Life Insurance Questions & Answers

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Tim is a licensed life insurance agent with 23 years of experience helping people protect their families and businesses with term life insurance. He writes and creates stuff for QuickQuote and other insurance and financial websites. You can find him on Twitter.

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UPDATED: Sep 7, 2020

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Term Life Insurance

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between an insurance company and the insurance policy owner. The insurance company pays a cash amount (called the coverage amount or death benefit) to the beneficiary(s) named in the policy upon the death of the insured person named in the policy.

A few reasons people buy life insurance are to provide financial security for their family, fund business continuation and pay estate taxes.

The two main types of life insurance policies are term life insurance and permanent life insurance.

What is term life insurance?

Term life insurance is the most basic and least expensive form of life insurance you can buy. There are no investment accounts, cash values or policy loan features on term life. Just pure and simple life insurance protection.

What is a term life insurance quote?

A term life insurance quote is an estimate of what your policy may cost. It’s based on basic information such as gender, age, current health, height/weight, tobacco/nicotine use, amount of coverage, and length of coverage. A quote is not a final offer and your final rate will be determined by the life insurance company through a process called underwriting.

There’s more to a life insurance quote than meets the eye, and this may just be the best explanation of a term life insurance quote you will ever see (okay, we’re a little biased on this one).

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. It provides coverage for the life of the insured person. These policies are more complex and expensive than term life insurance. They often accumulate tax deferred cash values from which future premiums can be paid or policy loans can be made. These policies typically stay in force as long as the premiums continue to be paid.

Some of the main types of permanent life insurance policies are whole life insurance, universal life insurance and variable life insurance.

What is whole life insurance?

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. It provides coverage for the life of the insured person. These policies are more complex and expensive than term life insurance. They often accumulate tax deferred cash values from which future premiums can be paid or policy loans can be made. These policies typically stay in force as long as the premiums continue to be paid.

Some of the main types of permanent life insurance policies are whole life insurance, universal life insurance and variable life insurance.

What is Return of Premium (ROP) term life insurance?

Return of Premium (ROP) term life insurance is designed to return up to 100% of the premiums you paid on your policy. If the policy reaches the end of the policy term and there has been no death benefit paid, the insurance company will return all premiums paid on the policy.

If the policy is cancelled (lapsed or surrendered) at a point prior to the end of the term, a designated percentage of the premiums paid may be returned to the policy owner.

What is no medical exam term life insurance?

No medical exam term life insurance uses a streamlined application and underwriting process. The application is completed by telephone in as little as 15 minutes. No medical exam is required and you can be approved in a little as 24 hours.

Coverage is available from $50,000 to $500,000 for ages 18-65.

How do I determine the amount of life insurance I need?

Your coverage need depends on your individual circumstances. Factors you should consider include anticipated final expenses (e.g. medical bills and burial costs), living expenses for your surviving family members, any outstanding loans (e.g. auto and credit cards), the outstanding balance on your mortgage, anticipated education costs for your children, estate taxes, and business continuation expenses.

A simple way to achieve a “starting point” is to take a multiple of your annual income and adjust for the factors listed above. We recommend ten times your annual income to start. Keep in mind that your needs will most likely change over time and what seems like enough today may not be adequate in ten years. It is usually best to purchase an amount you can afford while at the same time considering future needs.

Most insurance companies allow a certain multiple of your annual income based on your age and are usually flexible if you can demonstrate other needs. The amount you choose is up to you for the most part; however, you will need to justify amounts over and above a company’s income multiple guidelines.

Take a look at our Life Insurance Needs Calculator for help determining how much coverage you need.

How do I choose the length of coverage?

Your coverage length depends on your individual circumstances. Factors you should consider include your age, your spouse’s age, your children’s ages, the length of your financial obligations (e.g. mortgage and student loans) and the number of years until your planned retirement.

Choose a term period that covers all of the above factors. For example, if you have a five-year old child whom you wish to support through college and graduate school, you may need a policy term period of 20 years or more.

What are the payment modes and which one is the least expensive?

The payment mode is the frequency of premium payments for a life insurance policy. You can pay for your policy annually, semi-annually, quarterly or monthly.

The less frequently you pay, the less expensive it will be over the course of the year. For example, annually is the least expensive mode and monthly is the most expensive.

Will the cost of my policy be the same as my quote?

