Whole life insurance - sometimes also known as ‘life assurance’ helps protect the people you love after death.
There are many things in life that, sadly, we can’t control - death being the most notable. Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop you from planning for the best as well as the worst. If you didn’t know already, whole insurance is a great way to provide financial protection for your loved ones in the event of your death.
In theory, buying life insurance should be a simple process - although this isn’t always the case. However, we’ve put together this handy guide to help explain the ins and outs of whole life insurance. We’ll aim to help answer any queries you may have about how whole life policies work and how you can save money on cover.
What is whole life insurance?
Sometimes referred to as life assurance, whole life insurance is a type of life cover that protects your loved ones if you die - whenever that may be. Once this happens, your insurer pays out a cash lump sum to your loved ones, providing financial security during this difficult time.
One of the main benefits of whole life cover is that you are protected for the rest of your life, so long as you keep paying monthly premiums. Compared to other types of life insurance, whole life policies are generally more expensive as you're paying for long-term cover. Nonetheless, it's a great way to give your family peace of mind for the future ahead.
How it works:
When you take out a whole life plan, you start paying monthly or annual premiums to your insurance provider. These payments last until your death, at which the policy ends.
Most standard whole life policies provide fixed premiums (if you opt for ‘guaranteed’ premiums) and a fixed payout amount. Even as you get older or develop any health conditions - you’ll still pay the same for cover.
There are two main types of whole life insurance cover:
Balanced cover - The cost of your monthly/annual premiums is fixed throughout your policy. The eventual payout amount also stays the same regardless of your age or health. This means your family still receives the exact amount; no matter whether you die 5 years into the policy or 30.
- Maximum cover - Each month your insurer takes the money from your monthly premiums, placing it into an investment fund. The aim is to make a return big enough to cover the eventual pay-out amount. However, there is an element of risk with this type of cover. If the investment fails to perform, your insurer may raise your premiums to cover the loss - adding extra costs to your cover.
Why do I need whole life insurance?
Unfortunately, no matter how healthy you are, nothing can 100% protect you from death. Depending on your age, you may not see the need for buying life insurance. Regardless, if you have dependents, you should never rule out buying cover.
Besides giving your family peace of mind, whole life insurance can provide financial security for years to come. Naturally, if you are the main source of income for your household, it makes sense to buy life cover. The last thing anyone wants is for their family to struggle to make ends meet when they die.
If you and your spouse share financial responsibility, it may make more sense to get a joint life insurance cover. A joint policy provides cover for both spouses under a single plan. This type of cover typically pays out after the death of one of the policyholders (if it is a joint life, first death policy), after this the policy ends and if the surviving person wants cover they will need to apply for a new policy accordingly.
How much does a whole life policy cost?
As one of the more expensive types of cover, several factors can increase the cost of your policy. Before you can take out cover, you usually need to apply for a quote - this is used to calculate an estimated cost of your policy.
Age and health are two of the major factors for determining the cost of a policy. As you get older, the starting cost of life insurance premiums rises due to the increased risk of a claim occurring. Having any medical conditions can also increase the cost of your cover.
Whole life insurance doesn’t have to be expensive for everyone though! Here are a few ways you can reduce the cost of your cover:
1. Buy cover at an early stage - as whole life insurance offers fixed premiums, locking in a cheap premium rate can save you money in the long haul.
2. Opt for a joint life policy - if you and your partner share an income, it makes sense to share cover rather than buying individual policies. Joint life policies can be easier to manage than separate policies, and they may also work out cheaper.
3. Don’t smoke - along with age and health, smoking can cause a higher initial premium for life insurance. Some companies may reduce your premiums once you’ve stayed smoke-free for 12 months (usually subject to a cotinine test). So if you’re a smoker, giving up can help you save on cover!
Is whole life insurance tax-free?
Technically speaking, whole life insurance is considered tax-free, though you need to be aware that this isn’t always the case.
When you die, anything of value is classed as part of your estate - including any pay-outs from life insurance policies. Should the value of your estate exceed the threshold for inheritance tax (£325,000 as of 2022); anything above the threshold may be subject to inheritance tax.
To ensure the pay-out from a life insurance policy is protected from inheritance tax, some people consider writing the policy in trust. That way, the policy belongs to the trust and typically isn’t considered part of your estate.
Can I cash in my whole life insurance policy?
In some cases, it is possible to cash in a whole life insurance policy if you no longer require cover or can no longer afford your monthly premiums - this is subject to the type of whole of life policy you took out. Despite this, there is usually a hefty penalty fee attached when cancelling your cover; known as the ‘surrender value’.
This means that the value of the policy could end up being much less than previously - especially if you’ve only had the policy for a few years. In this case, cancelling your policy should be viewed as a last resort.
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Alternatives to whole life cover
If you’re looking for cheaper cover or perhaps you just want to protect your family in the short term, there are a range of alternatives to whole life insurance. The most notable is term life insurance.
Term life insurance
Unlike whole life policies, term life insurance has an expiry date (i.e. it only lasts for a set period of time). This is known as the policy term. Your insurer will only pay out a lump sum if you die within this time. If you survive, the policy expires and you will not receive any compensation for the premiums paid up until this point.
Term life insurance has 3 levels of cover:
Balanced term - regarded as the standard type of term life cover. Both your premium costs and pay-out value are fixed throughout the policy term.
Decreasing term - (also known as mortgage life insurance) is typically used to protect large payments - like a repayment mortgage. Your family may struggle to pay these costs in your absence, therefore this type of cover can ensure they are covered.
Increasing term - designed to protect the pay-out amount from inflation. The pay-out increases over time so that it retains its value when you die. However, your premiums may be increased as a result.
While term life insurance doesn’t cover you indefinitely, it is typically cheaper than whole life insurance. So if you’re looking to save money on cover and are only looking to be covered for a specific period of time; a term policy may be an ideal option for your consideration.
Critical illness insurance
Critical illness cover can provide you and your loved ones with financial support if you are diagnosed with a defined illness of specified severity. In the event of a valid claim, your insurer can pay-out a lump sum to you directly. This money can help in many ways, for instance to cover any income loss from being unable to work, make adjustments needed to your home or get support with day to day living.
Income protection insurance
Income protection (sometimes also known as permanent health insurance) is designed to provide you with a monthly, tax free benefit in the event of you becoming incapacitated and unable to work due to illness or injury.
This type of policy is there to support you financially in such an event, until your policy term/pay-out term ends, or when you return to work or die – whichever is earliest.
Why choose Cavendish Online?
When it comes to buying whole life insurance, you need an insurance provider with your best interests at heart. At Cavendish Online, we understand the importance of protecting your loved ones, that’s why we aim to provide the best advice when it comes to buying cover.
We’re not just like any other life insurance provider. We pride ourselves on helping our customers find the best policy to suit their needs at an affordable price. Our team is on hand to provide expert advice, ensuring you find the ideal policy for you and your family. Speak to an advisor today to begin your journey to buying life insurance cover!