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What widows and divorcees should know about life insurance

You may need to update your life insurance policy after divorce or widowhood. Here’s what you need to know to get started

Losing a partner can be an extremely stressful experience — not only because you are grieving the loss of a loved one and dealing with a future you may not have wanted or anticipated, but also because the loss of a partner changes many aspects of your day-to-day life.

However, losing a partner may not change your need for life insurance — especially if you have children. That’s because “if you have dependents, there is still a chance for something to happen to you,” explains Paya Schlass, Customer Success Manager at Haven Life.

If you already have life insurance, you’ll probably want to maintain your current policy. Even if you and your children received a life insurance policy payout after the death of a partner, the people in your family may still need the additional financial protection that your life insurance policy can provide.

If you don’t have life insurance and you lose a partner to divorce or widowhood, it might be time to apply for an affordable term life insurance policy. After all, you already know that life can be unpredictable — and you’re probably going to want to do everything you can to protect your loved ones from future financial stresses.

What else do you need to know about managing your life insurance needs after losing a partner to divorce or widowhood? Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

In this article:

How can you update your life insurance policy after widowhood?

After the death of a partner, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your life insurance needs — particularly as they concern your children. “Always make sure your dependents have the coverage they need,” says Schlass.

Start by updating the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, to ensure that your children and any other surviving dependents will be able to receive their life insurance policy payout as smoothly as possible. If your deceased partner remains listed as the primary beneficiary on your life insurance policy, it might slow down the process when it comes time for your life insurance issuer to process the death benefit and distribute money to your beneficiaries.

It’s also worth asking yourself whether you should increase the coverage on your life insurance policy. Yes, you and your children may have recently received a payout from your partner’s life insurance policy — but you may also have lost the financial benefits that your partner’s income could have provided. Increasing the life insurance coverage on your policy could provide your children with a little extra support — and although you probably don’t want to think about your loved ones experiencing a second tragedy similar to the one you just went through, it’s still important to get all of these financial and administrative details in place.

After all, you already know that the worst-case scenario can in fact happen.

How can you update your life insurance policy after divorce?

“When it comes to divorce, there are more legalities involved,” says Schlass. “For example, sometimes as part of the divorce settlement you may need to buy life insurance.”

If your divorce settlement includes life insurance as part of its spousal support provisions, Schlass recommends contacting your life insurance company directly to learn what you need to do to ensure that your policy meets the requirements in the settlement. “It’s best that you contact our team so we can make sure you’re updating the policy according to what you agreed on in your divorce decree,” Schlass explains. “We’ll typically review everything with our compliance team.”

It’s also a good idea to contact your life insurance company if you plan on updating your beneficiaries after divorce proceedings. “If you get divorced and have a policy, we have to do more due diligence before we can just change the beneficiaries,” says Schlass. “In some cases you may need to keep your ex-spouse as the primary beneficiary.” If your ex-spouse would lose child support or alimony income in a worst-case scenario, for example, they — and your children — may need the protection that life insurance can provide. Likewise, you might want to ensure that an ex-spouse has enough life insurance coverage to protect you and your children in the future.

How do you adjust the amount of life insurance coverage you need?

If you want to increase your life insurance coverage — whether to fulfill the spousal support requirements in divorce proceedings or to ensure that your children have the financial protection they need if anything were to happen to you in the future — you’re probably going to need to apply for a second term life insurance policy. This policy will exist in tandem with your current life insurance policy and will come with its own monthly premium payments.

If you have a Haven Term life insurance policy and you want to increase your coverage, it’s a good idea to contact Haven Life directly and talk about your options. “If your existing life insurance policy is less than 90 days old, typically we can reissue,” Schlass explains. “After that, you may need to buy a second Haven Term policy.”

What if you want to decrease the amount of life insurance coverage you’re currently carrying? If you have a term life insurance policy, your coverage amount, term length and monthly premium payments are all locked into place — you can’t reduce your coverage and start paying lower premiums, for example.

In most cases, it makes sense to keep your current policy, especially if your life insurance premiums already fit into your budget. You could cancel your current life insurance policy and apply for a new one, but make sure you compare life insurance quotes with the premiums you’re currently paying. Otherwise, you might end up paying more money every month for less coverage.

Can you reduce the term length associated with your life insurance policy?

Is it possible to reduce the length of your term life insurance policy? Maybe you took out a 30-year term life insurance policy with the idea that it would provide coverage until you and your partner retired, for example, but now you only want to maintain life insurance coverage until your children graduate from college. Can you contact your life insurance issuer and ask them to shorten your policy length?

In most cases, the answer is no. “Your term length is locked,” Schlass explains. This can often work out in your favor, because you don’t know what the future might bring. Last year, you thought you might need 30 years of life insurance coverage. This year, you wonder if you only need ten. Next year — who knows?

As before, it typically makes sense to maintain the term life insurance policy you currently have. If you find yourself in a situation where you no longer need term life insurance, you can always cancel your policy. In the meanwhile, you continue to have the fixed monthly premium payments that were established when you took out your term life insurance policy.

Can you increase the term length associated with your life insurance policy?

You might also be wondering if it’s possible to extend the term length on your life insurance policy. Maybe you remarried, for example, and you and your new partner are blending a family and/or thinking about having another child. Can you contact your life insurance issuer and ask them to add another ten years to your current policy?

Once again, the answer is no. “You can’t increase the term length on an existing policy, but you can apply for a new term life insurance policy when your current policy’s term expires,” says Schlass. You’ll probably pay higher monthly premiums on your new policy, because the cost of a new term life insurance policy typically increases as you get older — but once you get your new policy set up, you’ll have fixed monthly payments for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

You’ll also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have life insurance coverage still in place — no matter what life brings next.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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