The best whole life insurance companies in Canada – Updated 2023
Most Canadian insurance companies offer several whole life insurance products, including term to 100 and participating policies. Our whole life insurance reviews help you make the right choice when choosing a company and policy.
Canadians search for the best whole life insurance for many reasons. Whether to manage their wealth and savings before passing them onto their beneficiaries or to simply handle some end-of-life expenses and ease their family’s financial burden at that time. Knowing what company offers the best whole life insurance for your purposes can help you plan your financial security.
Luckily, PolicyAdvisor’s years of research and experience in Canadian life insurance give us a unique capability to help you compare the best whole life insurance companies in Canada. We present below comprehensive Canadian whole life insurance company reviews for all your individual permanent life insurance needs.
Whole life insurance?
Whole life insurance (sometimes used interchangeably with permanent life insurance) is a form of life insurance that provides you with coverage from the day the policy is bought and put in force until the day you die (in other words – for your entire life). There is also an investment or cash value component associated with most whole life policies. As you pay into a whole life policy over time, part of the premium is invested and generates cash value. This cash value may be accessed during the insured’s lifetime either by withdrawing or borrowing against it.
Unlike term life insurance which covers you for a specific duration or term, with whole life insurance you are covered for your entire life. Since you are covered for such a long time, whole life insurance usually has a higher premium. You can head to the following articles to read more about the different types of whole life insurance, how much whole life insurance can cost, and the difference between term versus whole life insurance.
Why should I get whole life insurance?
As stated briefly above, you should get whole life insurance for distinct lifelong or permanent needs.
Covering small debts, funeral costs, and other end-of-life expenses
A common reason some will purchase whole life insurance coverage is to provide a form of funeral insurance so their loved ones can quickly access the funds to cover those arrangements. A lump sum of tax-free cash is paid out to your beneficiaries on your death and this can cover the aforementioned funeral expense. As well, any outstanding debts (like credit cards or loans) or estate taxes which need payment can also be covered by the whole life insurance payout.
Tax-efficient transfers of assets to your estate and beneficiaries
Whole life insurance policies can also be used to pass on your planned inheritance to your loved ones in a tax-efficient manner. Like all life insurance policies, the proceeds from whole life insurance policies are tax-free to your beneficiaries and therefore allow your dependents to retain a large chunk of the savings and assets you intended for them to have.
Accessing cash value during retirement years
Some may also purchase whole life insurance for the potential growth in its value. Some of this value may be accessible during retirement years and can be used to supplement income or take care of unforeseen expenses. For these reasons, it is considered a good option for life insurance for seniors.
Of course, you don’t need to fit into these strict categories to purchase whole life insurance. While term life insurance is the most cost-effective option to cover temporary needs (like mortgage debt or income protection) there is a use case for anyone to have whole life insurance.
Take the time to speak with a licensed life insurance advisor to ensure you are getting the right permanent life insurance for your financial security needs.
How does whole life insurance work?
Whole life insurance is a form of permanent life insurance. It is an insurance contract with an insurance company whereby as long as the policy is in force, the insurance company guarantees that your beneficiaries will receive the proceeds, when a claim is made. Put briefly, most whole life insurance policies also include a savings or investment component alongside the lifetime insurance coverage.
A substantial part of the money goes towards the cost of the insurance, which is the amount of money necessary to provide the policy’s death benefit. The balance of the insurance premiums goes towards generating a tax-deferred savings or investment component. This fund accumulates earnings within the policy on a tax-deferred basis and generates a cash value for the policyholder. They can either leave it untouched until it pays out when they pass, or access the cash as needed and in some cases borrow against the value of the policy.
Read more about how whole life and other permanent insurance policies work.
Common terms we use in our life insurance reviews
There is a whole new set of terminology we use to describe different aspects of whole life insurance. Here are what some of those terms mean.
Participating policy: an insurance contract that pays dividends to the policyholder from the earnings accrued on the premiums the holder pays.
Limited pay: Some whole life policies offer the ability to pay all of the premiums at an accelerated rate in the beginning years, typically anywhere from 5 to 20 years.
Dividends: Payments available to a policyholder generated from the profits of an insurance company that sells the policy; they are typically paid out on an annual basis over the life of the policy. More on that below.
Types of dividends typically available with participating whole life insurance policies:
- Enhanced Protection – Where dividends are used to purchase one-year term life insurance for the policyholder, in addition to the base sum insured. This lets an insurance company offer a more competitive price for protection and freeing up the premiums you to go towards investment rather than straight protection.