Most of the time yes, but not always. Your final rate is determined by the insurance company through a process called underwriting. Underwriting includes a review of your application, paramed exam results, current health status, medical history, family history and driving record, among other things.

If underwriting reveals something unexpected, your final rate could be different from your quote. We will work with you when you apply to provide the most accurate quote possible.

What are the different rating classes and what do they mean?

The rating class is the risk category which you qualify for through underwriting. The underwriter will take your information and compare it with the company’s guidelines. This comparison allows the underwriter to place you in a group of people with similar risk characteristics.

Common rating classes are Preferred Plus (also called Super Preferred), Preferred, Standard Plus, Standard and Substandard. The rating class determines how much you will pay for your policy, with the least expensive being the Preferred classes and the most expensive being the Substandard classes.

Will the cost of my policy increase each year?

No! Your rate is guaranteed to stay the same during the entire term period (10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 years). These are called fully-guaranteed or level term policies, and the best thing about them is the cost does not increase.

Can I change my coverage amount or term length at any time?

If you wish to increase the coverage amount or term length, you will need to prove your insurability again. This means you’ll need to complete a new application and paramed exam.

If you wish to decrease the coverage amount or term length, this will depend on the company, as guidelines vary. Some companies allow you to change these terms at specific intervals, such as every two years. Some have limits on the number of times you can make changes and still others require you to start a new policy.

What happens at the end of the policy term?

Most policies can be renewed annually at the end of the policy term, up to age 105. The policy does not expire at the end of the term, but the rate-guarantee does. As a result, it will be very expensive to keep the policy beyond the initial term period.

Most people simply let the policy lapse at the end of the term and take out a new one, as long as they are still in good health and can get a new policy. If your health has changed and you are no longer insurable, you can keep the policy in force by paying the new rate. The rate will continue to increase each year until the policy expires.

Can I convert my policy to a whole life or universal life policy?

Most term life insurance policies are convertible to permanent life insurance policies. Companies usually have age limits for converting your policy. They may also have limits on the type of policy you can convert to.

If you are eligible, you can convert your term life policy without proving your insurability again. This can be useful if your health has changed and you need coverage beyond the end of your term period.

What do life insurance company ratings mean?

Independent financial and credit rating agencies, such as AM Best and Standard & Poor’s , provide in-depth analysis of a life insurance company’s financial strength. They issue opinions on the life insurance company’s ability to meet financial obligations such as paying death claims.

We display the company ratings for each company along with our quotes. We recommend you consider these ratings as one of the many important factors when choosing a life insurance company.

Applying for Term Life Insurance

Who is QuickQuote?

We are one of the nation’s leading insurance marketplaces for comparing and purchasing term life insurance online. Since 1995, we’ve partnered with the nation’s leading life insurance companies to offer our customers free quotes, unbiased advice and a hassle-free term life insurance buying experience.

Can't I just apply directly through the life insurance company?

Most life insurance companies require you to apply through a life insurance agent or broker. The benefit to you is educated and experienced advice at no additional cost by buying life insurance online.

No need to worry, though. We promise to take good care of you. 🙂

Is it less expensive if I buy it through QuickQuote?

No. Your cost will be the same whether you apply with us, another online company or your local agent. The life insurance company determines the cost and companies like ours have no say in your rate. That said, you may find that companies like ours have more life insurance companies to choose from. This variety may help you save money.

It’s important to know the things to consider when comparing life insurance companies, you may see different rates for the same insurance company. This is likely because the different websites are showing quotes for different rating classes. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at these quotes.

How does the application process work?

The application process is simple. We’ll do most of the heavy lifting for you.

  1. Select a company – Pick your favorite and click “Apply.”
  2. Schedule your application call – We’ll give you the calendar, you pick the day and time to complete your application with us by phone.
  3. Complete your paramed exam – We’ll schedule this during your call. All you have to do is meet with the examiner.
  4. Sit back and relax – We’ll work with the company to get your application approved. We may ask you for information from time to time, as needed.
  5. Return your policy documents and the first payment – We’ll mail your new policy to you. You’ll send us back any signatures needed and the first payment.

That’s it! It really is that simple.

How do I start my application?

You can start by getting your free term life quotes. Then, select the life insurance company you want to apply with. We’ll help you schedule a call to complete your application by phone.

Can I apply with multiple life insurance companies at once?

