Life Insurance

Anatomy of a Life Insurance Policy

Oct 6, 2023
family unpacking boxes after move
Sitting down with a legal contract can seem overwhelming at first, especially if it contains a lot of elements that you’re not yet familiar with. At the same time, when you’re making an important financial decision like getting a life insurance policy, it’s important that you understand exactly what you're signing up for.

That’s why we took the time to deconstruct a life insurance policy document to help identify the key sections you’ll need to read through before you move forward.

What is a life insurance policy?

A life insurance policy document is a legal agreement between an insurance company (insurer) and the policyholder (insured). It specifies the terms and conditions of the coverage provided in exchange for the premiums paid. It also includes limitations, exclusions, and other terms and conditions.

Why a life insurance policy is important

Serves as a legal document: To your family and dependents, this policy document symbolizes your commitment to their welfare and security. 

Puts details all in one place: The policy document includes all the policy's terms and conditions. It's vital to share these details with your loved ones, including your children and spouse. They should be informed about the policy's benefits and the steps needed to manage claims, should a circumstance necessitate it.

How much life insurance do I need?
To make it easier, we created an online life insurance calculator you can use to help assess your individual needs.

What’s in a life insurance policy?

Regardless of the type of life insurance you choose, once you've made the decision to buy a policy, it's crucial to go over your coverage carefully to understand all the details and your responsibilities.

While the specific contents can vary by policy type and insurer, most life insurance policy documents typically include the following elements:

Basic policy information: The document starts with basic information such as the policy number, the name of the insured, the name of the insurer, and the effective date of the policy.

Benefit details: This section describes the death benefits, the maturity benefits, and other benefits, if any, in detail. It includes the sum assured, policy term, premium payment term, frequency of premium payment, etc.

Policy definitions: Key terms used throughout the policy are typically defined at the top of the document so there is no confusion.

Exclusions: Exclusions are situations under which the policy will not pay out. One common exclusion is suicide (usually limited to suicide within the first two years of the policy).

Beneficiary details: The name and details of the person(s) who will receive the policy benefit upon the death of the insured.

Policy riders: These are optional additional benefits that can be attached to a life insurance policy to enhance the coverage, often at an added cost. The policy document will list any riders attached to the policy, along with their terms (see your rider for details). Some common policy riders that may be included are:

  • Accidental Death Benefit Rider: Pays an additional amount to the beneficiary if the insured dies due to a covered accident.
  • Waiver of Premium Rider: If the insured becomes totally disabled and can't work, this rider waives the premiums while keeping the policy in force.
  • Child Term Rider: Provides coverage for the insured’s children until they reach adulthood.
  • Return of Premium Rider: If the insured survives the term of a term life insurance policy, this rider returns part of the premiums paid.
  • Disability Income Rider: Pays a monthly income if the insured becomes disabled and is unable to work.
  • Spouse Insurance Rider: Allows the insured to add coverage for his or her spouse to the policy.

Surrender value: For permanent life insurance, the cash value a policyholder will receive if they decide to terminate (or surrender) the policy before it matures or before death.

Free look period: The policyholder is generally given a certain period (usually 15 to 30 days) during which they can review the terms and conditions of the policy and return it if there is no longer interest in the policy.

Grace period: The time allowed to pay the premium after the due date without risking a policy lapse.

Reinstatement provision: If the policy lapses due to non-payment of premiums, this provision outlines the conditions under which the policy can be reinstated.

Termination provision: This section outlines the circumstances under which the policy can be terminated.

Policy loans: Some policies may have provisions allowing the policyholder to borrow a certain percentage of the policy's cash value. The terms for such loans would be outlined within the policy loan provisions.

Claims provision: The details regarding death benefit calculation at time of claim and requirements necessary to submit a claim are included in the document.

Remember to read the policy document thoroughly during the free look period after purchasing any life insurance product. If there's something you don't understand, ask for clarification from a financial advisor or the insurer.

Get started with your risk-free quote today.

ChatGPT was used for idea generation, but the author made significant modifications and takes ultimate responsibility for the content.

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