- Paid Up Additions – Dividends go towards purchasing additional whole life insurance thus increasing the size of the final payout. The paid-up additions themselves can then earn dividends, and the value continues to compound indefinitely over time.
- On Deposit/Cash Accumulation – Dividends due to the policyholder are handled by the insurance company and earn a competitive interest rate.
- Paid in Cash – The most straightforward approach. Dividends due to the policyholder are paid directly to them. The owner may have to report a portion or all of the issued cash on their income tax return.
- Premium Reduction – Dividends due to the policyholder are used to pay part or all of the insurance policy’s premiums. If the dividend amount exceeds the premiums due, the excess is handled the same way as Cash Accumulation mode described above.
The best whole life insurance Canada has to offer
PolicyAdvisor.com has painstakingly researched the insurance companies that offer the best whole life insurance in Canada. Years of profiling and analyzing the industry’s top offerings gives us the unique opportunity to review the best Canadian whole life insurance companies and present you with a list of the top offerings available in the category. The following reviews are a must-read for anyone thinking about purchasing whole life insurance. When you’re done, try reading more about our online life insurance quotes or our life insurance calculator.
Best whole life insurance companies in Canada
- Best for quick issue: Assumption Life
- Best for flexibility: BMO Insurance
- Best for affordability: Beneva (formerly La Capitale)
- Best for non-medical coverage: Canada Protection Plan
- Best for paying off premiums early: Empire Life
- Best for guaranteed benefits: Equitable Life
- Best for final expenses: Foresters Financial
- Best for customization: iA
- Best for performance: Manulife
- Best for families: Beneva (formerly SSQ)
- Best classic coverage: Sun Life Financial
- Best value for money: Wawanesa
AM BEST RATING
Best For Quick Issue
Best Whole Life Insurance for Quick Issue: Assumption Life
Assumption Life ParPlus
Assumption Life ParPlus Junior
Essential Whole Life
20 years or until age 100
Cash Dividends, Cash Accumulation, Enhanced Coverage, Premium Reduction, Paid-up Additions
Founded in 1903, Assumption has an A- financial strength rating from AM Best.
Assumption Life offers two options for whole life insurance: Essential Whole Life (non-participating) and their flagship product Assumption Life ParPlus and ParPlus Junior. Assumption has a tiered system in which clients are not automatically required to do a medical test to obtain coverage depending on their ages and the coverage amount.
Assumption ParPlus, the flagship participating whole life product from Assumption Life, wins the award for its potential for a fast issue policy with no doctors or blood tests. No medical exam is required for whole life insurance coverage up to $999,999 for applicants between the ages 18 to 45. The amount of coverage eligible for accelerated issue reduces as one ages, but is still a very reasonable $50,000 for ages 66-69.
Essential Whole Life only allows a lifelong payment option, while ParPlus offers a 20-Pay option, as well as 5 dividend options.
As with other whole life insurance plans, whether you select a life-long or 20-year premium payment term, the benefits remain the same: guaranteed level premiums, guaranteed whole life coverage and guaranteed cash values. The participating policy has the added benefit of non-guaranteed coverage and cash value growth far beyond the guaranteed amounts.
This, along with the flexibility to change your dividend option freely at every policy anniversary (subject to some standard limitations), and 5 different options for how you receive annual dividends, makes Assumption Life a great option for those looking for a quick-issue whole life insurance policy.
The company also offers several riders you can add to the coverage on the principal insured individual or an additional insured individual, including their Flex Term and Golden Protection Elite products.
This is in addition to other non-medical non-participating products including Platinum Protection, Golden Protection, Silver Protection, and Bronze Protection – providing several options for those in the market for simplified issue whole life products.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Flexibility
Best Whole Life Insurance for Flexibility: BMO
BMO Estate Protector
BMO Wealth Accelerator
Life pay, 10-pay, 20-pay
Paid Up Additions
BMO (Bank of Montreal) has an A rating for financial strength.
BMO’s whole life insurance product is a non-participating whole life plan that mimics other participating plans, hence its unique premise. It offers an increasing death benefit, guaranteed cash values, and guaranteed level premiums. The plan is very flexible: It includes several features which can help manage your insurance coverage based on your various circumstances. Because it is not a participating plan, every year the company adds a performance bonus, not a dividend.
Some of these are: premium switching (changing the premium payment period), premium offset (you have the choice to stop paying premiums and have them deducted from the paid up value of the policy’s existing cash value), additional payments (you can accelerate growth of the death benefit and cash value by making additional payments whenever possible) and policy loans.
