Term life insurance for seniors. ALAMEDA Insurance Group: Tucson's Hometown Agent.

What are the principal types of life insurance? Variable life insurance quote.

There are two major types of life insurance—term and whole life.

Whole life is sometimes called permanent life insurance, and it encompasses several subcategories, including traditional whole life, universal life, variable life and variable universal life. In 2003, about 6.4 million individual life insurance policies bought were term and about 7.1 million were whole life.

Life insurance products for groups are different from life insurance sold to individuals. The information below focuses on life insurance sold to individuals. Please see your Alameda Insurance Group Agent for more information and a money-saving quote.

It provides protection for a specified period of time, typically from one to 30 years. It pays a death benefit only if you die during this term. Some policies can be automatically renewed at the end of the coverage period, and some can be converted to permanent insurance without need for a medical exam.

There are several different types of term insurance you can consider:

These policies have a provision allowing you to renew coverage at the end of the term without having to show evidence of insurability. The company has to renew your policy even if your medical condition has deteriorated. However, the premium rate will rise with each renewal.

These policies allow you to convert your term coverage into a permanent policy without providing evidence of insurability. Premiums for convertible policies are usually higher than for nonconvertible policies. Once converted, the premiums for the permanent coverage will be higher than those of the term policy with the same death benefit. However, the permanent policy premiums will remain the same while the term premiums will rise.

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These policies provide a fixed premium for a certain number of years, usually 10 or 20 years, while the death benefit remains unchanged. The death benefit is the amount the life insurance company will pay, as stated in the policy, when the insured person dies. The advantage is that you lock in a certain rate for the period of the policy. The disadvantage is that the premiums will tend to cost more than the earlier years of the renewable policy, and when the level policy expires, premium rates will jump considerably if you want to renew with another level policy.

The death benefit in this type of policy decreases over its term. For example, you might start with $100,000 of coverage and the amount of coverage decreases by $10,000 each year for 10 years. The premium usually remains the same over the term of the policy. This type of insurance allows you to pay the same premium for less insurance over time, rather than have your premium increase for the same amount of insurance.

This kind of policy starts at one level of death benefit which gradually increases over the life of the policy. You may start with a $100,000 policy and increase the death benefit $10,000 each year for 10 years. The premium will increase each year. This kind of policy may be appropriate if you see your insurance needs growing in coming years because, for example, you expect to have more children.

It provides life-long protection as long as you continue to pay premiums. The premiums are based on your age at the time of purchase, and generally remain level. They do not increase as you age. Therefore, the younger you are when you buy the policy, the lower the premium you will pay for the life of the policy.

Because premiums remain level, permanent insurance is more expensive than term insurance. But permanent insurance accumulates cash value, which may be refundable upon surrender of the policy. While the policy is in force, cash values can be borrowed against or used to pay premiums.

The proceeds of many permanent life insurance policies can be used to ease the financial burden of catastrophic illness, terminal illness or long-term care. These accelerated benefits may be offered as part of the basic policy or as a rider to an existing policy.

With a permanent life insurance policy, you may borrow up to the cash value at an interest rate (fixed or adjustable) stated in the policy. Any unpaid interest is added to the loan. Any unpaid loan, including interest, will be deducted from the death benefit. The cash value can be used to pay premiums for a period of time, keeping the stated death benefit, or it can be used to purchase paid-up insurance in a lesser amount with no further premiums due.

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There are four basic types of permanent insurance:

Sometimes also called life or ordinary life, this policy has a fixed guaranteed rate and develops guaranteed cash values. There are two variations on traditional whole life:

Joint Whole Life: The policy insures two lives instead of one. Also called first-to-die coverage, the policy pays the death benefit to the surviving insured person when the first one dies. This is often purchased by a husband and wife.

Survivorship Life: The policy insures two people and pays a death benefit only when the second person has died. It is designed for married couples who want to provide funds to pay estate taxes that may be due after their deaths. Also called second-to-die coverage.

This policy has more flexibility. Within certain limits, you can change the death benefit, the amount of premium and payment frequency. Unlike whole life, this is an "interest driven" policy, which normally pays a minimum guaranteed interest of 4% to 4.5%. If the interest rates are continuously low, additional premiums may have to be paid to avoid a lapse of coverage.

This policy has death benefits and cash values that vary with the performance of an underlying portfolio of investments that you select. The death benefit and cash value are not guaranteed. They can go down as well as up, although there may be a guaranteed minimum death benefit.

This policy combines the premium and death benefit flexibility of universal life with the investment flexibility and risk of variable life.

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On all of the above policies, riders are available at an additional cost for the following coverages:

A feature added to some life insurance policies providing for the waiver of premium, and sometimes payment of monthly income if the policyholder becomes totally and permanently disabled.

A provision in a life insurance policy for payment of an additional benefit if death is caused by an accident. This is sometimes called double indemnity.

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