Life Insurance and You
Life Insurance can be an important part of your estate plan. Pull out your old policies every time you update your plan and ask yourself these important questions:
- Do I Need Life Insurance?
As the breadwinner of a young family, life insurance is tremendously important. If you should die your insurance can pay for the funeral, pay off the mortgage, provide for the children’s education and help your spouse get back on his or her feet. But now that the children are grown, you are divorced or widowed or retired, the premium payments or accumulated cash value might be better spent maintaining your own lifestyle.
- Who is the beneficiary?
When we review life insurance policies, it is not unusual to find that the only named beneficiary is a long dead parent, deceased spouse or worse—an ex-spouse. If the named beneficiary is deceased then the insurance company’s internal policy will determine if it will pay out to the insured’s next of kin or probate estate. Sometimes an estate must be opened just to receive the insurance proceeds.
Update your beneficiaries regularly and consider naming contingent beneficiaries to receive the claim should the primary beneficiary die before you.
- What Type of Insurance Policy Do I Have?
All life insurance is not created equally. Each type has its own pros and cons.
- Term Insurance– Term Life Insurance is the most straight forward and most economical type of insurance. You pay your premium for the month, quarter, or year and you are insured for the full amount of the insurance if your die within that period of time. Stop paying the premium and the insurance stops at the end of the term. As you get older, you are more likely to die during the term and the premium goes up. You can elect to make level term payments for a period of years so that you know the price will be fixed for that period.
- Whole Life Insurance– Whole Life Insurance has a savings component as well as the premium. The cash value accumulates in the early years of the policy. At some point, the cash value approaches the death value payout of the policy and the policy is “paid up”. After that time no more premiums are due. Some whole life policies have an “endowment” at a certain age. If the insured reaches the endowment age, the cash value is paid out to the insured and the insurance ends.
- Universal Life Insurance – Universal Life Insurance is a combination of Term and Whole Life Policies. The early payments go towards a low premium and a large cash value deposit. As the years go on the premiums increase and the cash value deposits are less and less. When the cost of the premiums for the insurance exceeds the payment due, the funds in the cash value are used to supplement the premium payments. At some point, the cash value will be exhausted by the ever increasing premiums. At that point, the insured can either begin paying the now much higher premiums or allow the policy to lapse.
- Group Term Insurance – Some employers offer life insurance as a perk to their employees or retirees. Because premiums are paid in bulk, the cost to the employer is far lower than a private term policy would be.
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) – This insurance is sometimes offered as a bonus by a bank, credit card provider or AAA. This is a group term insurance, but it only pays out if there is an accidental death. If the insured dies of cancer or some other illness or non-covered injury, no payout will be made.
- Credit Life Insurance – This insurance only pays out to cover the creditor involved. Some credit card providers and mortgage brokers offer this life insurance to insure the loan will be paid off should you pass away. This insurance may or may not be less expensive than a standard term insurance policy, but it will only pay to cover the one debt to the extent that debt is still owed at your death.
- Does My Life Insurance Meet My Goals?
Think of life insurance as a tool used to meet your specific goals. Whether it is to cover the cost of your burial, support your dependent spouse, finance your children’s education, or provide liquidity to your estate choosing the right type and amount of life insurance is critical to your plan’s success.