Avoid This Before Buying Life Insurance

It’s no secret that the majority of Canadians today don’t really understand the life insurance policies they own or the subject matter altogether. Life insurance is such a vital financial tool and important part to your financial planning that it is incumbent upon you to have a basic level of understanding.

Here are 3 quick pitfalls that are important to be aware of.

Incomplete Details In The Application

All life insurance contracts have a two-year contestability clause which means the insurer can contest a submitted claim within two years of the application date if material information was not disclosed during the application process. If you have forgotten to note a relevant fact in your application pertinent to the claim it is possible that your claim could be denied. Fraudulent acts such as lying in the application would not only have a claim denied but possibly also have your policy rescinded entirely. It goes without saying that one should always be truthful when completing a life insurance contract or any insurance contract for that matter. A copy of the original application often makes a part of the policy and generally supersedes the policy itself. Having-said-that, each insured has a 10-day right to review their policy once they receive it. In that time period if you feel the policy is not up to the standard you thought it to be, you can return it to the company and all premiums paid would be refunded

Buying The Right Term Coverage For Your Situation

This process should first start with a question: “What do I need the insurance for?” If your need is to cover a debt or liability then perhaps term is best however, if your need is more long-term such as for final expenses, then permanent or whole life would be a better fit. Once you have established your need you’ll then have to decide what type of coverage you want; term or permanent.

Term contracts are the simplest to understand and the cheapest because there is an “end” to the policy; generally 5, 10, 15, 20 sometimes even up to 35 years. If the policy is renewable an increased premium will be required come the end of the term and this is often a big shock to the client’s bottom line. As an example: a 35 year old male, non-smoker with a 20-year term and 300k benefit may pay anywhere from $300 to $400 per year in premiums. When this policy renews at age 55 his new annual premium could go as high as $3,000 per year! Most people don’t understand this and come term end are devastated, generally unable to continue the policy. It is recommended that your term program have a convertibility clause so that you have the option of converting your term life into a permanent policy. You can exercise this right at any time within the term of the policy without evidence of insurability. Taking a term policy without a convertibility clause should only be done when making your purchase for something of a specified duration. Also, the short side to term life is that it does not accumulate any value within the policy whereas permanent/whole life does.

Permanent/whole life is a very complex from of life insurance because it has both insurance and investment aspects to it. These policies are most beneficial because you have value built up in the policy and you are covered until death however, they are much more expensive than term insurance. An option that you can consider is a permanent policy with a specified term to pay it. Using our previous example, you could have a permanent policy that has a 20-pay term meaning you will make premium payments for the next 20 years and after that you will have your policy until death without ever making another payment towards it. It is very important to understand the variables along with your needs before you make your purchase.

Buying Creditor Life Insurance vs. Personal Life Insurance

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that their creditor life insurance is true personal life insurance coverage and will protect their family in the event of their death. Far too often consumers purchase these products, generally found with their mortgage and credit cards, by simply putting a checkmark in a box during the application process agreeing to have the plan. It sounds like the responsible thing to do but many families are left in paralyzing situations come claim time. Creditor life insurance, such as mortgage life insurance, is designed to cover the remaining debt you have. Making timely mortgage payments is ultimately declining your remaining balance. Creditor life insurance also declines as your debt declines. Keep in mind that the lender is named as your beneficiary in your policy so consequently, upon death your remaining balance on your mortgage or credit card is paid to the lender, not your family. In a personal life insurance policy you choose the beneficiary and upon death the full benefit amount is paid to the beneficiary of your choice.

Personal life insurance is a great asset to have for a large number of reasons. When you buy life insurance your buying peace of mind but, you must have your situation properly assessed and be sure that you are clear on exactly what it will do for your family.

 

Life Insurance 101

While many of us understand the basic functions of our life insurance policies, it’s not uncommon for questions to arise long after you purchased the policy.

To help address your policy problems, we’ll answer four of the most common life insurance questions to help you gain understanding and control of your life insurance policy.

Questions Answered

How do I file a life insurance claim?

To begin the claim process, you’ll need to obtain a couple copies of the policyholder’s death certificate. If you have trouble obtaining copies of the death certificate from the hospital or coroner’s office, your funeral director should be able to get you a copy.

