The Benefits of Life Insurance

by : Jim Pretin

Life insurance is a contract between the policy owner and the insurance company, where the company agrees to pay a sum of money upon the occurrence of the death of the insured. In return, the policy owner agrees to make regular premium payments.

Insured events that may be covered include: death, diagnosis of a terminal illness, diagnosis of a critical illness, disability due to ill health, permanent disability, accidental death, or requirement for long term care.

Not only can life insurance benefit your family in the event of your death, but it can also benefit you as an investment. Your life insurance can provide benefits to your children, emergency loans to you while you are still alive, and some other benefits as well. For the remainder of this article, we will outline each of the benefits available to you and your family under a typical life insurance policy so that you can decide if life insurance might be right for you, or if you need to make changes to your already existing life insurance policy.

The most well known feature of a life insurance contract is the designation of a beneficiary. In the event of your death, benefits can be distributed to one or more beneficiaries of your choosing. There are many different types of beneficiaries that you can establish, so we need to review each one and weigh the pros and cons of each.

You can specify multiple beneficiaries if you choose to do so. For example, you might want to have your spouse as well as all of your children listed as beneficiaries. You can also stipulate the percentage of the proceeds that each beneficiary is to receive. Most people list their wife as the sole beneficiary while the kids are still young, and then as the kids get older, they modify their policy to include their children for a certain percentage of the death benefit. A guardian or trustee needs to be appointed to administer the payout of the proceeds to any beneficiaries that are still a minor.

It is also common to name a contingent beneficiary. If your primary beneficiary dies, then the contingent beneficiary is next in line to receive the proceeds of your life insurance when you die. Also, your beneficiary designation can be revocable or irrevocable. If it is revocable, you can change it any time without permission to do so. If the designation is irrevocable, you can not appoint a new beneficiary without the consent of the current beneficiary.

There are a few different types of life insurance. For our purposes here, we are only going to make a distinction between those types of policies that provide you with money while you are still living and those that do not because we want to hold our focus on the benefits of life insurance, not the different types of coverage.

Term life insurance does not give you the potential for income while you are still living. It only pays a benefit in the event you die during the covered term. Other types of coverage, such as variable life, universal life, and whole life, do have a cash surrender value because a portion of each premium payment you make is invested in a separate account. That money can accrue over time, depending upon what the money is being invested in. You have the option of investing the money in fixed income or variable investment funds.

You can terminate your policy while you are still alive. If you choose to do, you will receive the amount that has been invested, minus the surrender charges that the insurance company will assess on the money for early withdrawal.

You can also take a loan against the cash value of your policy. The interest rates for these types of loans are typically small, and you can pay back the loan in a lump sum or installments. If you default on the loan, the insurance company will pay off the loan using the accumulated cash value that you borrowed against.

Also, it is possible to buy a participating policy. The insurance company pays the holder of a participating policy a dividend, much like a normal corporation pays dividends to its stockholders. A non-participating policy does not pay a dividend. Term life policies are always non-participating.

I hope this information will help you weigh all your options when you decide to buy a life insurance policy. If you already have a policy, review it carefully to make sure you have a policy that suits your needs. Call your agent and ask questions if there is something that is not clear. You may not have an individual agent assigned to your policy. If that is the case, call the customer service center for the insurance company, and they will be able to answer any questions you might have.