The plan can help a number of different target groups achieve their goals; be it the jet set (like those who have maxed out their RRSPs and TFSAs and are looking for additional investment avenues), business owners (those looking for an effective way to pass on corporate assets to shareholders’ heirs), young families (who need a cost effective way to replace their lost income in case of an unfortunate death) or children and grandchildren (parents or grandparents can gift them life-long coverage with guaranteed premiums and cash value).
AM BEST RATING
Best For Affordability
Best Whole Life Insurance for Affordability: Beneva (formerly La Capitale)
Beneva has several non-participating permanent life insurance products that include complimentary additional features. Their Whole Life 20, Whole Life 100, and Term-to-100 policies feature affordable premiums, which helps in limiting financial commitments later on in life. Plus, the wide range of customization options makes the premiums all the more attractive.
Beneva’s permanent life products offer four different options for the number of lives covered. There are also a number of riders and other features available, including a Children’s Life rider, Critical Illness rider, total disability waiver of premium, and an accidental death & dismemberment benefit. And, Beneva offers simplified and guaranteed issue whole life options, where a potential policyholder can get permanent coverage without going through a medical exam or providing a blood sample.
Beneva also offers a participating permanent life insurance product through its Universal Life Insurance product, for the individual who wants to spend a bit more to have an investment component they can manage themselves.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Non-Medical
Best Whole Life Insurance for Non-Medical Coverage: Canada Protection Plan
Guaranteed Acceptance Life, Deferred Life, Deferred Elite Life, Simplified Elite Life, Preferred Life, and Preferred Elite Life
Canada Protection Plan offers a variety of non-participating whole life insurance options. Their policies start from $10,000 in coverage. Smaller whole life insurance policies available through Canada Protection Plan are ideal to cover funeral costs and other expected final expenses. The premiums are guaranteed for life as long as you are consistently paying them.
The purchasing process is straightforward and the coverage is affordable. In many cases there is no mandatory medical exam, depending on your current health and the policy coverage amount.
Canada Protection Plan has non-medical options catering to everyone depending on their individual health circumstances: Guaranteed Acceptance Life coverage is meant for those with severe health conditions and typically find it hard to find coverage elsewhere, or were even previously refused insurance; Deferred Life coverage is available to protect those with significant health issues.
On the other hand, for those in good health who want coverage quickly, there is a range of options in their Simplified Life and Preferred Life category. Preferred Life can offer quick, non-medical whole life coverage for as much as $1,000,000.
Canada Protection Plan was founded in 1992 and has always been providing quick, simplified coverage to Canadians in all insurance categories.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Early Premium Payoff
Best Whole Life For Paying Off Premiums Early: Empire Life
Empire Optimax Wealth
Solutions 100 with Cash Values
Life pay, 8-pay, 10-pay, 20-pay
Annual Premium Reduction, Cash Accumulation, Cash Dividends, Enhanced Coverage, Paid-Up Additions
Empire Life was founded in 1923 and has an A rating for financial strength (AM Best).
Empire Life is one of the few Canadian life insurance companies offering an 8-pay option – this makes it easier to pay off all your whole life insurance premiums early. If utilizing this option, after paying elevated premiums for 8 years, one can then rest easy knowing they have life-long coverage (and cash value growth) without any additional obligation to pay premiums.
Empire Life’s flagship EstateMax product is designed for those looking to build wealth through long term cash values, and to increase their life insurance benefit for estate planning purposes or charitable donation.
EstateMax provides some of the highest guaranteed cash values in the later years of the policy. The non-guaranteed values are also above average, making this one of the more popular whole life insurance products in the Canadian market.
Empire Life also offers Optimax. This participating product is designed for those who plan to retire soon and wish to access the cash value of the policy in the first 20 years. Optimax’s cash values can also help with covering children’s education costs and other expenses within the policyholder’s lifespan and provide protection for small business owners – through life insurance coverage for the owner and higher early cash values.
Both plans come with a range of dividend options.
Solutions 100 is a whole life policy with cash values, but a premium comparable to a Term-to-100 policy.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Guaranteed Benefit
Best Whole Life for Guaranteed Benefits: Equitable Life
Equitable Equimax Estate Builder
Equitable Equimax Wealth Accumulator
Life pay, 10-pay, 20-pay
Annual Premium Reduction, Cash Accumulation, Cash Dividends, Enhanced Coverage, Paid-Up Addition
Equitable Life’s flagship Equimax Estate Builder product provides Canadians higher guaranteed cash values in the long term compared to their competition. Its non-guaranteed cash and death benefit values are also attractive – particularly the non-guaranteed cash value. This plan is tailored for Canadians seeking long term financial planning. In exchange for their patience they are awarded very attractive cash values.
