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What is life insurance?

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Life insurance is designed to reassure you that your dependants, such as your children or a partner, will be financially looked after in the event of your death. There are several things to think about when buying it, such as the type of policy you want, when you need it and how to buy it.

How does life insurance work?

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Life insurance pays out either a lump sum or regular payments on your death, giving your dependants financial support after you’ve gone. The amount of money paid out depends on the level of cover you buy. You decide how it’s paid out and whether it will cover specific payments – such as mortgage or rent – or if it’s to leave your family with an inheritance.

What types of life insurance are there?

There are two main types:

Term life insurance policies

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These run for a fixed period of time, known as the ‘term’ of your policy, such as five, ten or 25 years. They only pay out if you die during the policy. There are three kinds of term life policies.

  1. Level – pays as a lump sum if you die within the agreed term. The level of cover stays the same throughout. This is the most simple and affordable option.
  2. Decreasing – the level of cover reduces each year. It’s designed to be used with repayment mortgages, where the outstanding loan decreases over time.
  3. Increasing – the level of cover rises over the term of the policy, to keep up with inflation.

Whole of life insurance policies

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These pay out no matter when you die, as long as you keep up with your premium payments. They’re often used to help towards a funeral or for Inheritance Tax planning. However, they’re typically more expensive than shorter-term policies. There’s also a possibility that if you live longer than you expected, you could end up paying more in than you’ll get out.

Whose life are you covering?

You can choose a joint policy or a single one. If you take out joint life insurance, the money will go to the surviving policyholder – such as your spouse. This is unless you made alternative arrangements. If you take out single life insurance, the money goes into your estate. So you need to decide who it goes to when you die. A joint life policy is usually more affordable than two separate single policies. However, joint life cover only pays out on the first death. Whereas buying two single policies would make sure there’s a pay out on each death.

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