DEFINITION of 'Level Death Benefit'

A life insurance payout that is the same whenever the insured person dies, whether shortly after purchasing the policy or many years later. Compared to a policy that provides an increasing death benefit, one that provides a level death benefit will be less expensive (that is, the premiums will be lower for the same amount of initial benefit). However, inflation will diminish the value of the level death benefit over time.

BREAKING DOWN 'Level Death Benefit'

A level death benefit is one of two death-benefit options available under many universal life insurance policies; the other is an increasing death benefit.

A universal life policy has two components: a cash value component and a pure insurance component. When the policy holder chooses the level death benefit, the value of the pure insurance component decreases over time to keep the death benefit the same while the policy’s cash value increases. If the policy holder chooses the increasing death benefit option, the pure insurance component will remain the same over time; so as the policy’s cash value increases, the death benefit increases.

Term life insurance policies also offer a level death benefit; whether the policyholder dies five years into the term or 20 years into the term, the death benefit will be the same. 

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