There are various types of life insurance but they all have some common attributes. You pay an insurance company what are called premiums. At your death, the life insurance company pays an amount to the people you named in your policy, called beneficiaries. Also it’s interesting that if you named a beneficiary(ies) they’d receive the insurance amount free of income tax.
Some types of life insurance have cash benefits available while you’re living. In these types, a portion of your premium goes into a cash reserve and builds on a tax deferred basis. You can access this money, called cash value. Some people use it to help education costs, enhance retirement cash flow or for any reason. Two of the most common types of permanent life insurance are called whole life insurance and universal life insurance.
The different kinds of life insurance are described below. You can also visit the Life Insurance FAQ link for answers to common life insurance questions. By looking into this area, you are making an intelligent and caring financial decision for your family. It is important that you have life insurance and have enough to protect those you care about. Get the insurance you should have.
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Types of Life Insurance
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Term is simple. You pay a premium for a period of time (the term) from one to thirty years and if you die during that time the insurance is paid to the person or persons you designate to receive it – called the beneficiary(ies).
Term life insurance usually has the lowest premium in the early years, making it the most affordable life insurance – initially. Term does not build cash value.
It covers you for a specified period of time (usually from 5 to 30 years, you choose). If you purchase a $1,000,000 term life insurance policy for 20-year period and you die in any of those 20 years, your beneficiary receives the million dollars.
If you are still living at the end of the term, your insurance policy is over unless you can renew the policy. When you renew (assuming your policy has that feature) it will renew at a higher price reflecting your now older age. Term insurance has no buildup of cash as with whole life insurance. Some term life insurance policies do offer a return of premium.
Whole life is a type of permanent life insurance. It’s called permanent because a whole life policy provides life-long protection and is guaranteed to do so by the insurance company. With whole life, you pay a fixed premium for life, instead of the increasing premiums found on renewable term life insurance policies.
Since the word “term” in term life insurance means a period of time, one could say that the term for whole life insurance is the term of all of your life. It is not technically called lifetime term insurance, but in a way it could be described that way.
With whole life insurance policies, as long as you pay the premiums, the death benefit will be paid. These policies are designed and priced for you to keep over a long period of time.
It’s important to remember that if you’re not sure that you’re going to keep this kind of insurance policy then it’s probably the wrong type of insurance for you. In that case, you should look at term life insurance.
The biggest difference between whole life insurance policy and the different types of term policies is that whole life insures something that will unfortunately happen for certain – one’s death. Term insures the possibility of you dying during the term period, whether that is 1 year or up to 30 years depending on the type of term insurance you get.
Whole life also has a cash component. This cash value can grow and interest is credited to the cash value. Interest growth in these policies is tax-deferred. You don’t pay taxes on the growth. If you die, your beneficiary also does not pay income taxes on the benefit received. If you cash in the policy and you receive back more than you put in, you pay income taxes only on the amount above what you put in.
There are differences among these policies. Some of these policies are from mutual life insurance companies, which means that the insurance company is owned by the policyholders. Mutual company policies can pay dividends to the policyholders that can both enhance cash values and increase the insurance amount.
Survivorship Life Insurance
Survivorship Life Insurance, also known as Joint and Survivor Insurance or second to die life insurance, are insurance policies that insure the lives of two people, typically a husband and a wife.
The death benefit is not paid to the beneficiary until the death of the second insured. These survivorship life insurance policies are generally available as either whole or universal life policies, and second to die life insurance often provides more affordable life insurance than two separate policies.
The reason a survivorship life insurance policy doesn’t pay until the second person dies is that it is designed to pay or assist paying for estate taxes. Estate taxes can be delayed until both spouses die thus the design of these special insurance policies.
Joint Survivorship life insurance policies are effective tools often used by wealthy individuals in estate planning. By removing the proceeds of a life insurance policy through the use of gifting and placing policies in third party ownership such as a trust or in the name of children, a joint and survivor policy can be used to pay for estate taxes. Careful planning by your tax and legal counsel, coupled with a properly structured second to die life insurance policy, can help you preserve your net worth for your heirs.
Universal Life Insurance
A Universal life insurance policy is designed to provide lifetime insurance protection. This type of insurance policy is one type of permanent life insurance. With a permanent policy, the insurance is designed to last as long as you pay the premiums. Whole life insurance guarantees this lifetime protection. Universal life does not have these guarantees but there are now universal life policies where you can add a feature that guarantees that the insurance will last the rest of your life. We can tell you more about that and give you quotes for this by using the navigation for quotes on the left.
Permanent insurance policies are designed and priced for you to keep over a long period of time. If you don’t intend to keep the policy for the rest of your life, this may be the wrong type of insurance for you. If so, it may be better to consider term life insurance or return of premium insurance.
Return of Premium Life Insurance (ROP Term)
Return of premium life insurance is a newly introduced term life insurance policy that provides both death benefit protection and a return of premium insurance feature. Return of premium life Insurance is aimed right at one of the greatest objections to term life: “I am probably not going to die, and my money will have been wasted.”
Here’s how it works: If you keep your policy for the term period, at the end of that time whether 15, 20 or 30 years, the life insurance company that issued the insurance with the return of premium policy, returns the entire premium that you paid for the insurance.
There also is some partial return of premium for policies canceled before the end of the term (depending on the year it’s canceled – the longer it’s kept, the higher the amount of the return.)
When you buy insurance with a return of premium option, you do not have to waste your money.
Unlike regular term policies, Return of Premium term life insurance rewards you for keeping the policy by giving a guaranteed return of your total cumulative premium paid on the policy during the level term period, not including substandard (extra charges for health) and rider charges (extra benefits such as disability coverage), if any, which will be paid to the policy owner at the end of the level term period if the policy is then in force.
Here’s an example: Male, age 35 with the best rate of preferred plus, $500,000 of 30-year return of premium term life insurance:
Annual premium = $810; Return of Premium after 30 years = $24,300
($810 x 30yr = $24,300)
The life insurance return of premium is considered income tax free, because you aren’t receiving back more than you put into the return of premium life policy. The return of premium term life insurance policies feature fully guaranteed level premiums for the first 15, 20 or 30 years.