What is Whole Life Insurance?

What is Whole Life Insurance?

January 12, 2022

Whole life insurance, also known as permanent life insurance, lasts a policyholder’s whole lifetime, provided required premiums are paid. This is in contrast to term life insurance, which is in force for a specified period of time.

Whole life insurance provides a fixed death benefit; it can also include a savings component, which allows a cash value to accumulate. This savings component builds cash value that you can borrow against or drawn upon. It is a good way to provide money for a trust or assist disabled children in their adulthood after a parent is deceased. It can also help your family fund a business, stay in the home they love and avoid estate tax.

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How whole life insurance works

If the whole life policy has a $250,000 death benefit, this is the amount  your family will receive when you pass away, regardless of how many years it has been since you purchased the policy. The payout from the policy is not subject to income tax.. Your beneficiary can use it any way they desire. You can even fund a trust with the proceeds if you list the trust as your beneficiary.

With most whole life policies, the premium amount and the death benefit remain the same, never increasing or decreasing. If you purchase a policy when you are relatively young, you will pay lower annual premiums than if you wait to purchase the same level of insurance later in life.

You can also purchase riders, or upgrades, to your policy (for a higher premium) to include additional protections. For example, a rider might be available to safeguard the death benefit in the event you are disabled or diagnosed with a critical or terminal illness and are unable to pay the annual premium. Or you can add an accidental death benefit, which provides extra money for your family should you die due to an unexpected accident. Some insurers also offer an additional long-term care benefit that helps pay for nursing or home care. Your agent will talk to you about your options.

Policy Loans

Depending on the rules of the whole life policy you purchase, you may be able to borrow against it. Know, however, that you will pay interest on the loan. Such loans are available to the policyholder only.

Before borrowing against the policy make sure you understand the restrictions and cost. A loan reduces the death benefit if it’s not paid back before the policyholder dies. . Depending on the policy type and the size of the remaining cash value, a withdrawal may reduce the death benefit by an amount greater than what is withdrawn.

Insurance as an investment

Some people secure early-death insurance (such as term life), then purchase both a whole life insurance policy, as well as a type of whole life insurance called universal life. Universal life is an investment vehicle that has a:

  • death benefit
  • allows access to the value of the policy through loans or withdrawals
  • has some income tax advantages
  • permits flexible payments

Universal life insurance is typically less expensive than a standard whole life policy. Additionally, the value of the death benefit can grow over time, which it won’t under a standard whole life policy. The policy is structured so that part of your premium pays for the set death benefit and part goes toward building cash value — something you can borrow against or use.

For example, if you have extra disposable money at a certain point in time, you canpay into your universal life account and build up your cash value, saving it to pay on your premium later, when you have less disposable income. Some people pay in heavily while they are working so they can use that built-up store of money to pay premiums during retirement.

A universal life policy is attractive to those who want the flexibility to change their premiums and benefits over the duration of the coverage. You can even change how often you pay your premiums, although, of course, there are restrictions.

Some universal life policies now offer a long-term care component. These policies typically stipulate a death benefit and a monthly amount available for long-term care, such as nursing home or in-home services. These are somewhat complicated policies. They are increasingly attractive because they both pay for needed services and secure a death benefit if the long-term care component isn’t used.

You can also purchase something called a variable universal life policy. This is life insurance that is linked to the stock market in some way. You can choose how your premiums are invested — in bonds, equities, etc. Their performance will determine how much money is available as a benefit to your beneficiaries or to you for withdrawal. Some of these now also come in the hybrid variety with a long-term care component.

Final expense insurance

For those who have no dependents but want to make sure there is enough money to cover funeral and burial costs, a final expense policy, also called funeral or burial insurance, may be most appealing.

This kind of policy offers a fairly low level of coverage — not usually more than $25,000. You can use it for burial plots, funerals, cremations and the like. Often, payment is made directly to the funeral home. In some cases, an insurer will also cover medical bills, so ask your agent about the benefit details.

Overall, whole life insurance in its various forms provides solid, lifelong coverage that assists your beneficiaries upon your death. With an added long-term care component and flexible payment options, you may find a great combination of financial protection that serves you and your loved ones throughout — and after — your life.

Are you interested in exploring your life insurance options? Reach out to Luca to get started.