When you commit to life insurance, you give your dependents and nominated beneficiaries financial security, helping them cover debts, bills, and funeral costs. This financial commitment could also help your spouse cover your mortgage payments or fund your children's tertiary education.
The A–Z Of Life Insurance In The UK
Uncertainty and fear are part of life; they infiltrate daily existence leaving people stressed, anxious and powerless. The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted lives, economies, finances, health, and relationships, leaving many people feeling uneasy about their futures and the futures of loved ones.
Cautious human beings push towards having financial control because it makes them feel secure. Most people want their children, spouse, or life partner to live comfortably if something unforeseen happens. Breadwinners wish to leave their assets as an inheritance, and business owners set their hearts on keeping the business stable in the event of their death.
"A policy of life insurance is the cheapest and safest mode of making a certain provision for one's family."
Life insurance policies ensure that we don't uproot our dependents after death. It alleviates uncertainty and protects lifestyles. If you die during the policy's term, your beneficiary gets paid a fixed sum of tax-free money, and it often matches the amount owing on your mortgage. You pay regular premiums during the policy term, and your beneficiaries only get a payout if you die during that period.
Life assurance covers the policyholder for life, and when you die, the payout is guaranteed and tax-free. The payout goes to your chosen beneficiary. Life assurance premiums are higher than life insurance because the payment is assured.
What Is Life Insurance?
Life insurance is a financial contract drawn up between you (the policyholder) and an insurer. As the policyholder, you insure your life by paying monthly life insurance premiums. The life insurance cover ensures that your nominated beneficiaries are paid a lump sum of money upon your death.
Life insurance is typically contracted to individuals, but some companies offer joint policies.
How Does Life Insurance Work?
Life insurance is often considered an asset that slots into your long-term financial planning. If you plan to purchase life insurance, it's essential to know the finer details of what you are getting into, how it works, when your beneficiaries will receive this lump sum, and what payout option works best for you.
Put simply — life insurance involves having to pay a premium (usually monthly) to the insurance provider for the duration of your policy. When you die, your named beneficiaries get paid. In some cases, such as term insurance, your payout is related to you passing away within the specified term.
So, your medical history, age, and lifestyle factors affect how much you will pay and what your beneficiaries will receive. Life insurance companies invest these monthly premiums to get a return and yield a profit before paying out a life insurance claim.
Franklin D. Roosevelt:
"To carry adequate life insurance is a moral obligation incumbent upon the great majority of citizens."
When you decide to take out life insurance cover, you choose how much you will pay each month for your insurance premium. The amount you pay depends on your life expectancy, critical illness, terminal illness, and lifestyle — typically, premiums are cheaper for younger, healthier individuals.
If you are a beneficiary of a life insurance claim, you must submit a claim form to the insurance company accompanied by a death certificate and the original policy. The process may involve an interview by the insurance provider to check that the claim is legitimate and did not fall under exclusions in the contract. Examples of these exclusions are death by suicide or criminal activity. The insurer pays the beneficiaries when the claim is validated and approved. The claim process can take up to two months to finalise.
What Are The Benefits Of Life Insurance?
If you have financial dependents, then you must consider the benefits of taking out a life insurance policy. If you are divorced, have a life partner, or support your parents in their old age, and you die prematurely, the financial impact on family members can be considerable unless you plan ahead and take out life insurance. These lump-sum payments can be tax-free and can help your dependents pay off mortgages and debt. You are ensuring that they are financially secure after you die.
Life insurance is not an investment, but it can be a strategic risk management financial tool. Suze Orman, a well-known American financial advisor, recommends that people take out at least 20 times their annual income in life insurance to fully protect their loved ones and make sure that they never have financial hardship. The benefit of taking out life insurance is to protect your loved ones against being financially destitute in the event of your death. Although the insured person does not receive the benefit, it gives them peace of mind knowing that their family would be cared for financially if anything happened to them.