Next, you’ll need to contact your life insurance agent. Your agent will help you complete the necessary paperwork to file the claim. If you’re not sure who the insured’s agent was, you can contact the insurance company directly and someone will help you file the claim. Remember to bring a copy of the death certificate for your agent as it will be needed to ensure quick claim submittal.

How will I receive the death benefit?

Once the life insurance claim is submitted, you’ll need to choose how the life insurance proceeds will be allocated.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are generally four ways to distribute the death benefit:

Lump Sum. You receive the entire death benefit in one payment.Specific interest provision. The insurance company pays you both principle and interest on a prearranged schedule.

Life income. You receive a guaranteed income for life. However, the amount you receive depends on the benefit amount, your gender and age at the insured’s time of death.

Interest income. The life insurance company holds the proceeds but pays you interest on the policy. Thus, the death benefit remains in tact and goes to a second beneficiary after you die.

No matter which option you choose, you should receive the proceeds from the policy within days of filing the claim. Life insurance companies are required by law to pay claims in this fashion. To learn about the guidelines under which your insurer must pay a claim, contact your state’s division of insurance.

What should I do if I can’t find the policy?

Unfortunately, there’s no database for purchased life insurance policies. That’s why it’s very important to know where the insured’s life insurance policy is at all times. Nonetheless, there are some things you can try to locate a lost policy.

You can start by trying to determine:

  • Which company might have issued the policy
  • Which agent may have issued the policy
  • Whether the policyholder had life insurance through an employer, union or other group

The I.I.I. recommends trying to locate that information by:

Searching records, storage areas and safe deposit boxes. There you may find insurance-related documents, old checks, premium payment receipts or policy notices.Contacting the policyholder’s legal and financial consultants. Previous and current consultants may have some information regarding the deceased’s life insurance.

Contacting the insured’s employer(s). Previous and/or current employers will be able to tell you if the policyholder had a group life insurance policy.

Checking tax returns. By checking past tax returns, you may find interest income from or paid to a life insurance company.

Checking the mail. Even if the policy was paid up, the insurance company will send an annual premium or dividend notice in regard to the policy.

Checking north of the border. If there’s a possibility that the policy was purchased in Canada, you can contact the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association at (800) 268-8009, or visit them on the Web.

Probing the MIB database. While there’s no database for life insurance policyholders, there is a database for life insurance applicants. For $75, you can search the MIB database, and while it rarely pays off (MIB finds about one in five policies), it might be worth a shot.

If these tips still don’t result in the location of a lost policy, contact your own agent, lawyer or financial consultant as they may have additional recommendations.

What if I can’t pay my life insurance premiums?

Financial hardship can fall on anyone. If this happens to you and you can’t pay your life insurance premium, you should know what to expect.

Generally speaking, if you have a term life insurance policy, not paying your premiums will result in a lapsed policy, which means that the policy will automatically be cancelled and you probably won’t see any proceeds from the policy.

If you have a permanent life insurance policy, the I.I.I. says you’ll have some of the following options:

Cash out the policy. When you cash out, you’ll stop paying the premium and collect any available cash value. However, if the sum of the cash value is more than what you’ve paid in premiums, that cash may be taxed.Non-forfeiture. A “reduced paid-up” option might be available to you, allowing you to stop paying premiums completely for a reduced death benefit and no cash savings. You may also be able to convert a permanent policy into an extended term policy.

Lapsed policy. If you choose to let your policy lapse, you may be able to get it reinstated. Some insurance companies allow you to do this if you do so within five years of lapsing. Reinstatement, however, may be contingent on your ability to pass a medical exam and pay back the premiums owed plus interest.

If you fall on hard times, be sure to contact your life insurance agent right away to work out an arrangement. Depending on your circumstances, it’s generally better not to let a permanent policy completely lapse as you may forfeit the cheap life insurance you had when you bought the policy.

Don’t Let Your Questions Go Unanswered!

If you have questions about your life insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to discuss them with an insurance agent. They can give you new, up-to-date and state-specific information about your life insurance policy so you won’t have any surprises down the line!

 

Getting Know About Insurance Policy

There are various aspects to consider before getting a life insurance policy. One of them is a sustained doubt about the significance and need for life insurance. A life insurance policy is relevant for all individuals who are concerned about the financial future of their family in case of death.

