A life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company. In exchange for premium payments, the insurance company provides a lump-sum payment, known as a death benefit, to beneficiaries upon the insured's death. Typically, life insurance is chosen based on the needs and goals of the owner.
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.
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.
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.
Insurers use rate classes, or risk-related categories, to determine your premium payments; these categories don't, however, affect the length or amount of coverage.
Your rate class is determined by a number of factors, including overall health, family medical history and your lifestyle. Tobacco use, for example, would increase risk and, therefore cause your premium payment to be higher than that of someone who doesn't use tobacco.