Life insurance after a divorce – what you need to know

11 min Read Published: 03 Aug 2023

What happens to life insurance after divorce?A divorce or separation can be emotionally and practically very challenging. There is often a lot to consider, including children, homes, lifestyles and finances. If you arranged life insurance during your time together, you may want to alter it to suit your new circumstances. There are convenient ways to adapt your life insurance after a divorce and some life insurance companies include options that can be utilised for this very purpose.

In this article, we will look at how to adapt your life insurance after a divorce to reflect the changes in your life. Where possible, we'll show you how to retain your current life insurance benefits at the original price too.

Life insurance and divorce UK

The way that life insurance works in the UK means that you will usually be able to separate a life insurance policy if you separate or divorce. This is the case if you bought joint life insurance or if you have separate single life insurance policies that pay out to one another.

You should be careful not to cancel existing life insurance arrangements without due consideration as you may lose benefits you cannot reinstate or end up paying much higher premiums for them.

Life insurance becomes more expensive with age so your existing life insurance policies will probably be cheaper than you'll find in the market today. If your or your ex-partner's health has changed since arranging your life cover, again that could make buying new life cover policies difficult and pricier.

What type of life insurance do you have?

In the event of a divorce or separation, you should establish the details of any life insurance that covers you and your ex-spouse. You may remember the reasons why you arranged life insurance - most commonly, people buy life insurance to protect a mortgage or other type of debt or to provide financial support for a family should the worst happen.

You may have the policy schedule for your life insurance which will detail all the information you need to know about your life cover. If you cannot find your life insurance details, you can usually find a reference number and life insurance company name by looking through the payments on your bank statement. You will usually find the insurer's name and a reference number which you can use to request the information. 

The policy schedule or summary will show you:

  • Insured person - the policy owner and the person insured don't have to be the same people so it is important to work out whose life is covered
  • Type of insurance - term life insurance such as level term assurance or mortgage term insurance pays out if you die within a specific time period. If it is a whole-of-life insurance it will provide cover until you die whenever that may happen
  • Benefit type - this is the event that will trigger a claim and can be death, terminal illness or critical illness
  • Payment type - this is the way in which the death benefit would be paid and can be as a lump sum cash benefit or a regular income over a period of time.
  • Sum assured - this is the amount of money that will be paid in the event of a claim
  • Term - this is the number of years that the policy will provide insurance for
  • Policy premium - this is the monthly cost of the life insurance policy

Life insurance is usually arranged in one of the following ways:

  • Joint life  - this type of life insurance will mean that you are both insured on the policy and the policy will pay out for the 1st person to die with no ongoing insurance for the survivor.
  • Single life - this type of life insurance policy usually insures one person and will pay out if that person dies.
  • Combination plans - plans can include single life policies as well as joint life policies and are usually arranged so that multiple policies can be administered together and there is usually one combined payment to cover all the policies within the plan.

If your life insurance is jointly owned then you will usually both have to give permission to make any changes to it. On the other hand, if you are covered for life insurance separately, you could still access the policy details if you are the policy payer. Your life insurance company will be able to clarify this if it isn't immediately clear from your documentation.

Life insurance to cover maintenance payments

If, as part of your divorce settlement, maintenance payments are to be paid by one person to another, these should be protected with life insurance. It is a good idea to put life insurance in place so that the payments continue in the event that the person making them dies. Usually, child maintenance payments are arranged to support the costs of raising children and can continue to be paid until they reach adult age. Bearing in mind the financial impact if the person making the payments were to die before such time you should create some provisions. You can arrange what is called a family income benefit life insurance that will pay a regular amount of money if the maintenance payer dies. The family income benefit policy would need to be written into trust to benefit those who were supported by the maintenance payments and you can nominate who you would entrust to manage the monies on their behalf.

How to split joint life insurance after divorce

Splitting your life insurance as part of the process of separation or divorce can be done quite easily but you should consider the purpose of the life insurance before you do this.

How to split joint mortgage life insurance

This will depend on what you agree to do about your joint mortgage. Many separated couples continue to share responsibility for a mortgage as it covers a family home where, perhaps children are being raised. In this case, you may both wish to consider keeping your life insurance as either of your deaths could mean the mortgage would fall into arrears and potentially the home would be repossessed if the surviving person could not afford to continue to pay the mortgage payments. On the other hand, if one of you is planning to buy the other person's share of the property and they in turn decide to sell, only one of you will be responsible for the mortgage. In this case, only the person who has responsibility for and makes the payments towards the mortgage may wish to consider keeping mortgage life insurance.

How to split joint family life insurance

Life insurance that you arrange for your family may still have many benefits as you may still share children who you both would wish to protect financially if you were to die. Most family life insurance policies are arranged on a single-life basis but also be arranged jointly. Joint family life insurance policies can be separated using the separation option that most insurance companies include, allowing you to keep your insurance separately. Remember that you will need to write these policies into a trust to ensure that you have nominated your beneficiaries in case you die. If you are on good terms, you could even appoint one another as trustees so that you are able to access the money for your beneficiaries. Joint life insurance policies are designed to pay the surviving person who is covered on the policy and this may still work depending on your personal circumstances but if you do not wish to continue joint ownership of life insurance, you should consider splitting your life cover.

Most joint life insurance policies include a separation option and this can be utilised to split joint life insurance into two policies - one for each person, insuring them individually and giving them control over the payments to keep the cover going.

Both policy owners will have to agree to separate the policy and proof of the separation as well as a written request to separate the policy are usually needed. Some life insurance companies will only allow a maximum sum assured equal to the total amount insured on the original policy to be split between both people - it can be apportioned differently though. Other life insurance companies are more generous and allow each person to have the same amount of insurance on an individual life insurance policy, each that they would have had jointly. 

