, your insurer may not be able to split your cover into 2 single policies. This would mean you’d need to cancel the joint policy and both take out new individual policies to protect any children you may have. As you will be older – and potentially less healthy – this could prove costly.

Explore your options

At HSBC, we offer both single and joint life insurance online. 

Our life insurance calculator can help you find the cover you need. Just tell us what you want to protect and we’ll work out the rest.

HSBC Life Insurance is provided by HSBC Life (UK) Limited. Terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and eligibility criteria apply.

If you’re unsure what kind of cover is right for you and your partner, you can also chat to one of our financial advisers. They’ll spend time getting to know your situation and recommend a policy, and level of cover, that's right for you. 

You won’t pay a penny for receiving our protection advice – and you’re under no obligation to follow our recommendations. 

If you decide to take out the recommended policy, you’ll pay for the cost of the policy and we’ll receive a commission from the protection provider. You’ll find details about this in the policy’s key features document.

Our protection advice is available to UK residents over 18, who hold an HSBC current or savings account.