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Yes, life insurance companies typically pay death benefits to beneficiaries and loved ones whether the deceased is 20 or 100. Standard life insurance policies cover deaths as long as the policy is active at the time of death and it happens after the policy’s contestability period.

A contestability period is the first two years of a life insurance policy. A life insurance company will likely deny a death benefits claim if the death occurs during the contestability period and the cause of death is suicide. A life insurer will also deny death benefits if the covered person lied or misrepresented information on the life insurance application and the person died during the contestability period.

It’s vital that you’re completely honest on a life insurance application. Don’t lie about a health condition or illness. Lying about a medical condition can leave your family without any financial help when you die.

Also, be truthful about your tobacco habits. If you claim to be a nonsmoker (and get much lower life insurance rates), but you wind up dying from a smoking-related ailment, life insurance companies may deny the claim and leave your family and beneficiaries without a death benefit when the policyholder dies. Generally, after two years, a life insurance company won’t contest a claim. 

A life insurance company will pay out a death benefit to a beneficiary regardless of the policyholder’s age if the deceased has a permanent life insurance policy, such as whole life or universal life. Those policies are guaranteed as long as the premiums are paid.

Meanwhile, term life insurance policies are only for a period of time, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If you outlive a term life insurance policy, your beneficiaries won’t receive a death benefit. Many term life policies let policy owners convert to a permanent life insurance policy. Term life members can also attempt to get another term life policy once their policy ends. 

Also, though a life insurance policy will pay out if a person dies of old age, accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D) doesn’t pay out for old age or injury. Instead, AD&D coverage covers accidental deaths and dismemberment. So, AD&D will cover a person if there’s a loss of limb, hand, foot or eyesight.

You can purchase AD&D as a standalone individual policy, as a rider on a life insurance policy, or through a group policy. Many employers offer AD&D insurance as an employee benefit.

AD&D is not a substitute for standard life insurance because it provides a death benefit only if you die in an accident. Over the course of your lifetime, you’re much more likely to die from heart disease, stroke or cancer, so AD&D coverage isn’t enough for comprehensive life insurance coverage.

However, AD&D can provide an extra layer of coverage on top of traditional life insurance. For example, if you had $100,000 in standard life insurance and $100,000 in AD&D, and died in an accident, the combined payout would be $200,000, a scenario known as “double indemnity.”

If you’re a senior citizen, you can usually find a permanent life insurance policy, such as final expense coverage. Final expense insurance offers small death benefits, often $5,000 to $25,000, and is meant to help survivors pay funeral and other end-of-life costs. They’re not meant to help pay a mortgage or provide long-term financial stability to survivors.

Term life insurance could be an option for seniors, too, depending on the person’s age and health. You’ll likely struggle to find an affordable term life policy if you want to get a policy until you’re over 70. In that case, your only option may be final expense insurance or a guaranteed life insurance policy that doesn’t require a medical exam or ask any health-related questions.

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Les Masterson


Les, a former managing editor, insurance, at QuinStreet, has more than 20 years of experience in journalism. In his career, he has covered everything from health insurance to presidential politics.