Let’s face it: Insurance is confusing. And we’re not just talking about figuring out how to file a claim. With all the different types of insurance out there, it’s hard to determine what insurance you need in the first place.
While your particular needs will vary depending on your unique circumstances, here are four types of insurance you definitely should have:
- Health insurance. The federal tax penalty for not having health insurance will go away in 2019, but that was never the main reason you needed it. With medical costs continuing to rise, health insurance is an absolute must-have. Even if you are young and healthy, you never know when you might get in an accident; an unexpected hospital visit can easily cost you thousands of dollars. Luckily, your job may be able to help you get coverage. According to the most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of Americans (56 percent) receive health insurance through their employer. Only 8.8 percent of Americans have no health insurance at all.
- Car insurance. If you have a car, you’re already very familiar with car insurance. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to never use it, you better be paying for it considering it’s required by law (unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, where it isn’t required but most drivers have it). The Insurance Information Institute has found that the average loss per claim is more than $5,500, so this is one type of insurance that can pay off quickly. Tip: Don’t file a claim for a minor incident. While you might think you should considering the amount of money you’ve paid for your policy over the years, your insurance company may raise your rates in the future.
- Homeowners/renters insurance. If you own your home, having homeowners insurance is a no-brainer, and not just because you can’t get a mortgage without it. Your house is probably your single most valuable asset, and you want to protect it. Homeowners insurance will help cover your losses in the event of a fire, burglary, or other event (you may need to purchase a separate policy if you live in an area prone to floods or earthquakes). If you’re a renter, you still need insurance of your own so you can replace your personal belongings in the event of a disaster.
- Life insurance. Life insurance is more of a benefit for your loved ones than for yourself; if you should die, this will help protect them. Ask yourself: What would happen to your family if you died tomorrow? Would they still be able to pay the bills? Even if you’re single, someone will have to pay for your funeral and sort through your estate. Many experts recommend you buy a policy equal to 10 times your salary. Of course, your particular situation may require more or less. If you have no children, for example you won’t need as much as someone with three kids, and if you’re a stay-at-home parent with no income, you still need life insurance to help your partner cover childcare costs should the worst occur.
Once these four policies are in place, you might want to look into other types of insurance that could be beneficial to you, such as disability insurance and long-term care insurance. No matter what you end up with, you’ll want to store all the related paperwork on InsureYouKnow.org. Dealing with a disaster is stressful enough; the last thing you and your loved ones will want to do is dig through piles of papers to find the appropriate policy.
Safeguarding the future of your dependents does not begin in the future but it all begins now. That is why most if not all individuals in the working class category aim to secure the future of their loved ones through insurance products. Life insurance helps you achieve this and term life insurance is cheaper compared to whole life insurance in its own battle of term life vs whole life.
However, it is important to note though expensive, whole life insurance has other additional benefits. In the case of term life insurance, coverage is between one to thirty years and it is often referred to as the pure life insurance. The reason is because it is meant to serve your dependents in the event you die prematurely. The has no other value, which means that if you die within the term the policy covers, your beneficiaries only receive the death benefit.
It is important to opt for a term life insurance which is in line with when your family will need the funds the most such that in case you are not around, whatever you leave behind, will be able to supplement your income and serve them accordingly. If you live long enough, then such funds at maturity will serve as security for you when you finally retire.
In the case of whole life insurance, there is lifelong coverage as well as cash value, in which case, the latter acts as the investment component of this policy. No taxes are charge on your funds as the cash value grows and you can borrow against the policy, only that you will need to surrender your policy, meaning that you will remain without cover.
In the event you fail to repay this loan with the interest attached, then this will reduce your death benefit. The best thing with whole life insurance is that cash value growth and death benefit are guaranteed and premiums remain unchanged throughout your lifetime. Also, there is the probability of benefiting from the insurer’s surplus in this case, which is paid as dividends but there is no guarantee.
In the battle between term life vs whole life, Term life insurance may be cheaper but in most cases, you family will not get a payout because there is no cash value attached. It works best if;
- You are looking for the most affordable coverage available in the insurance market.
- If you cannot afford permanent life insurance but you want it because there is provision to convert most term life policies to permanent coverage.
- You are looking for a policy that will only cover a specific period such as the time to pay off your mortgage, or the time it will take to raise your children.
On the other hand, whole life is appropriate if;
- You want to equalize inheritance such as leaving one child with property and compensating that with a benefit payout for the other child.
- You wish to provide funds to pay estate taxes to avoid a case where your heirs have to sell part of the property in future to pay for such taxes in future.
- You wish to spend what you have saved after retirement and still cater for your funeral expenses because with whole life, a payout is guaranteed.
- You have a special needs child and you would want to have a fund to take care of that child.
Planning to buy a life insurance plan? Here’s what you need to know about the different types of life insurance:
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance is the simplest type of life insurance where you buy life coverage for a specific period of time and pay a monthly premium. It only pays if death occurs during that set period, which usually ranges from one year to 30 years.
