DeadHappy: putting life into life insurance

Leah Montebello
January 25, 2024

As the only thing in life that’s inevitable, we are all undoubtedly terrified of death – let alone the idea of planning for it. From the paperwork, to solicitors’ fees, the notion of getting life insurance in your twenties feels as appealing as pulling out all your front teeth and wearing them as a necklace. However, Phil Zeidler and Andy Knott, have come up with a solution that not only appeals to the tech-savvy millennial but also reframes death in a more personal and hopeful light.


The DeadHappy story starts back in 2005 when Zeidler was working in insurance and running several successful businesses. As a fit thirty-eight-year-old, the relevancy of his life insurance felt like a far-off problem. However, very unexpectedly, Zeidler was taken ill and found himself in intensive care in a coma. Not only did he nearly not survive, but it inevitably forced him to “pause for thought”. He says, “It can happen to anyone, and if I hadn’t been so fit, I probably wouldn’t have survived. If this had happened, I would have left behind a wife and two very young children, and you start to think what would have happened to them?”

Thankfully, having worked in the business, Zeidler had life insurance and a will laid out at the time of his illness, but when he tried to change it after his recovery, he discovered the sheer inflexibility of the model. Zeidler explains, “When I dug deeper, I realised that I’d been overpaying all these years, and I had to cancel because they wouldn’t change it. I felt really irritated, so that was the genesis to make something better.”

So after meeting his co-founder Andy Knott, digital marketer, they discovered that around 8.5 million people who have dependents don’t have life insurance, and whilst this may be for a plethora of reasons, “we think it’s mainly because it is so bloody difficult to get!”, Zeilder laughs. “The product is not innovative, it’s structured poorly and it’s unlike any other insurance product. There is a massive need out there for it to be done better and that’s why DeadHappy exists!”

Revolutionary product

DeadHappy fundamentally changes life insurance. Firstly, you don’t buy it for a fixed term, because, in Zeidler’s words, “who honestly knows what they want in 25 years’ time?”. They sell a ten-year rolling product that is flexible and you can move it up and down when you need it. Under DeadHappy insurance, you are guaranteed to cover whatever happens and their team will check in every year to reassess your circumstances, and extend your cover back out to 10 years. This provides a flexibility that reflects the uncertainties and ever-changing nature of our lives (rather than what the standard insurance model tells you it should be).

Secondly, the pricing is completely different because they price it from your age today and then every year it goes up a little. This is different from other providers, who charge the average age over the full length of the policy – basically meaning you overpay for the first ten to fifteen years and then underpay for the last. Not only is this nonsensical (e.g. paying more when you’re younger, and theoretically have less money, and less when you’re older, when you, in theory, have more), but no other insurance prices like that. Therefore, DeadHappy aims to create a product that fits the customer.

Finally, they also only ask four questions when you sign up for insurance. The rationale behind this is that because they are only insuring you initially for ten years, they will need exponentially less information about you. It is also all digital, and Zeidler claims they don’t even have phones. He emphasises, “You know we won’t phone you …because we don’t have your phone number! We don’t try to sell it. We think people should want to buy it and it’s our job to make it clear enough and good enough that we don’t need to have a high-pressure salesperson”.

Death wish

Fundamental to DeadHappy is the introduction of death wishes. These are requests people can make when they die, and again, completely rethink the model of life insurance: “We don’t ask people what kind of life insurance they want because most people don’t know the answer to that. Instead, we ask people what they want to happen when they die, and then we give them all the options – like paying off the mortgage, planning their funeral, or paying for their kids’ schooling”.

As expected, DeadHappy has received some weird and wonderful requests over the past few years, ranging from sweet to saucy. For example, Zeidler has made his own death wishes to send his children on their dream trips to Australia and his best friends to Las Vegas.

Zeidler also gets teary telling me about a touching request made by one of their customers to send a bunch of flowers to his wife every year after his death. He candidly tells me, “I think it’s amazing and so thoughtful… it’s shit that you’re gonna die and nobody wants to deal with it, but you can also show a level of thoughtfulness through our system that most people have never even dreamed about. I just try and imagine how that must feel having lost someone.” DeadHappy tailors the product; suddenly life insurance captures the essence of the life it is aiming to insure.

Changing our views on death

Despite all coming face to face with our mortality over the past year and a half, we still feel deeply uncomfortable facing it. I ask Zeidler whether they have faced a backlash from their comedic handling of death and whilst he admits they get the occasional Facebook comment, he believes that perhaps this means they haven’t gone far enough! “Hopefully we’ve got the balance right – clearly Deadhappy is an oxymoron and I think the majority of people recognise that and we are dealing with a topic with humour and people appreciate that because sometimes it’s the best way to deal with it!”

Setting themselves up to be a bit different, DeadHappy won’t be for everyone, but they hope to provide a product for people who see life (and death) as they do. “The purpose of our business is to actually try and change attitudes towards death. What we mean by that is that death is one of the last taboos. People often talk about sex, drugs, racism… all those things people didn’t talk about 30, 40 years ago. However, now these topics are good conversation. But death? Oh no. Even though that’s the only thing that is definitely going to happen.”

He continues, “Given we know it’s going to happen, isn’t it completely illogical that we avoid even thinking about it? We want to make it simple and easy for people just to think about it and talk about it and plan for it and then go and live their life to the fullest.” Encouraging all their customers to “suck out the marrow of life”, he emphasises how DeadHappy can provide a mechanism to make grief easier and ultimately give you the stability to enjoy life whilst you still have it.

“We are all going to die, so let’s make sure we pack in as much as we can before we do!”.

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