Life insurance after a divorce – what you need to know

12 min Read Published: 31 Oct 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 separation 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 in the UK

In the UK most couples arrange life insurance to cover a mortgage, debts or to provide for children who they are financially responsible for. If a couple chooses to separate or divorce then the life insurance that they already have in place may need to be rearranged. Furthermore, they may wish to buy life insurance to cover new responsibilities such as child maintenance or spousal maintenance payments.

Life insurance in the UK is arranged in one of three ways:

  • Joint life insurance - two people are insured together and the policy will pay out if either person dies to the surviving person
  • Single life insurance - one person is insured and if that person dies the policy will pay out to either the person nominated in a trust that is attached to the policy or according to the wishes set out in the deceased person's will.
  • Group life insurance - business life insurance that generally covers employees and you may be a member of the group life insurance plan while you remain in employment and if you die it will either pay out to those you nominated or according to the wishes outlined in your will.

If you are going through a divorce you will need to gather all financial information including these life insurance details.

What happens to life insurance after divorce or separation?

In the event that you divorce from your spouse or separate from your partner, your life insurance does not have to change. However, in most situations, couples who divorce will wish to make changes to the life insurance they arranged when their lives were joined financially and perhaps through shared responsibilities such as repaying a mortgage or raising children.

If you are going through a divorce or separation, you may wish to consider whether death would put extra financial pressures on the person that you are separating from. Financial support may be needed to keep up mortgage repayments or to fund the cost of raising children.

Once you have decided what life insurance you need, if any, you can set about making the necessary changes to your existing life insurance arrangements or buy new life insurance to suit your new circumstances. If you wish to keep the life insurance you already have but do not wish to link it with your ex-partner, you can usually split life insurance plans so that you do not lose the benefits.

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How to split life insurance after divorce

Step 1 - Understand your life insurance

In the event of a divorce or separation, you should establish the details of any life insurance policies that cover you and your ex-partner.

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 direct debit payments on your bank statement. You will usually find the insurer's name and a reference number which you can use to request the policy information. 

Your life insurance policy schedule or summary will show you:

  • Insured person - this the person whose death will prompt a pay out from the life insurance
  • Policy payer - this is often the same as the insured person but it can be someone else and this person owns the life insurance plan and is usually the only person who can make changes. It is also likely that this person who will benefit from the payout if the insured person dies
  • 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

Step 2 - Determine what changes you would like to make in light of your divorce or separation

You will need to work out:

  • Do you still need life insurance?
  • Who needs to be covered for life insurance?
  • Who should the life insurance pay out to if either of you die?
  • Who will pay for the life insurance if you are to keep it?

If your life insurance is jointly owned then you will usually both have to give permission to make any changes to it. 

Once you know what life insurance you have and what changes you need to make, you can go ahead and contact your life insurance provider to execute the changes needed.

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

Generally, 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. Whereas others may choose to buy out their ex-partner and take over the mortgage entirely.

If you choose to keep the mortgage life insurance policy in place, you should consider who will pay for it and who may benefit from it if either person dies.

Should you choose to split the life insurance, you will need to contact your life insurance provider to understand how to do this to meet your new needs.

How to split joint family life insurance

Family life insurance policies can be jointly or singly arranged - if yours is jointly set up then you will need to request a separation of policies. If your ex-partner was the payer of your life insurance policy, they will maintain control over it unless you switch this to yourself. Some divorces and separations are amicable where one person may offer to continue to pay for life insurance.  However, it is a good idea to take a realistic view of things and consider whether you can expect this to continue - remember that if the monthly or annual premiums are not paid, your life insurance may lapse, leaving you with no life cover.

Family life insurance is best written into trust so that you can nominate your beneficiaries and appoint trustees to ensure your wishes are carried out. If you have young children, you should consider whether they will be able to manage money - over 18s can be trustees and beneficiaries. Importantly, the trust will provide you with the peace of mind that any money paid out will be distributed according to your wishes and outside of your estate, avoiding inheritance tax.

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.

What you need to know about splitting life insurance due to a divorce

  • Both policy owners will have to agree to separate the policy.
  • Proof of the separation as well as a written request to separate the policy are usually needed.
  • The amount of life insurance you can arrange individually may be limited to either the sum that you were originally insured for or half each. 

Age and ill health could mean that your life insurance price increases but you may be offered the same life insurance terms as you previously had. 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.

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 a 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.

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 you 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.

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.

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? Small print
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


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