Term life insurance is the cheapest form of life insurance starting from as low as few hundred dollars a year for $300,000 worth of coverage. Term life insurance, in most of the cases, doesn’t have any investment component linked to it. You are just paying an annual premium to protect your dependents in case anything happens within the policy term.
There two further sub-categories of term life insurance:
Level term – Fixed premiums and death benefits stay the same throughout the term of the policy
Decreasing term – Death benefits decrease each year incrementally throughout the term of the policy
When opting for Term life insurance, choose a term that fits your current financial situation and figure out the number of years you and your family are more financially vulnerable.
Whole Life Insurance
Also known as permanent life insurance, whole life insurance is more expensive than a term insurance policy but has many additional benefits. A whole life insurance policy provides lifelong death coverage even if you die aged 100 and comes with an investment component known as policy cash value. You can also borrow money against the cash value of your policy plan or even surrender the policy for cash.
There are three main types of whole life insurance; traditional whole life, universal whole, variable whole life.
Traditional whole life – This is the most common type of whole life insurance where the premium stays the same throughout the policy’s term and the death benefit is guaranteed. The policy cash value also grows at a guaranteed rate and best of all, you don’t have to pay taxes on the gains while they are accumulating.
Universal whole life – This is a type of permanent insurance policy that provides the most flexibility. It provides the option of increasing death benefit later on in the policy term by passing a medical examination. The insured also has the option to change the policy premiums if enough money has been accumulated in the cash value account. The only downside with universal life insurance is that the returns are not guaranteed since it is tied to a money-market type investment that pays a market return rate – which can be positive or negative.
Variable Life Insurance – This type of permanent life insurance provides the opportunity of combining death benefits with an investment component that comprises of stocks, bonds and money market mutual funds. The risk factor for variable life insurance policy is higher but the returns can be equally rewarding as well. If the investments tank, the death benefit and cash value may decrease, however, some policies guarantee a minimum death benefit.
Variable life insurance policy also comes with great flexibility for the insured in terms of the ability to change and adjust the annual premiums. So if your financial situation changes during the policy’s term, you have the ability to increase or decrease your premium. The policy cash value account can also be used to pay the premiums, if needed. While there are certain added benefits of variable life insurance, one big downside is that the cash value returns are not guaranteed and the risk of investments lie completely on the policyholder.
Whichever type of life insurance you eventually opt for, it is essential to be aware of the risks and rewards and choose a plan that fits your current financial status and future life goals.
A life insurance policy works such that the policyholder pays a monthly or yearly premium and when he or she dies, the insurance company pays the benefits to the deceased’s spouse or children or anyone who has been nominated by them.
However, this is not always the case.
According to a recent investigation, as many as 35 of the biggest insurance companies in the United States have not settled the claims with beneficiaries and have been sitting on billions of dollars of money that does not belong to them.
Most of this happens due to the beneficiaries not being aware that a policy exists so the benefits end up not being claimed. As per estimates, as many as one in four policies remain unclaimed in the United States.
Legal Status of Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits
The legal status of what happens to insurance payouts that are left unclaimed depends on the type of policy – term life insurance or whole life insurance – that was in place and whether it was paid up and in force at the time of death.
Whole Life Policy
In the case of whole life policy, if the premiums were up to date or fully paid, the beneficiaries are entitled to receive the full policy benefits regardless of the time duration of the claim after the policy holder’s death. In fact, during the time the benefits remain unclaimed, accrued interest is added to the basic unclaimed amount.
In case benefits remain unclaimed so that the insured would have reached the limiting age on the mortality table which is usually 100-115 years, the benefits may be considered legally abandoned. In such a case, the unclaimed funds convert to state property and escheat statutes. Even then, in most cases heirs reserve the right to reclaim the funds.
Term Life Policy
Unclaimed term life policies have more or less the same legal status as whole life policy. The only difference is that these policies are only for a selected number of years so the beneficiaries may or may not be entitled to the policy payout depending on the forfeiture clause defined at the time of purchase and whether the premiums were up to date.
How to find a lost life insurance policy
Most insurance companies consider it the responsibility of the beneficiaries to contact them in order to collect the policy benefits which is a flawed practice and the basic reason for millions of unclaimed life insurance policies in the country.
If you or someone around you wants to find out about a missing policy, here is how to approach the situation:
- Check with deceased’s employers since many companies offer group life insurance to employees. They should have a record of everything.
- Check the deceased’s personal documents and look for anything that can lead to the insurance company – telephone numbers, policy documents and/or the names of the insurance agents.
- Be on the lookout for deceased’s incoming mail for some period after the death and watch out for due premium notices or statements, which are sent monthly or annually depending on the insurance company.
- Banks, lenders, credit card companies and other financial service companies often offer free or low-cost life insurance policies. Check out the deceased’s financial documents to see if such a policy was in force.
- If all else fails and no record of a policy is found but you are sure that a policy was in place, contact the underwriters in your city/state directly. To narrow down underwriters, start with the most popular ones in your area.
Whether you have just discovered about lost insurance claims or many years have passed since the insured’s death, there are many legal ways to acquire the funds that you and other heirs of the deceased may be entitled to.