Life insurance provides financial support to surviving dependents or other beneficiaries after the death of an insured. Here are some examples of people who may need life insurance:
Parents with minor children– If a parent dies, the loss of his or her income or caregiving skills could create a financial hardship. Life insurance can make sure the kids will have the financial resources they need until they can support themselves.
Parents with special-needs adult children– For children who require lifelong care and will never be self-sufficient, life insurance can make sure their needs will be met after their parents pass away. The death benefit can be used to fund a special needs trust that a fiduciary will manage for the adult child’s benefit.
Adults who own property together–Married or not, if the death of one adult would mean that the other could no longer afford loan payments, upkeep, and taxes on the property, life insurance may be a good idea. An example would be an engaged couple who took out a joint mortgage to buy their first house.
Elderly parents who want to leave money to adult children who provide their care–Many adult children sacrifice by taking time off work to care for an elderly parent who needs help. This help may also include direct financial support. Life insurance can help reimburse the adult child’s costs when the parent passes away.
Young adults whose parents incurred private student loan debt or cosigned a loan for them–Young adults without dependents rarely need life insurance, but if a parent will be on the hook for a child’s debt after his or her death, the child may want to carry enough life insurance to pay off that debt.
Young adults who want to lock in low rates– The younger and healthier you are, the lower your insurance premiums. A 20-something adult might buy a policy even without having dependents if there is an expectation to have them in the future.
Wealthy families who expect to owe estate taxes– Life insurance can provide funds to cover the taxes and keep the full value of the estate intact.
Families who can’t afford afford burial and funeral expenses–A small life insurance policy can provide funds to honor a loved one’s passing.
Businesses with key employees– If the death of a key employee, such as a CEO, would create a severe financial hardship for a firm, that firm may have an insurable interest that will allow it to purchase a life insurance policy on that employee.
Married pensioners–Instead of choosing between a pension payout that offers a spousal benefit and one that doesn’t, pensioners can choose to accept their full pension and use some of the money to buy life insurance to benefit their spouse. This strategy is called pension maximization.
How Life Insurance Works
A life insurance policy has three main components.
Death Benefit–The death benefit or face value is the amount of money the insurance company guarantees to the beneficiaries identified in the policy when the insured dies. The insured might be a parent, and the beneficiaries might be their children, for example. The insured will choose the desired death benefit amount based on the beneficiaries’ estimated future needs. The insurance company will determine whether there is an insurable interest and if the proposed insured qualifies for the coverage based on the company’s underwriting requirements related to age, health, and any hazardous activities in which the proposed insured participates.
Premium–Premiums are the money the policyholder pays for insurance.The insurer must pay the death benefit when the insured dies if the policyholder pays the premiums as required, and premiums are determined in part by how likely it is that the insurer will have to pay the policy’s death benefit based on the insured’s life expectancy. Factors that influence life expectancy include the insured’s age, gender, medical history, occupational hazards, and high-risk hobbies. Part of the premium also goes toward the insurance company’s operating expenses. Premiums are higher on policies with larger death benefits, individuals who are higher risk, and permanent policies that accumulate cash value.
Cash Value– The cash value of permanent life insurance serves two purposes. It is a savings account that the policyholder can use during the life of the insured; the cash accumulates on a tax-deferred basis. Some policies may have restrictions on withdrawals depending on how the money is to be used. For example, the policyholder might take out a loan against the policy’s cash value and have to pay interest on the loan principal. The policyholder can also use the cash value to pay premiums or purchase additional insurance. The cash value is a living benefit that remains with the insurance company when the insured dies. Any outstanding loans against the cash value will reduce the policy’s death benefit.