Equimax Estate Builder can also be used to pass on wealth to loved ones and other beneficiaries for the purpose of estate planning and charitable giving.
Equitable Wealth Accumulator is Equitable Life’s other participating offering. While Estate Builder is focused on long-term values, Wealth Accumulator is more focused on building cash value in an accelerated manner during the earlier years. It can be a great option for small business owners from a business-protection perspective and for individuals who would like to access their cash values in the early years of their retirement.
Both plans offer the full range of dividend options. And, their whole life insurance policies now include several payment term options, including Life Pay, 10-Pay, and 20-Pay.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Final Expenses
Best Whole Life Insurance for Final Expenses: Foresters
10-pay (Advantage Plus only), 20-pay, pay-to-100
Paid-Up Additions, Cash, Deposit, Premium Reduction, Enhanced Coverage
Foresters has a A financial strength rating from AM Best.
Foresters offers both participating and non-participating whole life products.
Foresters Non-Par Whole Life is a fixed premium non-participating product. This plan is a good option for those looking to cover end-of-life expenses. A policyholder’s beneficiary will generally not owe any income taxes on the death benefit from this product.
It also offers up to $1,000 in bereavement assistance to the beneficiaries which can be used for grief counselling. While nothing can take away from the pain of a loved one’s death, a plan like this can help ease both the financial and emotional burden on the beneficiaries.
Foresters has a Simplified Non-Par Whole Life product as well, which provides permanent non-participating life insurance without the requirement of a medical exam.
Foresters also offers Advantage Plus Whole Life. This participating product offers the flexibility to customize a plan that helps provide financial security for your loved ones. Advantage Plus has lifetime death benefit protection, guaranteed cash value, and guaranteed premiums, with premium payment options of 10-pay, 20-pay or pay-to-age-100.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Customization
Best Whole Life Insurance for Customization: Industrial Alliance
Whole Life Insurance
10, 20, pay-to-65, pay-to-100
Paid-up Additions, Cash, Deposit with Interest, Annual Premium Reduction
Industrial Alliance (iA) has an A+ financial strength rating (AM Best).
iA’s (Industrial Alliance) non-participating whole life insurance plan offers a high level of customization. Be it payment options (10-pay, 20-pay, pay-to-65, and life-pay), the face amount, or multi-insured coverage (up to 9 people on the same policy), alongside a number of optional riders, there is a huge degree of flexibility for Industrial Alliance policyholders.
You even have the choice to pay your premiums on a semi-annual basis, in addition to the annual and monthly options offered by most other insurers.
A point a potential policyholder should note; the guaranteed surrender value is only available starting on the policy’s 11th anniversary.
Lastly, iA Par is their participating whole life insurance policy. It is a typical participating policy with one omission, enhanced insurance is missing.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Performance
Best Whole Life Insurance for Performance: Manulife
10-pay, 15-pay, 20-pay, pay-to-90, pay-to-100
Paid-up-Insurance, Cash Dividends
Manulife has a A+ financial strength rating (AM Best).
Manulife offers both participating (Manulife Par) and non-participating products (Performax Gold). Manulife Par – however – is their flagship whole life product.
The product offers attractive long-term cash value and death benefit growth without compromising access to those cash values in the early years of the policy.
The minimum coverage offered is $100,000. The premiums for Manulife Par are higher compared to other products in the market. However, higher premiums create the potential to earn higher dividends, in turn supporting the higher non-guaranteed cash and death benefit values promised.
Policyholder’s also have an option to withdraw dividends annually. They also offer limited pay options for those that may want to pay off the premiums early.
There is even an option to switch between some of the payment options during the life of the policy.
Performax Gold is a non-participating policy with coverage as low as $25,000 and allows a 15-pay option.
AM BEST RATING
Best For Families
Best Whole Life Insurance for Families: Beneva (formerly SSQ)
Whole Life 20
Whole Life 100
Life pay, 20-pay
SSQ Insurance was founded in 1944. In January 2023, it merged with La Capitale to form Beneva Insurance. It has an A rating by AM Best. Read more about what happened to SSQ Insurance.
Beneva’s whole life offering is ideal for couples, young families, and empty nesters.
