Last updated : March 21, 2024

What is permanent life insurance?

It’s a type of life insurance that gives you lifelong coverage to protect your loved ones. This means that your coverage never expires, no matter your age, health, or history. Your loved ones are guaranteed a death benefit whenever you pass away, provided you’ve paid your premiums. And over time, your policy can grow in value too.

Benefits of permanent life insurance

Cash value

Some permanent life insurance plans also come with a cash value, a tax-preferred savings portion. Borrowing or withdrawing funds from your cash value may reduce your policy’s death benefit.

Lifelong coverage

You’ll get lifetime insurance that never expires.

Tax-free death benefit

Your beneficiaries get the money from the death benefit to use in any way they want.

Premiums that won’t change

Most permanent life insurance premiums don’t increase from the time you first buy the policy. And some permanent insurance plans guarantee that you’ll only pay the premiums for a limited time.

What are the different types of permanent life insurance?

There are 3 types of permanent life insurance plans: whole life insurance, universal life insurance and participating life insurance.

Each plan comes with unique features to meet your specific needs. Here they are at a glance:


Whole life insurance

Universal life insurance

Participating life insurance

Lifelong coverage      
Tax-free death benefit      
Chance to grow cash value      
Premiums Fixed Greatest payment flexibility Some payment flexibility
Option to grow savings on a tax-preferred basis      
Choice of investment options based on your risk profile      
Opportunity to earn policy dividends        
  Learn about whole life insurance Learn about universal life insurance Learn about participating life insurance

Get permanent life insurance

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Not sure what type of insurance you need?

A Sun Life advisor can help you figure it out and can provide you with a customized quote.

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Buy permanent life insurance online

Looking for coverage up to $25,000? Then check out Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance.

It’s a permanent life insurance plan you can get without having to provide any medical details. You won’t need to answer any health questions or take any medical exams and are guaranteed to qualify regardless of your current health condition.

Calculate how much life insurance you might need to help protect the people you love if you die.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does permanent life insurance work in Canada?

In Canada, permanent life insurance gives you coverage all throughout your life. Your beneficiaries will get a tax-free payment after you die. Some of our permanent life insurance policies can also help you build up a cash value.

How does cash value work in a permanent life insurance policy?

Cash value is a savings portion within your policy that earns interest. You can borrow or withdraw from it. But there may be tax implications if you withdraw or borrow from your cash value.

Can I get a quote online for permanent life insurance?

You can get a quote online for up to $25,000 with Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance.

Get a permanent life insurance quote

For life insurance policy that provides more than $25,000 in coverage, you can connect with an advisor to get a quote and apply.

How old do I have to be to apply for permanent life insurance in Canada?

Canadian residents can apply for permanent life insurance at age 16 (unless you live in Quebec).

Anyone under age 16 can still be named as an “insured person” under a policy. But the policy owner must be at least age 16 (unless you live in Quebec).

For example, a parent can buy a policy for their children.

For more detailed information, connect with an advisor

What’s the difference between permanent and term life insurance?

The main difference is that permanent life insurance offers lifelong insurance coverage. Term insurance covers you for a specific number of years (e.g., 10, 15, 20, or 30 years).

Both term and permanent life insurance will give your beneficiaries a payment after you die. But with a term policy, your beneficiaries won’t receive any money if you die after your term policy expires.

Learn more about the differences between term and permanent life insurance

When can you take cash out of a permanent life insurance policy?

You have three options to take cash out of your permanent life insurance policy:

  1. Cancel your policy and receive any cash value, if any. Your life insurance coverage will end, and some or all the money you receive may be subject to tax.
  2. Withdraw part of your cash value at any time. This may reduce your policy’s death benefit meaning there will be less money for your beneficiaries after you die. There can also be tax consequences if you access your policy’s cash value.
  3. Borrowing against your cash value. If you take out a loan against your cash value, interest will be charged. You can repay the loan at any time. If you don’t, the loan amount plus interest will be deducted from the death benefit at the time of death.

Connect with an advisor for more information

Does permanent life insurance expire?

No, a permanent life insurance policy doesn’t expire and will last your entire life as long as your premiums are paid.

How long do you have to pay for permanent life insurance?

It depends on the type of permanent life insurance policy you get. Some policies give you the option to pay for life (age 100). Other policies require you to pay premiums only for a specific amount of time.

Will my premiums remain the same as I age?

With most types of permanent life insurance, your premiums are guaranteed to remain the same throughout your life.

Connect with an advisor for more information

Will I have to answer questions about my health when I apply for permanent life insurance?

Most of our permanent life insurance plans require you to answer health questions and provide medical information.

The only exception is Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance, which is a ‘no medical’ life insurance – this means you won’t have to answer any health questions.

Will I have to go through underwriting when I apply for permanent life insurance?

Most of our permanent life insurance plans require you to go through insurance underwriting, excluding Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance. There’s no underwriting or medical questions asked when applying for this product.

Learn more about insurance underwriting and how it works

Not sure which financial products are right for you?

A Sun Life advisor can help you set up a plan that fits your financial needs and goals.

Enter your postal code to find an advisor near you.

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Additional resources

Is permanent life insurance right for you?

Looking for financial protection for the people who depend on you that will last as long as you live?

Term vs. Permanent Insurance: What’s the difference?

Find out what’s right for you. Connect with an advisor to discuss all your options or get a quote for select products. 

4 different types of life insurance explained (video)

What’s the difference between term, permanent, participating and universal life insurance policies?