There are inevitable financial consequences that come with the death of a loved one. Life insurance assists those left behind to cover outstanding debts and mortgages, put dependents through education, and fill the gap of lost income.
Life insurance alleviates uncertainty and fear in the policyholder by giving them peace of mind. Imagine the benefits of life insurance for the dependents of a breadwinner in a single-income household.
Life insurance premiums are not as expensive as people think, especially for lower-end products. Healthy non-smokers under 30 pay a minimal amount compared with healthy people aged 50, who pay up to four times more per month. Age and individual circumstances affect the costs, type, and length of cover chosen.
The optimal life insurance policy does not have to be complicated. You can buy into something that you understand that gives some reassurance that you have taken precautionary steps to protect your loved ones in the event of your death. A helpful tip is to buy enough life insurance to replicate your total household income. Review the period that the household expects to need that income when considering the time frame.
What Are The Types Of Life Insurance Policy?
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance guarantees that the policyholder's payment benefit is paid if death occurs during a specified time. It is the most rudimentary life cover because it allows you to determine how much cover you want and the period.
If you pass away within that time frame, the policy will payout. If you are still alive at the end of that time frame, you don't get your money back. Instead, the policy ends. It may sound like a crazy investment idea, but none of us know how long we are going to live, and if by some chance we die prematurely, we have safeguarded our family from financial disaster.
The five types of term life insurance are:
Decreasing term life policies are taken out for a specified length of time and designed to help protect a repayment mortgage. You pay monthly premiums for the period, but the total cash payout decreases proportionately with your mortgage repayments.
If you die, your beneficiaries get a cash payout. Your beneficiaries also get a cash payout if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and given less than a year to live. The cash sum you receive can then be used to pay the mortgage.
Increasing term life insurance cover accounts for inflation. So premiums and payouts increase over the term.
Level-term life insurance typically covers you for 10–30 years, and your premiums stay the same. The life insurance payout is fixed throughout the policy, and the cash sum paid can be a considerable amount of money if you die unexpectedly and prematurely.
If, as a policyholder, you outlive the life insurance policy term, the coverage ends. You no longer pay monthly premiums, but you also don't get paid out. However, if you buy a return of premium rider, you will get paid out if you outlive the specified term in your policy.
This return of premium life insurance has a savings component attached. But it comes at a price — monthly premiums are sometimes 20% higher. Buying into a return of premium rider depends on your individual tax situation and your risk capacity.
Convertible term plans can be converted into an endowment plan or a whole life plan. If you expect your financial priorities to change in the future, this is a good policy.
A whole-of-life insurance policy pays beneficiaries a lump sum — no matter when you die. Term life insurance only guarantees payment should you die within the specified term of the policy. Policyholders pay premium policies monthly, annually, or in a one-off payment.
- Whole-Of-Life Balanced Cover
- Whole-Of-Life Maximum Cover
With balanced cover premiums are fixed for the policy term when you opt for balanced whole-of-life insurance cover. You agree to the payout amount at the start of the life insurance policy. The amount does not change as you get older, and the insurance payout is set.
A maximum cover policy links to an investment fund. Your insurer invests your monthly premiums into a unit-linked fund or a pooled investment fund with the intention that they will generate a financial return. Insurers check on the fund's performance regularly, and if it is not performing well enough, they might suggest increasing your premiums or reducing your payout amount.
Income Protection Insurance
Income protection insurance pays a percentage of your monthly income. This amount is usually 50% – 70% of your earnings. In the event of an accident or compromised illness, this percentage can be higher. Also, some insurers give a higher percentage on a base level of your salary, e.g., the first £50,000. Anything that you earn above that figure comes in at a lower percentage.
You receive payments in place of that lost income, and the policy pays out until you are back at work, retire, die or reach the end of the policy term. While the policy lasts, you can claim income protection.
The waiting period is agreed upon when you take out income protection insurance. You can decide on any waiting period between 4 – 26 weeks, and if you opt for an extended waiting period, your monthly premiums are lower.