It boasts many options for the number of lives covered: Individual, Multi-Life, Joint-first-to-die (up to 5 lives), and Joint-last-to-die (2 lives). Though take note: Joint-first-to-die and Joint-last-to-die are available only if life pay is chosen as the payment period.
For Whole Life 20 and Whole Life 100 one can choose guaranteed, paid-up insurance, or access cash values from year 10 onward.
Additional benefits include: a critical illness rider of up to $20,000 with no further underwriting required, a child illness rider, a waiver of premium for disability, and an additional accidental death benefit. An extreme disability benefit is also included, which can pay out 50% of the initial whole life insurance amount in a case where the policyholder suffers a disability before age 60.
This is a great option for families looking for protection against the unfortunate death or disability of their primary breadwinner, as well as those looking to extend coverage to all their family members.
AM BEST RATING
Best Classic Policy
Best Classic Whole Life Insurance: Sun Life
Sun Spectrum Permanent Life Insurance II
Sun Permanent Life
Sun Par Accelerator
Sun Par Protector II
Sun Par Accumulator II
Life pay, 8-pay, 10-pay, 15-pay (Sun Permanent Life only), 20-pay
Cash Dividends, Cash Accumulation, Enhanced Coverage, Premium reduction, Paid-Up Additions
Sun Life is one of the oldest and largest insurance companies on the planet. It was founded in 1844 and controls over $20-billion in assets worldwide. It has an A+ financial strength rating (AM Best).
If you are a lover of all things vintage, such as record players, old movies, classic cars, signing documents with pen-and-paper and meeting an insurance representative face-to-face, Sun Life is hands down your best option for whole life insurance.
Sun Par Protector II is a participating whole life insurance product that seeks to generate long-term cash value and death benefit growth.
Sun Par Accumulator II is another product from the Sun Life stable which focuses on higher cash value growth in the near term. The company also offers an 8-pay option through Sun Par Accelerator.
Sun Permanent Life is a non-participating product and offers simple and straightforward protection with the option of increasing the death benefit later on in the life of the policy. It can be used to provide a financial foundation for one’s beneficiaries and also for charitable donations. It offers single and joint coverage, a number of complementary benefits, and optional riders.
One big caveat to keep in mind: some of the Sun Life products have a minimum coverage amount of $250,000.
Sun Life offers two more permanent life options: Sun Spectrum Permanent Life II which is ideal for people who do not wish to actively manage their coverage, but require life-long protection; and Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance – guaranteed no-medical life insurance with a coverage range between $5,000 and $25,000.
All of Sun Life’s whole life policies (both participating and non-participating) come with either a Joint-First-To-Die or Joint-Last-To-Die option where the policy premiums are considered paid up at the first death. This option is only applicable for life-pay options.
AM BEST RATING
Best Value For Money
Best Whole Life Insurance for Value for Money: Wawanesa
Wawanesa Whole Life
Life pay, 20-pay
Founded in 1896; A grade financial strength rating by AM Best.
Wawanesa’s participating whole life insurance product offers some of the best value amongst all the insurers in our reviews.
They offer higher coverage amounts at a lower premium cost than many of their competitors and is therefore one of the most affordable whole life insurance choices in Canada.
Wawanesa also offers high guaranteed cash values early on, especially through their 20-pay product. There’s a very good chance you will “break even” (have access to a guaranteed cash value higher than the sum total of the premiums you have paid) in 20 years or under!
You can also build additional coverage with dividends; Wawanesa lets policyholders purchase paid-up additional insurance with the value from their dividends. This coverage will never expire or require additional premiums and also builds on the cash value of one’s policy.
Wawanesa also offers a guaranteed issue permanent life insurance policy with coverage up to $50,000 for clients aged 45-75. The premiums for this instant issue life insurance policy are available in 20-pay.
The information above is intended for informational purposes only and is based on PolicyAdvisor’s own views, which are subject to change without notice. This content is not intended and should not be construed to constitute financial or legal advice. PolicyAdvisor accepts no responsibility for the outcome of people choosing to act on the information contained on this website. PolicyAdvisor makes every effort to include updated, accurate information. The above content may not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, termination, and other provisions of the policies described, some of which may be material to the policy selection. Please refer to the actual policy documents for complete details. In case of any discrepancy, the language in the actual policy documents will prevail. A.M. Best financial strength ratings displayed above are not a warranty of a company’s financial strength and ability to meet its obligations to policyholders. All rights reserved.