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.
There are three key factors to be considered in term insurance:
- Face amount (protection or death benefit),
- Premium to be paid (cost to the insured), and
- Length of coverage (term).
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.
Level premium term can be purchased in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 year terms. The premium and death benefit stays level during these terms.
Another common type of term insurance is mortgage life insurance, which usually involves a level-premium, declining face value policy. The face amount is intended to equal the amount of the mortgage on the policy owner’s property, such that any outstanding amount on the applicant’s mortgage will be paid should the applicant die.
Permanent life insurance
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 policy accumulates a cash value, reducing the risk to which the insurance company is exposed, and thus the insurance expense over time. 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 four basic types of permanent insurance are whole life, universal life, limited pay, and endowment.
Whole life 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 policyholder 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.
Features 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 death benefit can also be increased through the use of 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 policyholder buys the policy and how long that policy remains in force. Dividends paid on a whole life policy can be utilized in many ways. The life insurance manual defines policy dividends as a refund of overpayment of premiums. It is not the same as stock dividends.
Universal life coverage
Universal life insurance (UL) is intended to combine permanent insurance coverage with greater flexibility in premium payment, along with the potential for greater growth of cash values. There are several types of universal life insurance policies which include interest sensitive (also known as “traditional fixed universal life insurance”), variable universal life (VUL), guaranteed death benefit, and equity indexed universal life insurance.
A universal life insurance policy includes a cash value. Premiums increase the cash values, but the cost of insurance (along with any other charges assessed by the insurance company) reduces cash values.
Universal life insurance addresses the perceived disadvantages of whole life – namely that premiums and death benefit are fixed. With universal life, both the premiums and death benefit are flexible. Except with regards to guaranteed death benefit universal life, this flexibility comes with the disadvantage of reduced guarantees.
Flexible death benefit means the policy owner can choose to decrease the death benefit. The death benefit could also be increased by the policy owner, but that would typically require the insured to go through a new underwriting. Another feature of flexible death benefit is the ability to choose from option A or option B death benefits, and to change those options during the life of the insured. Option A is often referred to as a level death benefit. Generally speaking, the death benefit will remain level for the life of the insured and premiums are expected to be lower than policies with an Option B death benefit. Option B pays the face amount plus the cash value. If cash values grow over time, so would the death benefit which is payable to the insured’s beneficiaries. If cash values decline, the death benefit would also decline. Presumably, option B death benefit policies would require higher premiums than option A policies.
Another type of permanent insurance is Limited-pay life insurance, in which all the premiums are paid over a specified period after which no additional premiums are due to the policy in force. Common limited pay periods include 10-year, 20-year, and are paid out at the age of 65
Endowments are policies in which the cumulative cash value of the policy equals the death benefit at a certain age. The age at which this condition is reached is known as the endowment age. Endowments are considerably more expensive (in terms of annual premiums) than either whole life or universal life because the premium paying period is shortened and the endowment date is earlier.
In the United States, the Technical Corrections Act of 1988 tightened the rules on tax shelters (creating modified endowments). These follow tax rules in the same manner as annuities and IRAs.
Endowment insurance is paid out whether the insured lives or dies, after a specific period (e.g. 15 years) or a specific age (e.g. 65).
Accidental death is a limited life insurance designed to cover the insured should they die due to an accident. Accidents include anything from an injury and upwards, but do not typically cover deaths resulting from health problems or suicide. Because they only cover accidents, these policies are much less expensive than other life insurance policies.
It is also very commonly offered as accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D) policy. In an AD&D policy, benefits are available not only for accidental death, but also for the loss of limbs or bodily functions, such as sight and hearing.
Accidental death and AD&D policies very rarely pay a benefit, either because the cause of death is not covered by the policy, or the coverage is not maintained after the accident until death occurs. To be aware of what coverage they have, an insured should always review their policy for what it covers and what it excludes. Often, it does not cover an insured who puts themselves at risk in activities such as parachuting, flying, professional sports, or involvement in a war (military or not).