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Mortgage Protection Insurance
Insurance protecting your mortgage is insightful if you own property and are worried about burdening the family with the repayments in the event of your death. Mortgage life insurance differs from life insurance policies in that the insurer pays the mortgage lender and not a beneficiary. The payment made covers the mortgage or partial balance. This life policy only covers the bond on your physical property and does not give financial security to the family.
There are three types of mortgage protection insurance:
Unemployment insurance covers the mortgage in the case of redundancy.
Accident and sickness policies cover your mortgage if you are seriously ill or injured.
Combined policies cover both unemployment and illness or injury.
Life Insurance With Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
When you apply for life insurance, you will have to answer questions regarding your current health and lifestyle and the medical history of your family members. You may also have to undergo a life insurance medical examination to answer questions, and a doctor will examine you. The medical examination includes:
- The contact details of doctors that you have used in the past five years.
- All your previous medical conditions and when they were diagnosed, treated, and the outcome.
- Whether you drive. You will need to show proof of your driving licence.
- Height, pulse, and blood pressure.
- Urine analysis
- Blood sample to detect possible elevated cholesterol, nicotine screening, or drug use, amongst others.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG).
- Treadmill stress test.
- Cognitive ability (if you are over 70)
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and mental illness are pre-existing medical conditions that are likely to raise the price of life insurance cover. If these conditions are severe, you can be disqualified from life cover altogether.
Even if you have some medical issues, you may still find life insurance companies that will take you on. It is important to study the underwriting process to know how much the policy pays for specific illnesses.
An insurance underwriter is responsible for assessing risk on the insurer's side. They decide on the risk involved and make sure that the premiums match the risk involved. Their risk assessments on potential applicants determine whether they are eligible for life insurance or not. They calculate premiums based on medical history, statistics, and actuarial science.
If you have pre-existing health conditions or severe medical issues, your rates may be increased because you pose a higher liabilty of dying while your policy is active.
Most common pre-existing medical conditions
People with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes generally pay a higher premium for life insurance than those without the condition. Applying for life insurance as a person with diabetes can be stressful but not impossible. Your premiums will depend on the severity of your diabetes and your HbA1c readings.
Before agreeing on life cover, it is valuable to know what life insurance underwriters look for in your underlying conditions and personal circumstances. Influencing factors are:
Type of diabetes
When the disease was first diagnosed
Most recent HbA1c reading
Body mass index (BMI)
Other medical complications
Life insurance companies will penalise candidates with diabetes who have added complications such as a heart condition, being a smoker, HbA1c readings over 10%, or an elevated BMI reading.
Although underwriters for certain insurance companies accept people with type 2 diabetes, it is much more difficult (but not impossible) to get a life insurance policy if you have type 1 diabetes. In general, if you have diabetes, you must be a non-smoker and have a healthy medical history without added medical complications.
Mental ill-health such as stress, anxiety, and depression are common. In 2017, mental health was the most common claim on income protection policies in the UK. In 2020, partially due to the coronavirus, 27% of all income protection claims were made due to mental illness. Challenging life events such as bereavement or divorce can spark stress, and stress can spiral out of control if the individual does not address their mental health.
Common mental health problems and stress can result in physical changes such as high blood pressure without having anxiety or depression. However, anxiety and depression can occur without experiencing stress.
Insurance companies are becoming increasingly sympathetic and committed to people who suffer from mental ill-health. It is possible to get life insurance coverage if you are a sufferer.
The Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 showed that 39% of adults in the 16 – 74 age range experienced some form of mental health treatment, an increase of 15% since their last survey in 2007. Overall, around 17% of people interviewed in England met the criteria for a common mental disorder (CMD) in 2014. In this survey, 19% of women reported CMD symptoms, of which half of those interviewed had severe mental health issues. In men, CMD was lower, with 12% reporting CMD and 6% of those men experiencing severe mental ill-health.
