What Is Dependent Life Insurance? Essential Information For Families

While traditional life insurance policies compensate beneficiaries upon the policyholder’s death, dependent life insurance offers benefits when a designated non-income earning “dependent” (such as a spouse, domestic partner, or child) passes away.

These policies, available through group or individual plans, may not be a primary consideration but can offer valuable financial support for covering expenses after a loved one’s loss.

What Is Dependent Life Insurance?

While many opt for life insurance to provide financial support for their beneficiaries in the event of their death, dependent life insurance offers coverage for a spouse, child, or other dependents.

This less common type of life insurance pays death benefits if the covered dependent passes away.

Although child coverage is often inexpensive, spouse coverage typically carries higher premiums due to age and risk factors.

Despite reluctance to consider the possibility of a spouse or child passing away, there are financial responsibilities such as funeral and burial costs that merit attention.

This type of life insurance is commonly available through employer group benefit plans, often referred to as voluntary dependent life insurance or voluntary group life insurance.

Infographic: What Is Dependent Life Insurance?

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How does Dependent Life Insurance Coverage Work?

This type of life insurance policies typically cover funeral and burial expenses for the insured.

Policy limits typically align with average funeral costs, with coverage often provided in increments such as $4,000 or $6,000.

Specific dependents, such as children, may have age limits for coverage duration.

Some of this insurance policies offer conversion options, allowing policyholders to convert to individual policies under certain circumstances such as retirement, termination, or divorce.

This conversion ensures continued coverage without requiring a medical exam.

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Eligibility criteria 


Coverage typically includes biological, stepchildren, or legally adopted children until a specified age, often 26.

Special circumstances, such as full-time student status or disabilities, may extend coverage.


Definitions usually encompass spouses recognized by state law, including common-law spouses.

However, eligibility for domestic partners may vary depending on the group plan’s language.

Military Members’ Dependents:

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) provides coverage for spouses and dependent children of military members insured under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI).

Coverage is available for children under 18, full-time students, or those permanently and totally disabled, provided the military member has full-time SGLI coverage.

Coverage limits vary, with spouses eligible for up to $100,000 and children up to $10,000.

Pros and Cons 

While insuring dependents’ lives offers several advantages, it’s crucial to consider potential drawbacks.

The following table outlines key considerations:


  1. Coverage is often available without a full medical exam.
  2. Sufficient coverage for funeral and burial costs for spouses or children.
  3. Convenient payment through payroll deduction.


  1. Individual coverage may be necessary due to limitations on death benefits for dependents.
  2. Coverage may be lost if leaving employment, as it’s often tied to group employment plans.
  3. Group rates are typically higher than rates offered by individual life insurers.

Are Dependent Life Insurance Death Benefits Taxable?

Death benefits may be taxable under certain circumstances.

This type of  life insurance is non-taxable if you pay all premiums or if the employer covers part of the cost, up to $2,000.

However, if the employer pays more than $2,000 for a dependent’s coverage, the excess amount is usually taxable.

The IRS treats this excess as imputed income, subject to taxation.

The taxable portion varies based on factors like the dependent’s age.

Consulting a tax professional is advisable to understand tax implications and explore available options effectively.

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