Accidental death benefits can also be added to a standard life insurance policy as a rider. If this rider is purchased, the policy will generally pay double the face amount if the insured dies due to an accident. This used to be commonly referred to as a double indemnity policy. In some cases, insurers may even offer triple indemnity cover.
Riders are modifications to the insurance policy added at the same time the policy is issued. These riders change the basic policy to provide some feature desired by the policy owner. A common rider is accidental death (see above). Another common rider is a premium waiver, which waives future premiums if the insured becomes disabled.
Joint life insurance is either a term or permanent policy insuring two or more persons with the proceeds payable on either the first or second death.
Survivorship life is a whole life policy insuring two lives with the proceeds payable on the second (later) death.
Single premium whole life is a policy with only one premium which is payable at the time the policy matures.
Modified whole life is a whole life policy featuring smaller premiums for a specified period of time, after which the premiums increase for the remainder of the policy.
Group life insurance
Group life insurance (also known as wholesale life insurance or institutional life insurance) is term insurance covering a group of people, usually employees of a company, members of a union or association, or members of a pension or superannuation fund. Individual proof of insurability is not normally a consideration in the underwriting. Rather, the underwriter considers the size, turnover, and financial strength of the group. Contract provisions will attempt to exclude the possibility of adverse selection. Group life insurance often includes a provision for a member exiting the group to buy individual coverage.
Legal life insurance
Legal life insurance is an insurance designed to cover the legal expense arising in legal proceedings, when there is claim refusal to nominee from the insurance company.The premiums paid are depending on the legal expense cover provided for the covered policy amount.. It covers only the claim refusal event for the life insurance policy.
Senior and preneed products
Insurance companies have developed products to offer to niche markets, most notably targeting the senior market to address needs of an aging population. Many companies offer policies tailored to the needs of senior applicants. These are often low to moderate face value whole life insurance policies, to allow a senior citizen purchasing insurance at an older issue age an opportunity to buy affordable insurance. This may also be marketed as final expense insurance, and an agent or company may suggest that the policy proceeds could be used for end-of-life expenses. These policies usually have death benefits of between $2,000 and $40,000.
Preneed life insurance policies are limited premium payment whole life policies that, although available at almost any age, are usually purchased by older applicants. This type of insurance is designed to cover specific funeral expenses when the insured person dies, which the applicant has designated in a preneed funeral goods & services contract with a funeral home. The policy’s death benefit is initially based on the total funeral cost at the time of prearrangement, and it then typically grows as interest is credited. In exchange for the policy owner’s designation of the funeral home as the primary beneficiary, the funeral home will typically guarantee that the death benefit proceeds will cover the future cost of the selected goods & services no matter when death occurs. Excess proceeds may go to either the insured’s estate, a designated beneficiary, or to the funeral home, as set forth in the prearrangement funeral contract. Purchasers of these policies usually make a single premium payment equal to the funeral amount at the time of prearrangement, but companies offering these products also allow premiums to be paid over as much as ten years.
Premiums paid by the policy owner are normally not deductible for federal and state income tax purposes, and proceeds paid by the insurer upon the death of the insured are not included in gross income for federal and state income tax purposes. However, if the proceeds are included in the “estate” of the deceased, it is possible they will be subject to federal and state estate and inheritance tax.
Cash value increases within the policy are not subject to income taxes unless certain events occur. For this reason, insurance policies can be a legal and legitimate tax shelter wherein savings can increase without taxation until the owner withdraws the money from the policy. In flexible-premium policies, large deposits of premium could cause the contract to be considered a modified endowment contract by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which negates many of the tax advantages associated with life insurance. The insurance company, in most cases, will inform the policy owner of this danger before deciding their premium.
The tax ramifications of life insurance are complex. The policy owner would be well advised to carefully consider them.