The CIPD Health and Wellbeing Report in 2021 found that employee wellbeing is higher as people become more senior, and companies have been twice as proactive in addressing mental health issues since 2020 (27% in 2021 41% in 2020). About 50% of companies have a formal wellbeing strategy, and most organisations have taken significant measures to support employee health and wellbeing, especially since COVID-19.
People with mental health issues must give the underwriter a clear picture of their mental condition. They must disclose the illness type and date when the doctor diagnosed the illness. Insurers will ask for their symptoms, frequency, medication, treatment, suicidal thoughts, self-harm attempts, and hospital stays.
Some of the challenges faced by mental health patients are:
High-risk clients are sometimes refused cover or charged a higher premium.
A past mental health problem could classify as high-risk.
Unemployed people with mental illness are high-risk.
Previous refusal of life cover due to mental illness.
About seven million adults smoke in the UK, and insurance companies provide cover for many of them. If you are a smoker or prefer vaping, you can get life insurance, but your premiums will be probably double that of a non-smoker. For example, a 38-year-old man seeking £150,000 of level term life insurance over 30 years will pay about £28.57 a month compared with £14.23 a month for a non-smoker.
Of course, the premium amount also depends on other factors. For example, smokers pay different premiums depending on age. Young people who smoke pay 30% more than people who don't smoke. Smokers over 50 pay at least double what non-smokers pay. Each insurance company assesses the risk of smoking differently, and factors such as occupation and overall health may affect the premium.
Insurance companies do their homework and check with doctors whether you are a smoker, so smokers must be honest. If they find out after you passed away that you were a smoker and didn't disclose this in your policy, they will refuse to pay out to your family,Vaping, e-cigarettes, chewing nicotine, nicotine patches, hookah, cigars, and pipes are all classified as smoking by insurance companies, and the premiums are the same as a smoker.
Health emergencies and serious illnesses come with high costs. Many of these are not fully covered in standard health insurance plans. As many of us live longer, one critical illness late in our lives could cause a financial burden on the family.
Critical illness life cover is relatively inexpensive and offers financial protection if you have a heart attack, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, or an organ transplant. It also covers injuries such as brain damage and paralysis. This type of life insurance cover pays out a lump sum to assist you with additional medical expenses and lifestyle adjustments.
Terminal illness cover covers any cost associated with the illness, but it may not cover some types of cancer and chronic diseases. Life insurers may refuse to pay if the policyholder has a second stroke or heart attack. So it is essential to read the policy's fine print to know what isn't covered.
You pay for what you get — all insurance policies have stipulations that include exact illnesses and exact accidents or trauma. If you, for example, are only paying to cover cancer, you pay less than covering for all emergency medical conditions.
Watch out for the stipulations on specific circumstances, too — insurers may dispute paying for early cancer detection or a minor stroke because it may not be life-threatening.People over 75 may also be exempt from certain payouts — known as age reduction schedules, which means your payout shrinks as you get older. Sometimes the expected benefit ratio is 60%.
Expiry of the Life Insurance Policy
You must know what kind of life insurance policy you have because some policies expire after a certain period (on average 30 years), and then you must renew it.
Why Should I Have Life Insurance?
One way to find out whether you need life insurance is to review your financial obligations and contributions and consider the impact of your death. Unless you have adequate policies and investments, you should have a life insurance policy.
Young couples with a mortgage have many years to pay for this asset. Children need education, and education costs money. Expenses like running a home, raising a child, contracts to be paid, food and transport, and other monthly payments all contribute to the cost of living.
Young couples may overlook their two incomes and jointly pay for these privileges. Consider living in the same lifestyle you are accustomed to but only having one income. If it is a frightening thought, you may want to consider taking out a life insurance policy.
Buying a new home involves paying a mortgage for up to 30 years. Every month you must repay the mortgage. If two of you are paying this mortgage off and one of you dies, the payment will fall solely on your spouse or partner.