Apart from the purely protectional needs, life insurance policies, like whole and variable life insurance, offer the opportunity for tax-free investment and reaping dividends, and they have a built-in cash value. Purchased with due discretion, it can be utilized as liquid cash to cater to the various needs of policyholders.

There are various types of life insurance policies customized to suit the different needs of various individuals. Depending on the number of dependants and kind of insurance needs, a suitable life insurance policy can be chosen after consultation with financial experts and advisors.

Whole life insurance and term life insurance are the two basic forms of insurance policies. With time, there have been different variations to suit the changing demands of people. A term life insurance policy is also called temporary or short-term life insurance. These are purely protection-oriented and provide death benefits only if the insured dies within the period specified in the policy. In case the insured lives past the specified duration, no money is given.

People with short-term insurance needs, like a young individual with dependents, a house loan or a car loan, favor this kind of insurance policy because they are cheap and affordable in comparison to whole life policies. In the initial years the premiums are very low; however, as the mortality risk of the insured increases with age the premium cost increases and at time becomes more than that of whole life insurance.

There are now two kinds of term life insurance, namely level term (decreasing premium) and annual renewable term (increasing premium) policies. The premiums of level term are initially higher than renewable term, but become lower in the later years. Whole life insurance has an ingrained cash value and guaranteed life protection features. The initial steep premiums of whole life insurance may exceed the actual cost of the insurance. This surplus, which is the cash value, is added to a separate account and can be used as a tax-free investment to reap dividends, and is also used to enable the insured to give a level premium latter on. There is a guarantee of getting the death benefit on the maturity of the policy or death of the insured, apart from cash value surrendered in case of cancellation.

Return of premium is popular because it combines the features of whole and term policies. It costs double the amount of a term policy. The policy is made for a set time, but full value is given on death within that period or in case the policy matures. Universal, variable and universal variables are different variations of whole life insurance policies. A universal life insurance policy offers the flexibility to the insured to choose the kind of premium payment, the death benefits and the coverage amount.

Variable life insurance policies enable the insurance buyer to invest the cash value in direct investment for a greater potential return. A universal variable insurance policy integrates the flexibility factor of a universal policy and the investment option of a variable policy. Single purchase life insurance enables a buyer to buy the policy and own it through a one-time premium payment. A survivorship or second-to-die insurance policy is a joint form of life insurance policy which is devised to serve the specific purpose of certain individuals. Apart from these, there are also endowment life insurance policies. Endowment is with profit kind or unit-liked kind. On maturity of the policy or on the death of the insured the value of the policy or the amount insured, whichever is more, is given back.

 

Pros and Cons Life Insurance

“Do I need life insurance?” “Is whole life insurance a good investment?” “Is term life insurance risky?” Questions like these are posted in online communities on a daily basis. The answers vary widely, with the term life and whole life camps polarized. The tone of the debate is surprisingly strident. After all, the topic is insurance–not a something expected to inspire strong opinions, let alone strong language. But words like “rip-off,” “scam,” and “waste of money” fly back and forth, sometimes accompanied by rows of exclamation marks or worse. What is behind the brouhaha? And which camp -if either – is right?

The two sides do not even agree about whether a person needs life insurance. Whole lifers say, yes. You do not want the death of a family member to disrupt your family’s finances or jeopardize its future. It is hard enough to adjust to the loss of a loved one. Adding financial difficulties exacerbates the problem. With the skyrocketing costs of funerals, even children and seniors should have at least a small life insurance policy.

Not so fast, say the term lifers. The only reason to have life insurance is to replace the lost income of a family member who dies, and then only when the spouse or family is dependent on that income. If you are single with no dependents and no debts that might be transferred to your family in the event you die, then you do not need life insurance. If you are married and your spouse works, you probably do not need life insurance, either, assuming your spouse makes enough to support himself or herself.

The time for life insurance, term lifers say, is when the policyholder’s income is vital to the financial security of the family. If, for example, you have purchased a home together and your spouse could not pay the mortgage and other bills by himself or herself, then life insurance is in order. If you have children, you will want to have enough life insurance to allow your family to maintain its lifestyle after you are gone. This includes not only meeting day-to-day expenses, but also being able to follow through with plans for higher education. Insurance professionals recommend buying a policy with a face value 5-10 times the breadwinner’s annual salary to help family meet expenses for a period of years.