We don’t encourage submitting multiple applications at once, unless you want to buy multiple policies. One application with one company is the best way to start. Once we have the approval from that company, we can compare your rate with other companies if you were not approved as applied.

How long does the application process take?

The process normally takes 4-6 weeks. Several things can either slow it down or speed it up, including:

  1. How quickly you complete the paramed exam
  2. How responsive you are to requests for additional information
  3. Whether the life insurance company orders medical records from your doctor

You can see there are some things you can do to speed things up a bit. Others may not be within your control. Eiter way, we’ll be there doing all we can to get your new policy to you as quickly as possible.

Do I have to pay for the policy when I apply?

No. You can wait until you’ve received your new policy to send in your first payment. Your policy packet will include instructions for making the payment.

If you need coverage during the application process, you may be able to get temporary coverage by submitting the first payment with your application. Each company has its own conditions for temporary coverage so ask your agent what’s required when you apply.

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for life insurance?

No. Most life insurance companies require applicants to be U.S. residents, but citizenship is not required. Most companies require non-citizens to hold a permanent visa/green card. Very few companies offer coverage to people with a temporary work visa.

What type of information is required to apply?

The life insurance company requires a wide range of information when you apply for a policy. The most common things they look at are:

  • Current health
  • Medical history
  • Tobacco/nicotine use
  • Family history
  • Driving history
  • Lifestyle choices (e.g. hazardous activities, aviation, foreign travel)
  • Financial information (to justify the amount of coverage requested)

These are the main types of information required, but the company can look at others if they determine it’s necessary.

What is a life insurance policy replacement?

A policy replacement occurs when you purchase a new life insurance policy and plan to replace an existing policy. This does not apply to group coverage, such as a policy you have through work.

Consumer protection laws exist to prevent the occurrence of unnecessary policy replacements in the insurance industry. Each state has enacted laws to protect its residents and therefore, regulations and required forms vary by state.

If your application is determined to be a replacement, you will have additional forms to complete. The life insurance company is required by law to notify your existing company that you intend to replace their policy. It’s up to you, however, to cancel your old policy once your new one is in force, as the life insurance company is not authorized to do it for you.

What is a paramed exam and do I need one?

All life insurance companies require you to complete a basic paramed exam as part of the application process for regular term life insurance. Some companies offer no medical exam term life policies, which are different from regular term. The paramed exam is paid for by the life insurance company and takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. An examiner will come to your home or office to complete the exam.

A basic paramed exam includes the following:

  • Height/weight measurements
  • Blood pressure readings
  • Heart rate readings
  • Urine sample
  • Blood sample
  • Medical history questionnaire

Please remember these suggestions as you prepare for your paramed exam:

  • Fast for 8 hours before the exam.
  • Avoid caffeine the day of the exam.
  • Avoid exercise and alcohol for 24 hours before the exam.
  • Schedule the exam for the least stressful part of your day.

Depending on your age and the amount of coverage you apply for, the company may require additional testing or information.

Am I guaranteed to get the rate shown on my quote?

No. There is no guarantee it will be the same. Your final rate is determined by the insurance company through a process called underwriting. Underwriting includes a review of your application, paramed exam results, current health status, medical history, family history and driving record, among other things.

If underwriting reveals something unexpected, your final rate could be different from your quote. We will work with you when you apply to provide the most accurate quote possible.

What happens if I don't qualify for coverage?

If you are declined for coverage, we will work with you to find another life insurance company. If no other companies will issue a policy, there are alternatives such as Accidental Death life insurance, which you cannot be declined for (ages 20 – 59).

How can I speed up the process and get my policy sooner?

There are several ways you can help speed things along:

  • Schedule and complete your application call as quickly as possible.
  • Schedule and complete your paramed exam as quickly as possible.
  • Return your signed forms to us promptly or give them to the examiner during your exam.
  • Respond quickly to any requests for additional information made by your Case Manager.
  • Return the signed forms and first payment to us as soon as you receive your new policy in the mail.
Will I get spam if I give you my contact information?

Nope. We do not spam our customers. Ever. We also do not sell, trade or give away your contact information to any third parties. Take a look at our Privacy Policy for details.

We will only contact you to process your request for a life insurance policy. You may be contacted by our partners in the application process, which include the application processing company, the paramed exam company and the life insurance company you apply with.

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