Most of the time, those terms are interchangeable. It’s a low face amount policy designed to cover end-of-life expenses. The one thing you should be wary of is burial insurance that’s sold through a funeral home. That’s not insurance. Insurance companies are regulated by each state’s insurance board. It can only be sold through licensed insurance agents.
These funeral homes are selling pre-paid funeral packages - not insurance.
This isn’t always a terrible thing. But with little regulation, it’s difficult to know precisely what you’re buying and what guarantees exist unless you’re an expert at reading legal contracts.
For example, if the funeral home gets bought out (as is the trend with large companies buying out Mom & Pop centers and keeping the name), will they honor the contract? Does the contract guarantee the pricing? Costs keep rising, and the average cost of a funeral 30 years from now will be higher than it is today.
With any product, make sure you read every page of the contract. Get explanations for anything you don’t understand.
Final expense has a major advantage over traditional life insurance. Namely, you can buy it later in life. Term life insurance options become extremely limited in your late 60s and early 70’s. Permanent life insurance - when offered - is astronomically expensive. You also end up paying for all of the bells and whistles like the cash value accumulation, which is useless without decades to grow.
Final expense is open to seniors and much easier to get. It’s something designed to be purchased when someone begins their estate planning. While it still has an age-based pricing structure, you’ll pay less than traditional life insurance. Most importantly, you don’t pay for things you won’t use.
A common question we get is, “Can I buy life insurance for my parents?”
Yes. But what most people are looking for is final expense. When we ask why someone is looking to cover their parents, it’s almost always concern about finding the money to honor their life properly when they pass. This is doubly true for any family finding themselves sandwiched between caring for aging parents and raising children.
There is one major legal pitfall to avoid when getting life insurance for your parents. The insured, the owner, and the beneficiary should not be three different people. That puts you in a weird legal situation with the IRS.
We see this in policies where a couple takes out life insurance on their parents and names their child as the beneficiary. Don’t do this. Life insurance is supposed to be tax-free. In this situation, the IRS can try to claim that your children owe taxes on the life insurance benefits.
Avoid the whole thing by naming yourself the owner and beneficiary of the policy.
Most of the time, it makes more sense for young adults to get life insurance. If they have a spouse or a family, the money from the higher face amount will help their family get through the tough time of losing someone at such a young age.
Burial insurance was designed as a product for people who don’t need all of the perks of life insurance. With younger people, there are more considerations than trying to pay for a funeral that hopefully won’t happen for another 50 years or more.
If someone is terminally ill, this creates a different scenario. It will be challenging to get any insurance outside of guaranteed issue. Even then, that’s graded, and you have to wait a few years before you see the full face amount anyway.
If this is the case, call your insurance agent and see what options are available for this particular situation.