Life insurance is an active way of meeting those financial commitments after you've gone. If you have to repay a mortgage or you have a sizeable amount of debt, decreasing cover life insurance covers these expenses in the event of your death. This type of life cover is inexpensive and proportioned to your debt, so it pays out less over time.Level-term life insurance consists of fixed payments, and the policy timeframe is also specified. You might find this life insurance cover an advantage if you have a mortgage. Insurers pay the same amount out even if you are a claimant a year into the policy. So the payment is made regardless of when your spouse dies.
It is good to take out joint life insurance policies if you are a young couple and a joint policy is cheaper than two single policies. Joint policies only pay out once, and if you claim you are no longer covered — the surviving partner must then take out a new policy.
Two single policies are less complex and pay on each policyholder's death.
If a relationship fails, the insurance provider can split the joint life insurance policy into two single policies. Premiums increase the older you get, so it is vital to think about life insurance when you are young.
Raising children from birth to adulthood is an expensive business. As a parent, you pay for your children's education, clothing, food, extramural activities, and everyday needs. It is also imperative to have a plan should you die prematurely. A 2021 study outlined that 25% of families in the United States would battle almost immediately if the primary wage earner died unexpectedly, and 42% would be financially hard up after six months. For a small payment each month, you can buy a life insurance policy with increasing cover. Your monthly payments and level of cover may increase during the insurance term to account for inflation.
Most parents dream of leaving money for their children once they die. However, if a deceased person owns property in the UK, a tax-free threshold of £325,000 is not taxable. The remaining value of your home is then taxed at 40%, and your beneficiaries will have to pay inheritance tax. If couples plan for this tax, they can buy a life insurance policy when they are young. After their death, a lump sum payment is made to their children. The beneficiaries of this payout could use it to pay for the inheritance tax owing on their parent's property or assets.
More about this can be found HERE.
How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?
The price of life insurance depends on age, personal and family history, and lifestyle.
Other factors that affect the price are:
How much life insurance cover you buy
The type of life cover you buy
The length of the policy
The price of life insurance differs from individual to individual, but it is a highly affordable way of protecting the life and lifestyles of your family.
What Affects the Price of Life Insurance?
The table below from anorak life shows an example of why it is so important to take out life insurance early in life. The factor that most affects the price of life insurance is age.
Table 1: Examples of monthly life insurance rates in the UK
*Numbers are for information purposes only and may vary
Other factors that affect the life insurance premiums include your medical history and lifestyle: smokers, risk-takers, drinkers, certain illnesses like obesity, and mental ill-health. Although insurance companies offer these individuals life insurance, the premiums are sometimes double that of a healthy young person.
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How to Get Life Insurance
Buying life insurance is quite a complicated procedure. It should not be a rapid and impulsive decision. Decide on the type of insurance that suits you and your family. Then decide how much insurance cover you want and the period you wish to continue paying for it. The next decision is where to buy the life cover.
Buying Directly With a Life Insurance Company
Insurance companies sell directly to you, and you merely have to state the transaction period — such as 10, 20, or 30 years. If you go down this route, you fill out an application form and choose your policy according to your needs and pocket. This method is uncomplicated and quick if you have done online research beforehand.
Sometimes you can buy a guaranteed issue policy, and for this, you do not need a medical examination. A guaranteed issue policy is suitable for people with health issues.
Buying With Life Insurance Agent
Agents sell specific products from one insurance company or several insurance companies. They are independent but act as a go-between to insurance companies and policy buyers. Agents must have a licence to sell insurance products. Their goal is to sell you coverage from the companies they represent — which may or may not be what you need.
Life Insurance Broker
Brokers work independently and have no allegiance to insurance companies, but they work with many insurance companies. They should make unbiased recommendations that suit each customer's needs and provide customers with a selection of price quotes and plans.
You can log on to the insurance company's website and review the various options available. If you use a recognised insurance company, your details are secure, and your transactions are protected.