Whole lifers see problems with the term-life scenario. The view it as overly optimistic, even naive. Many things can happen during the 20- to 30-year period covered by term life insurance policy that could extend the need for coverage beyond the policy’s end date. For example, children may be born mentally retarded, with severe autism, or with another serious condition that could prevent them from becoming independent when they reach adulthood. Children also can develop a disease or suffer an accident that disables them. A spouse, too, can become disabled. In these situations, the family will remain dependent on the breadwinner’s income long after the term life policy expires.

Term life insurance advocates point out that in such cases, the breadwinner can renew the term life insurance policy, or take out a new one. Now it’s the whole lifers’ turn to say, “Not so fast.” By the time the second term life insurance policy is needed, the breadwinner will likely be in his or her fifties or even sixties. Due to the age of the insured, the cost of a second term life insurance policy will be much higher than the cost of the first was.
With the added years come added risks of certain diseases. If the breadwinner is obese, has developed high blood pressure, a heart condition, diabetes, or another disease, the cost of the term life insurance policy will skyrocket. If the individual has developed cancer or AIDS, he or she may not be insurable at all. In such situations, the cost savings realized on the first term life policy could be wiped out by the high cost of a second term life policy.

By contrast, the premiums of a whole life policy are set for life and do not go up with age or medical condition. A whole life policy cannot be canceled due to medical conditions, either. The policy remains in force until death, as long as the premiums are paid.

“Until death” is another advantage of whole life, its advocates maintain. Whole life gets its name from the fact that it insures the policyholder life until death. As a result, whole life insurance is guaranteed to pay a death benefit-the amount the policy pays upon the death of the insured. The death benefit can be increased-at certain points at no additional cost-as the policyholder ages. A small policy designed to cover the funeral costs of a child can be increased to provide adequate coverage during an adult’s peak earning years. Whatever the death benefit or “face value” of the whole life policy, the insurance company guarantees to pay it. As a result, the policyholder or his or her beneficiaries always receive some, all, or more than the premiums paid into the policy.

This is not the case with a term life insurance policy, whole lifers point out. The term life insurance policyholder can pay premiums for 30 years, but if he or she outlives the policy-even by a day-then all of the premium money is gone. The only thing the policyholder will have received is 30 years worth of peace of mind.

Whole life insurance, by contrast, accumulates a value that the policyholder can access during his or her lifetime. This value is known as the cash value or the surrender value. The whole life policy holder can use the cash value as collateral for a loan, or even borrow some of it during his or her lifetime. The policyholder must pay this amount back. If he or she dies before it is paid back, then the unpaid amount is deducted from the death benefit. If the policyholder decides to cancel the policy, the insurance company will pay him or her the cash value, which is then known as the surrender value. Whole life, its proponents maintain, is not only insurance against death. It is an investment for life.

This is where the debate turns nasty. Term lifers often ridicule the investment features of whole life. Because whole life always pays a death benefit, it costs 5-10 times more than term life does. Term lifers argue that a person is much better off getting a term policy for the same face value that they would get a whole life policy, then saving and investing the difference in premiums. Almost any investment will return more than a whole life policy will, term lifer proponents maintain. Over 20 or 30 years, the difference can be vast. Buy insurance to insure, the term lifers say, and use the savings to invest.

Whole lifers respond that the return on a whole life policy is guaranteed at the outset, something than cannot be said for other investments. To earn greater rewards, the term life policyholder must take greater risks in the open market. Many investments will outperform whole life insurance, but not all will. Some investments lose money, as shareholders in World Com, Enron, Peregrine Systems, and many other companies can attest.

Even if the investment will pay out, it is not certain that the term life policyholder will actually make it. To do so, he or she must calculate the amount saved over whole life insurance; save that money every month, quarter, or year; research possible investments; and contribute to that investment regularly for 20 or 30 years. This makes sense for disciplined and savvy investors, but many others will find the endeavor daunting and time consuming. They may not start it, and if they do, they may not continue it. Whole life takes care of insurance, savings, and investment in one easy payment. Even if the returns on whole life are not great, saving something is better than saving nothing, and nothing is exactly how much many term life policyholders will end up saving.

Both whole life and term life have pros and cons. People who are financially savvy and disciplined will gain from the term life scenario. Those who need a convenient and simple mechanism for insurance and savings will benefit from whole life insurance. Deciding which is best for you requires an honest appraisal of your goals, your lifestyle, and your investing skills.