Life Insurance Plans and Options: The Basics

There are numerous options for which plan to select. Listed below are the basics of life insurance and how the benefits of these choices can help provide protection. There are two types of life insurance plans: term (temporary) or permanent plans. Life insurers offer various forms of term plans and traditional life policies as well as combinations of the two types.

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Many options exist for life insurance plans; choose the one that works for you.

Life insurance is a fundamental use of life insurance to protect against a mortgage. There are numerous options for which plan to select. Listed below are the basics of life insurance and how the benefits of these choices can help provide protection.

There are two life insurance plans: term (temporary) or permanent. Life insurers offer various forms of term plans and traditional life policies, as well as combinations of the two types.

Term Insurance:

Term insurance protects for a specified period of time. This period could be as short as one year or provide coverage for a specific number of years, such as 5, 10, or 20 years. If death occurs during the term period, the company will pay the face amount of the policy to your beneficiary. If you live beyond the selected term period, no benefit is payable.

Types of Term Insurance:

Renewable Term.

Renewable term plans give you the right to renew for another period when a term ends, regardless of your health. With each new time, the premium can be increased.

Convertible Term.

Convertible term policies will permit you to exchange the policy for a permanent plan such as whole life, universal life, or variable life. Exercising this option is offered during the conversion period. The premium rate you pay on conversion is usually based on your current attained age.

Level or Decreasing Term.

With a level-term policy, the face amount of the plan remains the same for the entire period. Decreasing term policies will allow the face value (death benefit) to reduce or decrease over the term period. Often, such policies are sold as mortgage protection, with the amount of insurance decreasing as the mortgage balance decreases. The suggestion is the benefit from the mortgage protection policy would match up with a decreasing amount of the remaining mortgage.

Permanent Insurance (Whole Life).

Term insurance is designed to protect for a specified period; permanent insurance is designed to provide coverage for an entire lifetime. To keep the premium rate level, the premium at the younger ages exceeds the actual cost of protection. This extra premium builds a reserve (cash value), which helps pay for the policy in later years as the cost of protection rises above the premium. Whole-life policies stretch the cost of insurance over a longer period of time to level out the otherwise increasing cost of insurance.

This type of policy, which is sometimes called cash value life insurance, generates a savings element. Cash values are critical to a permanent life insurance policy. The policy’s cash value can be accessed while the policyholder is alive; these benefits are known as “living benefits.”

There are two basic categories of permanent insurance, traditional and interest-sensitive, each with several variations. Also, each category is generally available in either fixed-dollar or variable form.

Traditional Whole Life.

Traditional whole-life policies are based on long-term expense, interest, and mortality estimates. The premiums, death benefits, and cash values are stated in the policy. There are six basic variations of traditional permanent insurance.

Interest Sensitive Whole Life.

While insurers guarantee stated benefits on traditional contracts far into the future based on long-term and overall company experience, they allocate investment earnings differently on interest-sensitive whole life to better reflect current changes in interest rates. The advantage may be that improvements in interest rates could be reflected quicker in interest-sensitive insurance than in traditional whole life; the disadvantage is decreases in interest rates may be felt more quickly in interest-sensitive whole life.

Other Coverage and Options: Variations

Credit Life Insurance.

This policy is usually sold on a group basis to a creditor, such as a bank, finance company, or a company selling high-priced items on the installment plan. The policy generally pays the outstanding balance of the debt at the time of the borrower’s death, subject to policy maximums. Debts covered in this way include personal loans, loans to purchase appliances, motor vehicles, mobile homes, farm equipment, educational loans, bank credit and revolving check loans, mortgage loans, etc.

Joint Life and Survivor Insurance.

Joint Life and Survivor Insurance provides coverage for two or more persons with the death benefit payable at the death of the last of the insured. Premiums are significantly lower under joint life and survivor insurance than for policies that insure only one person since the probability of paying a death claim is lower.

Senior Life Plans.

Senior life insurance, sometimes called graded death benefit plans, provides eligible older applicants with minimal whole-life coverage without a medical examination. Since such policies are issued with little or no underwriting, they will only provide a return of premium or minimum graded benefits if death occurs during a specified period, generally the first two or three policy years. The permissible issue ages for this type of coverage range can vary, but the general range is age 60 to age 80. There may be a maximum amount of available protection, such as $10,000.

Pre-need Insurance or burial insurance.

This is for a small face amount, typically purchased to pay the burial expenses of the insured.


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