Life Insurance Rider: Everything to Know


The point of life insurance is to protect you and your loved ones. But what if your policy doesn’t address all of your needs?

A life insurance rider allows you to customize a policy — by adding more coverage, for example, or additional benefits. There are riders that provide limited coverage for a spouse, pay for long-term care or even enable you to access your death benefit if you’re terminally ill.

Riders typically raise the cost of your premiums, but they can be essential if you end up facing illness or disability.

Here’s what you need to know about life insurance riders before you buy a policy.  

What we’ll cover  

What is a life insurance rider?  

A rider is an add-on to your policy that modifies your coverage. In some cases, it can enable you to access benefits while you’re still alive.

Generally, riders are added when you purchase your policy, though an insurer may allow certain riders to be added to an existing life insurance plan. Some may even be included with your policy at no extra charge.

One of our top picks for life insurance providers, Guardian Life, includes a standard term conversion rider on its Guardian Level Term policies. This allows a policyholder to convert a term life insurance policy into whole life insurance in the first five years without an added cost or a medical exam. 

Guardian Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

  • Policy highlights

    Guardian offers a variety of policies, including term, whole and universal. It also offers term policies that can be converted into whole or universal life policies, along with strong financial strength ratings.

Another top life insurance provider, Pacific Life, offers a variety of riders, including an accelerated death benefit rider for chronic conditions.  

Pacific Life Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

  • Policy highlights

    Pacific Life offers permanent life insurance policies in addition to term insurance. A number of riders make it possible to customize the policy to fit your needs.

Common life insurance riders 

Riders come in various forms. Some are free, but most cost extra and may even be difficult to qualify for. So it’s important to decide if it’s worth the investment. Here are six of the most common insurance riders. 

Accelerated death benefit rider

This rider allows the policyholder to access their death benefit early if they’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. It can sometimes be included in a policy at no extra cost.

Long-term care rider

This allows the policyholder to access some or all of their death benefit while they’re still living to pay for home health care or services at a long-term care facility. Standalone long-term care insurance policies are increasingly rare, and a rider may be more affordable. They’re generally available on permanent life insurance policies but can reduce the amount your beneficiaries receive upon your death.

Waiver of premium rider

If you become disabled before retirement (generally age 60 or 65), this rider can enable you to keep your policy in force — including the cash value and dividends — without having to continue paying the premiums. Read your rider carefully to see what qualifies as total disability, however, as it varies among providers. A waiver of premium rider can be an inexpensive way to keep coverage and is available for both term and permanent life insurance policies.

Guaranteed insurability rider

This add-on enables the policyholder to buy coverage during certain periods without an additional medical exam, including after a marriage or the birth of a child. It’s often available in permanent life insurance policies. 

Paid-up additions (PUA) rider

A paid-up additions (PUA) rider allows you to add to your overall death benefit and cash value. PUAs function like mini whole life insurance policies with their own cash value and death benefit. They can be bought with dividends, deposits or both and can also earn dividends of their own.

A PUA rider could be beneficial if your health declines, making it harder to buy more life insurance.

Children’s term rider

If you want to provide coverage for your dependent children, this rider acts like a level-term policy for them. It’s typically cheaper than a standalone life insurance policy for a child and can enable them to buy their own permanent life insurance coverage when they reach adulthood.

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