Life Insurance – take cover
By: Michael Challiner
In the extensive field which is insurance, life insurance stands out as one of a few which is usually taken out for someone else’s benefit. Insurance covering house, mortgage, valuables, travel etc. is intended to cover the holder against loss as a result of accidents, breakdowns, delays, theft and a vast number of other circumstances. Life insurance on the other hand is usually intended to benefit those left behind when the holder dies, if only to provide funds which will diminish to some extent the problems caused by that person’s unexpected departure.
There are of course exceptions to the above, as in the case of an endowment policy which is used as a form of saving in that it pays out at the end of the specified period. Even this has the provision to pay out on the earlier death of the holder, so it does not provide solely for the benefit of that individual. If this is the type of cover which you are considering, ask your broker for details of the various forms, as in Unit Linked or With Profits.
If however it is your intention to protect your beneficiaries from financial problems occurring in the event of your death, you have a good variety of choices. It is as well to bear in mind that, particularly in more complex estates, it can take quite some time for cash to be made available after a death to meet expenditure which was originally agreed to by the deceased. This may include the funds necessary to meet funeral expenses, which are not debts which can be put off for any length of time. At the last check payment by instalments was not a feature applying to interment costs, nor is yet socially acceptable to ‘take the hat round’ for contributions! If you do take out cover for these charges, make sure that your family are aware of this; it could save them from a panic situation when the time comes.
So what is available in varieties of life insurance? The answer is that there is a surprising range of policies, each designed to meet a different need. It will have to suffice here to cover the broader outlines of some of these varieties and leave the intended policy holder to discuss the finer details of their needs with their broker.
Perhaps one of the more common policies issued is the ‘Whole of Life’ which means just what it says. You will be covered for the whole of your life, subject to the caveat common to any insurance, that you must keep up the payments; default on a payment could result in the policy being cancelled. This insurance provides cover for a specified sum and will be paid out to your heirs in the event of your death. If after a reasonable number of premiums have been paid, you should decide that you no longer require the cover, then there should be a cash value when the policy is surrendered.
Term insurance is a policy which is taken out to cover a period which you specify, and is usually intended to provide funds for your heirs when you die. If you don’t die within the term specified there is no payout and no cash value - the policy simply terminates.
A variety of this is a Level Term policy which is usually used to protect an ‘interest only’ mortgage in that it will be set at the level of the capital sum which will be due on completion of the interest payments. Because the length and value of the policy can be established at the outset it has the advantage of unvarying costs, which makes expenditure control easier.
In the opposite direction, an Increasing Term policy is linked to inflation increases. This avoids loss of value but adversely affects the premiums.
The lowest cost term policy is the Decreasing Term (or mortgage protection) policy. This provides cover for the steadily decreasing total debt of a repayment mortgage, and thus the risk factor is also heading for a final zero.
Perhaps one of the best policies for providing for your family’s needs after your death is Family Income Benefit cover. The fixed term ensures that the potential total payout reduces steadily, thus reducing the overall cost.
One of the less altruistic life insurances is the Endowment policy which has a guaranteed payout at the end of a defined term (usually at least 10 years) or in the event of your death. There are a number of variations on this theme which can increase the payout sum or alter the premiums as time goes by; you may wish to explore these. The big advantage here is that with this type of policy you may collect the benefit sum yourself.
The above is only a rough outline of some of the policies available. To enable you to examine these or others in detail you need to talk to a broker. Initial contact via the internet is the quick and easy way to do this and may well be the best ‘mouse click’ which you have ever done.