Loading the player...

What is 'Life Insurance'

Life insurance is a protection against financial loss that would result from the premature death of an insured. The named beneficiary receives the proceeds and is thereby safeguarded from the financial impact of the death of the insured. The death benefit is paid by a life insurer in consideration for premium payments made by the insured.

BREAKING DOWN 'Life Insurance'

The goal of life insurance is to provide a measure of financial security for your family after you die. So, before purchasing a life insurance policy, consider your financial situation and the standard of living you want to maintain for your dependents or survivors. For example, who will be responsible for your funeral costs and final medical bills? Would your family have to relocate? Will there be adequate funds for future or ongoing expenses such as daycare, mortgage payments and college? It is prudent to re-evaluate your life insurance policies annually or when you experience a major life event like marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or purchase of a major item such as a house or business.

How Life Insurance Works

Life insurance is a contract between an individual with an insurable interest and a life insurance company to transfer the financial risk of a premature death to the insurer in exchange for a specified amount of premium. The three main components of the life insurance contract are a death benefit, a premium payment and, in the case of permanent life insurance, a cash value account.

Death Benefit: The death benefit is the amount of money the insured’s beneficiaries will receive from the insurer upon the death of the insured. Although the death benefit amount is determined by the insured, the insurer must determine whether there is an insurable interest and whether the insured can qualify for the coverage based on its underwriting requirements.

Premium Payment: Using actuarially based statistics, the insurer determines the amount of premium it needs to cover mortality costs. Factors such as the insured’s age, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle are the main risk determinants. As long as the insured pays the premium as agreed, the insurer remains obligated to pay the death benefit. For term policies, the premium amount includes the cost of insurance. For permanent policies, the premium amount includes the cost of insurance plus an amount that is deposited to a cash value account.

Cash Value: Permanent life insurance includes a cash value component which serves two purposes. It is a savings account that allows the insured to accumulate capital that can become a living benefit. The capital accumulates on a tax-deferred basis and can be used for any purpose while the insured is alive. It is also used by the insurer to mitigate its risk. As the cash value accumulates, the amount the insurer is at risk for the entire death benefit decreases, which is how it is able to charge a fixed, level premium.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Variable Life Insurance Policy

    A form of permanent life insurance, Variable life insurance provides ...
  2. Universal Life Insurance

    A type of flexible permanent life insurance offering the low-cost ...
  3. Key Person Insurance

    A life insurance policy that a company purchases on a key executive's ...
  4. Transfer Of Risk

    The underlying tenet behind insurance transactions. The purpose ...
  5. Annual Renewable Term (ART) Insurance

    A form of term life insurance that offers a guarantee of future ...
  6. Insurance Premium

    The amount of money that an individual or business must pay for ...
Related Articles
  1. Insurance

    Life Insurance: putting a Price on Peace of Mind

    Would your death leave loved ones financially stranded? Find out how to ease your mind and keep them protected.
  2. Financial Advisor

    Is Life Insurance From Your Employer Enough?

    Covering the needs of the ones you would leave behind is not easy. But efforts to secure a life insurance policy outside of work should pay off.
  3. Financial Advisor

    Advising FAs: Explaining Life Insurance to a Client

    Life insurance was initially designed to protect the income of families, particularly young families in the wealth accumulation phase, in the event of the head of household's death.
  4. Insurance

    Tips for Helping Clients with Life Insurance Needs

    Life insurance needs will likely change over the client’s lifetime and again financial advisers can provide an objective sounding board.
  5. Managing Wealth

    Life Insurance With an Increasing Death Benefit

    Why buy a life insurance policy with an increasing rather than level death benefit
  6. Financial Advisor

    Why the Wealthy Should Buy Lots of Life Insurance

    Wealthy clients have an enviable problem — managing, preserving and growing wealth. Properly structured life insurance can help with these goals.
  7. Financial Advisor

    Buying a Life Insurance Policy? Read This First

    Knowing who needs life insurance, how it works and the different types of insurance can help consumers make informed decisions about this product.
Hot Definitions
  1. Drawdown

    The peak-to-trough decline during a specific record period of an investment, fund or commodity. A drawdown is usually quoted ...
  2. Inverse Transaction

    A transaction that can cancel out a forward contract that has the same value date.
  3. Redemption

    The return of an investor's principal in a fixed income security, such as a preferred stock or bond; or the sale of units ...
  4. Solvency

    The ability of a company to meet its long-term financial obligations. Solvency is essential to staying in business, but a ...
  5. Dilution

    A reduction in the ownership percentage of a share of stock caused by the issuance of new stock. Dilution can also occur ...
  6. Agency Problem

    A conflict of interest inherent in any relationship where one party is expected to act in another's best interests. The problem ...
Trading Center