If the insurance company uses your current age to work out your single monthly premiums then you won't benefit from the cheaper rates you would have been paying on the original policy. If your health hasn't changed since buying your joint life insurance policy, it can be useful to check what your life insurance would cost if you were to start a new one. You can speak to a life insurance adviser* who will be able to search the market and offer you some quotations.

Advantages of utilising the separation option to split a joint life insurance policy

The key benefit of utilising the separation option is that you do not have to go through a new medical and lifestyle questionnaire. The policy will continue to insure you as if there has been no change to your health. This is particularly beneficial if your health has changed and the change would make a new policy more expensive or unavailable.

Some insurance companies will also calculate your monthly premium based on the age that you were when you started the joint life insurance policy. This would be advantageous as life insurance gets more expensive as you get older.

How life insurance companies treat the separation of a joint life insurance policy

Insurance Company Max time period after separation that changes can be made Available if original plan was accepted at non standard terms? Premiums calculated on what age? Smallprint
Aegon 6 months No Current Age Death benefit must have at least 1 year left and Critical illness benefit must have at least 5 years left
AIG 6 months Yes Original Age Cannot be separated in the last 3 years of the policy. Each life cannot keep the full amount of life insurance - it would have to be split between the 2 lives but can be apportioned differently.
Aviva 90 days No Current Age
Canada Life 6 months Yes Current Age Only available for mortgage life insurance
Guardian 1821 n/a n/a n/a Guardian 1821 only offers dual policies which means that you are insured separately.
Legal & General 6 months Yes Current Age Separation option available for unmarried couples who took the life insurance to protect a mortgage.
LV 6 months Yes Current Age Within 6 months of formal separation, each person would be able to take a policy but between 6 and 12 months only one person would be able to carry on the life insurance.
Royal London 6 months Yes Original Age Only available for mortgage life insurance
Scottish Widows 6 months Yes Current Age  Separation benefit available for unmarried couples who took the life insurance to protect a mortgage.
Vitality 3 months Yes Original Age Only available for mortgage life insurance
Zurich 90 days Yes Current Age

^information correct as of July 2022

How to split single-life insurance after divorce

Single life insurance policies are easier to address after a separation. However, there are a few things that you should check to ensure that they reflect your new circumstances and future wishes. 

Even though you may be insured separately, you may still be owners of one another's policies, depending on the way that your life insurance was arranged. A policy owner can benefit from a claim against the policy and if you no longer wish for this to be the case, you will need to address it.

  1. Check that you are the person insured and the policy owner to take full control of your life insurance if this is what you wish
  2. Check and alter the beneficiaries of any claim payment if necessary (see section on trusts if your policy is in trust)
  3. Check that you are insured for an appropriate sum of money and time period based on any changes to your circumstances such as your mortgage.

If you feel that your life insurance policy does not provide appropriate benefits based on your new circumstances, you should speak with specialist life insurance adviser*.

How to split life insurance arranged under one plan after divorce

Some life insurance companies provide plans that can house several policies within them and be paid for with one direct debit payment. Within the plan, you can have single or joint life insurance plans and you may even have both so it is important to decipher them individually.

Most life insurance companies that offer these types of plans will allow the life insurance policies to be separated if they are single-life policies. However, joint-life policies will be treated under the separation benefit rules described above.

With all life insurance policies, it is important to check that any claim payment would be made to the people you want to benefit. If those people are children then it is wise to nominate individuals who will manage the payments on their behalf through a trust.

A life insurance specialist* will be able to advise and help you with this process if you need it.

Changing your life insurance beneficiary during divorce

If you have stipulated who should benefit from your life insurance through your will, you should review this. Separating from your spouse will usually involve this type of review. Your will should reflect your new circumstances and your revised wishes.

Some life insurance policies are written into a trust. Trusts are legal documents that provide a way of nominating who benefits from any claim money and the people who will manage the trust. If your life insurance is written into a trust, it can be difficult to alter it but you should contact the life insurance company to check this.

Life insurance in a divorce settlement

In any case, you will need to go through a process of considering who should benefit from your life insurance and which people you wish to give responsibility for discharging your wishes. For couples going through a separation who have children, there may be more to consider. Sharing custody and responsibility for children may mean that you still wish to nominate one another to access monies for your children's benefit. It is possible to nominate more than one person to entrust this duty to, which can often give you peace of mind that any claim money will be managed in the right way. It is useful to discuss these arrangements as part of the divorce settlement.

For more information about trusts, you can read our article "Writing your life insurance in trust".

Getting help to understand life insurance during a divorce

Life insurance can be complex and a change in your life circumstance can make it seem more complicated. Often, there is much to unravel and rearrange during a separation so engaging the help of a specialist life insurance adviser can make the process much simpler. Life insurance advisers are trained to review existing arrangements and help you make changes where necessary.

If your health has changed since you bought your original life insurance, be sure to point this out to an adviser so that they can work on trying to keep your existing arrangements as far as possible. Cancelling a life insurance policy could leave you without insurance and in a worst-case scenario, without the ability to replace it too. It is wise to continue to pay the premiums for an existing life insurance policy until such time as you have effected replacement life insurance if you are to do this.

At Money to the Masses, we have tried and tested the service provided by a specialist life insurance advisory company* where the advisers are very well-trained and have access to the whole market making them well-versed in how different policies work. They can compare life insurance policies as well as decipher your existing life insurance arrangements to provide the appropriate guidance.


If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch