Life insurance (or commonly life assurance) is a contact between an insured (insurance policy holder) and an insurer or assurer where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money (the "benefits") upon the death of the insured person. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness may also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as a lump sum. Other expenses (such as funeral expenses) are also sometimes included in the benefits.
Life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the liability of the insurer; common examples are claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot, and civil commotion.
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•Protection policies - designed to provide a benefit in the event of specified event, typically a lump sum payment. A common form of this design is term insurance.
•Investment policies - where the main objective is to facilitate the growth of capital by regular or single premiums. Common forms (in the US) are whole life, universal life and variable life policies.
Special exclusions may apply, such as suicide clauses, whereby the policy becomes null and void if the insured commits suicide within a specified time (usually two years after the purchase date). Any misrepresentations by the insured on the application may also be grounds for nullification. Most US states specify a maximum contestability period, often no more than two years. Only if the insured dies within this period will the insurer have a legal right to contest the claim on the basis of misrepresentation and request additional information before deciding whether to pay or deny the claim.
Term assurance provides life insurance coverage for a specified term. The policy does not accumulate cash value. Term is generally considered "pure" insurance, where the premium buys protection in the event of death and nothing else.
• Face amount (protection or death benefit)
• Premium to be paid (cost to the insured)
• Length of coverage.
Annual renewable term is a one-year policy, but the insurance company guarantees it will issue a policy of an equal or lesser amount regardless of the insurability of the applicant, and with a premium set for the applicant's age at that time.
Permanent life insurance is life insurance that remains active until the policy matures, unless the owner fails to pay the premium when due. The policy cannot be cancelled by the insurer for any reason except fraudulent application, and any such cancellation must occur within a period of time (usually two years) defined by law. A permanent insurance expense over time. This means that a policy with a million dollar face value can be relatively expensive to a 70-year-old. The owner can access the money in the cash value by withdrawing money, borrowing the cash value, or surrendering the policy and receiving the surrender value.
The three basic types of permanent insurance are whole life, universal life, and limited pay.
(Most common insurance for long term coverage)
Whole life insurance provides lifetime death benefit coverage for a level premium in most cases. Premiums are much higher than term insurance at younger ages, but as term insurance premiums rise with age at each renewal, the cumulative value of all premiums paid across a lifetime are roughly equal if policies are maintained until average life expectancy. Part of the insurance contract stipulates that the policy holder is entitled to a cash value reserve, which is part of the policy and guaranteed by the company. This cash value can be accessed at any time through policy loans and are received income tax free. Policy loans are available until the insured's death. If there are any unpaid loans upon death, the insurer subtracts the loan amount from the death benefit and pays the remainder to the beneficiary named in the policy.
The advantages of whole life insurance are guaranteed death benefits, guaranteed cash values, fixed, predictable annual premiums and mortality and expense charges that will not reduce the cash value of the policy. The disadvantages of whole life are inflexibility of premiums and the fact the the internal rate of return in the policy dividends, though these dividends cannot be guaranteed and may be higher or lower than historical rates over time. According to internal documents from some life insurance companies, the internal rate of return and dividend payment realized by the policyholder is often a function of when the policy holder buys the policy and how long that policy remains in force. Dividends paid on a whole life policy can be utilized in many ways.