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Life Insurance FAQs
Here are 10 of the most frequently asked questions when considering a life insurance purchase.
1. How much life insurance do I need?
How do you know if you need $250,000, $500,000 or more in coverage? A life insurance needs analysis will help you figure it out. It’s actually a pretty simple calculation. You begin by estimating your family’s immediate and future financial needs. Then, you add up all of the resources that are in place to meet those needs. The difference between the two is your need for life insurance. Another basic method to figure out the minimum insurance needed is multiplying your annual income by 10.
2. If your employer provides you with a life insurance benefit, do you really need more?
Life insurance through your job is a great perk to receive, but you should view it as just that…a perk or an added bonus. For one thing, most employers tend to provide very limited amounts of coverage at their own expense, typically a lump sum such as $10,000 or coverage equal to one times your annual salary. Another limitation is that it’s not always possible or practical to take your coverage with you if you change jobs. An individually owned policy follows you around wherever you go. If you change jobs, you won’t have to worry about the possibility of your family being left unprotected.
3. Should I get a policy for 10 years, 20 years or even longer?
It’s impossible to provide a generic answer to this question since everyone’s situation is different. Many people will buy a policy that provides coverage until their kids reach college-graduation age. Others will want to have coverage until their mortgage is paid off. A business owner might want lifelong coverage for business succession planning purposes. Our best advice is to speak with one of our life insurance professionals, who can conduct a quick needs analysis over the phone and help you determine the amount and duration of coverage that’s right for you.
4. What type of life insurance should I buy, term or permanent?
This is another question for which there’s no blanket answer. Both types of insurance have their merits. Our view is that for many people term is often the best solution because it allows you to get the most coverage for your money. When buying life insurance, the most important thing you want to do is buy enough coverage. When you die, your family won’t care if you had term or permanent insurance. They’ll only want to know…is there enough.
5. Why do I need a medical exam when applying for coverage?
With most life insurance purchases, you’re required to have a medical exam as part of the application process. That’s because your personal health status is one of the key factors used to determine how much you’ll pay for your policy. If you think about it, that makes sense. If you’re in perfect health, your odds of living a long life are much greater than someone your age who is in poor health, and you should be rewarded in the form of lower premiums. Conversely, someone in poor health should be required to pay more than you because there’s a greater chance, statistically, that the insurance company will have to pay a claim for that person. The exams usually take no longer than 20 minutes and are conducted by paramedical companies that come either to your home or office, at a time that’s convenient for you.
6. If I’ve had serious health issues, will I be able to qualify for coverage?
A lot of people don’t apply for life insurance coverage because they think they won’t qualify. But the truth is, they’re making a mistake. If you need life insurance, you should apply. It’s true that people in poor health will pay more for coverage, but that’s a better plan than leaving your family’s financial future to chance. Even if you’ve had a very serious condition such as cancer, many companies will provide you with coverage as long as you can show that you’ve been cancer-free for a certain period of time (e.g., 2 years) and that the cancer isn’t likely to recur in the near future.
7. How long does the application process take?
Because most life insurance applications require underwriting (i.e., a medical exam, an evaluation of your family’s health history, etc.), the process typically takes from 1 to 2 months. The good news is that we get cases processed faster than almost anyone else in the business thanks to our streamlined underwriting procedures and the excellent working relationships we have with the highly rated companies that we represent.
8. What is an accelerated death benefit?
Most policies contain a provision that allows a terminally ill person to “accelerate” part of his or her death benefit while that person is still alive. Some people will use the money to take care of financial affairs and other final arrangements. Others will use the money to help pay for medical bills. The money can even be used to do nice things for your family like take them on vacation while you’re still able to.
9. Who should I name as the beneficiary of my policy?
There are various options, and each has its merits depending on your particular situation. You can name specific individuals such as a spouse, a partner or your children. When naming individuals, it’s important to name contingent (or secondary) beneficiaries in the event that you outlive your primary beneficiary. Another option is to assign the proceeds of your policy to your estate. If you do so, make sure that your will clearly states how and to whom your assets are to be distributed. You can also set up a life insurance trust and assign the benefits of your policy to the trust. If you are a high net worth individual, this can be beneficial for estate planning purposes. In making decisions about beneficiaries, it’s advisable to consult your attorney and/or tax advisor.
10. How often should I review my life insurance needs?
Life insurance needs change as circumstances in your life change such as the birth of a child, buying a new home, getting a job or promotion, getting married or divorced, starting a business, etc. So it’s wise to have your life insurance needs assessed at least every few years to make sure that your insurance needs are keeping up with all of the other changes in your life.