Life Assurance

As you will see from the information below Life Insurance is not as simple as you may think, so getting the right advise is essential

Term insurance

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:

  1. Face amount (protection or death benefit),
  2. Premium to be paid (cost to the insured), and
  3. Length of coverage (term).

Various insurance companies sell term insurance with many different combinations of these three parameters. The face amount can remain constant or decline. The term can be for one or more years. The premium can remain level or increase. Common types of term insurance include levelannual renewable and mortgage insurance.

Level term policy features a premium fixed for a period longer than a year. These terms are commonly 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and even 35 years. Level term is often used for long-term planning and asset management as premiums remain constant year to year, allowing for long-term budgeting. At the end of the term, some policies contain a renewal or conversion option. With guaranteed renewal, the insurance company guarantees it will issue a policy of an equal or lesser amount without regard to the insurability of the insured and with a premium set for the insured’s age at that time. Some companies however do not guarantee renewal, and require proof of insurability at the time of renewal. Renewal that requires proof of insurability often includes a conversion option that allows the insured to convert the term policy to a permanent one, possibly compelling the applicant to agree to higher premiums. Renewal and conversion options can be very important when selecting a policy.

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.

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.

A policy holder insures his life for a specified term. If he dies before that specified term is up (with the exception of suicide), his estate or named beneficiary receives a payout. If he does not die before the term is up, he receives nothing. However, in some European countries (notably Serbia), insurance policy is such that the policy holder receives the amount he has insured himself to, or the amount he has paid to the insurance company in total. Suicide used to be excluded from all insurance policies[when?]. However, after a number of court judgements, many insurers began awarding payouts in the event of suicide (except for cases where it can be demonstrated that the insured committed suicide solely to access the policy payout). Generally, if an insured person commits suicide within the first two policy years, the insurer will simply return the premiums paid as a compromise. After this period, the full death benefit may be paid in the event of suicide.

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 defined by law (usually two years). 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. 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 four basic types of permanent insurance are whole lifeuniversal lifelimited 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 loansand 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.

While the marketing divisions of some life insurance companies often explain whole life as a “death benefit with a savings component”, this distinction is artificial according to life insurance actuaries Albert E. Easton and Timothy F. Harris.[1] The cash value reserve builds up against the death benefit of the policy and reduces the net amount at risk. The net amount at risk is the amount the insurer must pay to the beneficiary should the insured die before the policy has accumulated an amount equal to the death benefit. It is the difference between the current cash value amount and the total death benefit amount. Because of this relationship between the cash value and death benefit, it may be more accurate to describe the policy as a single, indivisible product, as no actual separation of the cash value and death benefit is possible. The insurer is actually setting aside money as a cash reserve to pay the future death benefit claim. This suggests that the cash value is technically part of the death benefit, which is “earned” as cash over time. The lack of separation between the cash value and death benefit also explains why insurers do not pay both the death benefit and the cash value to the beneficiary.

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 that the internal rate of return in the policy may not be competitive with other savings alternatives. Riders are available that can allow one to increase the death benefit by paying additional premium. One such rider is a paid-up additions rider.

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.[2] According to internal documents from some life insurance companies, like Massachusetts Mutual, 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. First, if “paid-up additions” is elected, dividends will purchase additional death benefit which will increase the death benefit of the policy to the named beneficiary. Since this additional death benefit generates cash value, it also increases the cash value of the policy. Another alternative is to opt in for ‘reduced premiums’ on some policies. This reduces the owed premiums by the non-guaranteed dividends amount. A third option allows the owner to take the dividends as they are paid out (although some policies provide other/different/less options than these – it depends on the company for some cases). A final option is to invest the dividends in the insurance company’s general or separate account.

Universal life coverage

Universal life insurance (UL) is a relatively new insurance product, 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. However, with the exception of VUL, interest is paid at a rate specified by the company, further increasing cash values. With VUL, cash values will be and flow relative to the performance of the investment sub-accounts the policy owner has chosen. The surrender value of the policy is the amount payable to the policy owner after applicable surrender charges, if any.

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.

Depending on how interest is credited, the internal rate of return can be higher as it moves with prevailing interest rates (interest-sensitive) or the financial markets (equity indexed universal life andvariable universal life). Mortality costs and administrative charges are known, and cash value may be considered more easily attainable because the owner can discontinue premiums if the cash value allows this.

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.

Limited-pay

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

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

Accidental death is a limited life insurance designed to cover the insured should they pass away 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). Also, some insurers will exclude death and injury due to (but not limited to) motor racing and mountaineering.

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.

Related products

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.

Senior and preneed products

Insurance companies have in recent years 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.

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 polcies 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.

Unit Linked Insurance Plans

These are unique insurance plans which are basically a mutual fund and term insurance plan rolled into one. The investor doesn’t participate in the profits of the plan per se, but gets returns based on the returns on the funds he or she had chosen.

The premium paid by the customer is deducted by initial charges by the insurance companies (basically the distribution and initial costs) and the remaining amount is invested in a fund (much like a mutual fund) by converting the amount into units based upon the NAV of the fund on that date.

Mortality charges, fund management charges and a few other charges are deducted in regular intervals by way of cancellation of units from the invested funds.

A Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) offers high flexibility to the customer in form of higher liquidity and lower term.

The customer has the choice of choosing the funds of his choice from whatever his/her insurance provider has to offer. He can switch between the funds without the necessity to opt out of the insurance plan.

ULIPs got extremely popular in the heyday of the equity bull run in India, as the returns generated in equity linked funds were beating any kind of debt or fixed return instrument. However, with stagnation of the economy and the equity market this product category slowed down.

With-profits policies

Some policies afford the policyholder a share of the profits of the insurance company – these are termed with-profits policies. Other policies provide no rights to a share of the profits of the company – these are non-profit policies.

With-profits policies are used as a form of collective investment to achieve capital growth. Other policies offer a guaranteed return not dependent on the company’s underlying investment performance; these are often referred to as without-profit policies, which may be construed as a misnomer.

Radical Finance can work with you to find the best Life assurance soultion for your needs.

Henry will be more than Happy to discuss your requirements with no obilgation, Please call us on 01384 566 588 or e-mail us at info@radicalfs.co.uk

References

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Specific references

  1. ^ Easton, A.E., Harris, T.F. (1999). “Actuarial Aspects Of Individual Life Insurance And Annuity Contracts”. Winsted, Connecticut: Actex Publications, Inc.
  2. ^“Life Insurance Dividends”. Retrieved 4 November 2011.

 

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