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How Does Life Insurance Work? Get the Facts!

hands in hands protecting paper family

By Byron Udell | August 14, 2018

It turns pennies into dollars and delivers the money exactly when it’s needed. You won’t be able to find another product that does that.

Watch the video below to learn how life insurance works.

When you die, the proceeds from your life insurance policy can take care of those who depend on you financially.

A life insurance policy is a legal contract.  You pay the life insurance company. In return, the insurance company promises to give money (called the death benefit) to one or more beneficiaries you pick.

(See our Life Insurance 101 page for a more in-depth explanation.)

In addition to the death benefit, life insurance can provide:

  • Peace of mind – When you die, your family will be devastated. Their lives will never “get back to normal.” But you can feel confident that financial trouble won’t make matters worse.
  • Living benefits – There are add-on options (called riders) that may make it possible for your policy to give you money before you die. Some examples include situations where you become disabled, need long-term medical care, or receive a terminal illness diagnosis.

(Watch our What Are Life Insurance Riders video for more information)

Types of Life Insurance

There are 2 basic types of life insurance: term and permanent.

Term life insurance is simple and inexpensive. You pick a benefit amount and how long you’d like to be covered – this is called your term, and it usually lasts 10, 20, 25 or 30 years – and you’re squared away. At the end of the term, the level, affordable premiums you’re used to become exorbitantly expensive. The insurer doesn’t always cancel the coverage, but the increased cost makes many people consider dropping the policy voluntarily.

And unfortunately, new policy could be a lot more expensive because of your age.

Term insurance is sometimes referred to as “pure insurance” because it is just basic insurance. Features can be added (the riders mentioned above) to provide extra coverage, including a return of premium rider that gives you back every penny of your paid in premium over the course of your term.

Permanent life insurance generally provides lifelong financial protection. As long as you pay the premiums:

  • your policy will never expire and
  • your beneficiaries are guaranteed to receive the death benefit (federal income-tax-free in almost all cases!).

Permanent policies may also accumulate cash value which you can access for any reason, including to pay college tuition, retirement funds, etc.

There are 1) Whole Life, 2) Universal Life, and 3) second-to-die or Survivorship life insurance products. Get more details on the Permanent Life Insurance page.

How Much and What Kind?

Those are two of the most common questions insurance professionals are asked. The answer for both is the same:  it depends. It would be irresponsible to recommend a course of action without an in-depth needs analysis. Use our life insurance calculator and speak with one of our advisors to figure out the best coverage for your needs.

If you have short-term financial needs, term insurance may be your best bet. If your needs are permanent (such as estate planning or covering the cost of final expenses) you may need a permanent policy.

Most life insurance experts recommend that you purchase a policy worth 10-20 times your annual salary. Sound like a lot? When you think about it, you’re going to be dead for a long time. You want to make sure your family has everything they need and that they can carry on with the plans you always had:  college, big weddings, etc.

Check out How Much Life Insurance Is Enough for a more detailed exploration of the topic.

“What Do I Need to Do?”

After you figure out how much and what kind, you have to find a carrier that offers a policy that fits and fill out an application.

If you request a quote from us, we’ll do the shopping for you. We’ll help you compare policies and tell you which company will give you the best policy at the lowest price.

Once you fill out and submit your application, which can often be done electronically, you’ll usually need to schedule a medical exam. These are typically finished in 30 minutes or less, and they can be done in your home or office.

The insurance company will take the information from your application and exam and decide whether or not they’ll insure you and what rate class you qualify for. This is known as the underwriting process. On average, the process takes 3-8 weeks. If you are approved, you get to choose whether to accept the policy.

Now, just pay your premium every month and your family is protected!

If you are denied, you may be able to apply for insurance with another company, or you may think about getting no medical exam insurance.

Filing a Life Insurance Claim

Unfortunately, we’re all going to die someday.  Life insurance is almost like a part of you that lives on, taking care for your family. Leaving a legacy.

Whoever is given the job of filing the death claim should know some basic steps to make sure they’re doing everything required to receive settlement funds.

  • First, get your paperwork in order.  Be sure to obtain a copy of the death certificate of the person insured.
  • Call your life insurance representative. They can be helpful in determining what other paperwork you may need and provide you with a checklist of things you should consider that can ease the burden during this difficult time. In addition, they can help educate you on what you’re entitled to.
  • When you file the life insurance claim, keep in mind that each beneficiary must fill out the proper forms. Your life insurance agent should be able to get the forms for you, and help you with the process.
  • It typically shouldn’t take more than a week or two to process your claim. The life insurance company will review your claim and make the payout.

Now call us at 800-442-9899 and speak to a real person! (yes, we’re old school.) You have enough things to think about, so we’ve taken the stress out of shopping for life insurance.

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