The responsibility lies with you to peruse different notable companies, compare apples with apples, and even collect the data on a spreadsheet showing the various terms and conditions.
Many online options are slightly cheaper since no agent's or broker's commissions apply. When purchasing online, you can keep track of your policy, premium payments, and renewals. You can read and understand how the plan works through examples.
When Is the Best Time to Buy Life Insurance?
What to Consider When Buying Life Insurance?
Buying life insurance can be confusing with many options and choices, and it is sometimes difficult to compare the different options.
The best time to buy life insurance is when you are young. This is because the premiums are lower, and you can go on with your life and forget about the small premiums you are paying. As people get older, they are far more likely to develop health complications, and so it is much more expensive to buy life insurance after the age of 35.
Think ahead to the future and analyse your current financial position and calculate what policies and emergency funds you have in place. Then you are better equipped to decide on a life insurance policy you can afford.
People often are unaware of how much life insurance they need to pay off their debt and mortgage. Instead, consider what your family may need in the event of your death.
Experts advise that the lump sum payout should be between 10 and 20 times your annual salary.
A term life policy typically provides coverage for 10 to 30 years. It can be a way to get coverage until you have paid off your mortgage or your children's education. Some life insurance providers offer lifelong coverage. They are more expensive because they build cash value. The cash can be used for emergencies or assist you in your retirement.
Life insurance companies consider health and age as the most important premium factors. You are more likely to be risk-free when you're young and healthy. The monthly premiums depend on the type of policy you get and how large the death benefit is. If you get a term life insurance policy, the length of the term you choose will also affect your premium.
Many insurance companies have free quotes online, making it easy to compare life insurance quotes. Obtain at least three quotes and compare like with like. If you are getting advice from an agent, make sure they are reputable and recommended.
What Life Insurance Doesn't Cover
Active users of recreational drugs, besides marijuana, cannot get life insurance currently in the UK. If you abused drugs at a younger age, you might be able to get a life insurance policy. Still, you may also be in for manual underwriting, which could mean that the underwriter analyses your application in more detail. Getting cover depends on drugs used, the quantity used over what period, and their effect on your lifestyle. Policies may vary according to different drugs and their different effects on health. Insurers will want to know how long you have been clean from drugs.
It is much more challenging to obtain life insurance cover for the frequent use of cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, or steroids. The past or continuous use of cannabis does not exclude you from life insurance. Recreational prescription drugs may not necessarily exclude you from obtaining life insurance.
If you lie about your circumstances on your life insurance application, you could face legal action, and the insurers may terminate the policy. If the insurance company discovers that you lied when completing the life insurance application, they will usually reject the claim.
Most life insurance policies would contest any payout for suicide if it took place within two years of taking out the policy. If a person took their life during this time frame, the insurer wouldn't pay. The reason for non-payment is to prevent people from taking out policies and then committing suicide to pass on wealth.
In the case of suicide, the insurance company gets access to medical records to establish a concealed or misstated state of health. The Financial Ombudsman Service handles these disputes, and the claim is rejected in the case of misrepresentation of health.
Insurance companies refer to reckless recreational activities as hazardous pursuits. These sports include rock climbing, scuba diving, hang-gliding, paragliding, boxing or cage fighting, and motor speed racing. Insurance companies will load your policy when applying for life cover because they view these events as high-risk. With disability or death, they may delay a payout.
People who enjoy these activities will find that the insurance underwriter assesses the risk, calculates the premiums, and offers a payout amount to cover that risk.
Underwriters do this in several ways:
If the risk is too great, they exclude all cover for that activity. They ask the risk-taker to sign a legal document stipulating the exclusion.
The insurer applies special conditions to the cover regarding that hazardous pursuit. This usually includes specified safety measures and environments.
In rare cases, a life insurance policy beneficiary could murder the policyholder. If the beneficiary accused is convicted, the insurance company will not payout. If the accused is acquitted, the insurer may still honour the policy.