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LIFE INSURANCE INFORMATION

If you have dependents or other people with whom you share your life, life insurance can play a vital and valuable role at virtually every stage of your life.

LIFE INSURANCE BASICS

Why should I buy life insurance?

Many financial experts consider life insurance to be the cornerstone of sound financial planning. It can be an important tool in the following situations:

Replace income for dependents

If people depend on your income, life insurance can replace that income for them if you die. The most commonly recognized case of this is parents with young children. However, it can also apply to couples in which the survivor would be financially stricken by the income lost through the death of a partner, and to dependent adults, such as parents, siblings or adult children who continue to rely on you financially. Insurance to replace your income can be especially useful if the government- or employer-sponsored benefits of your surviving spouse or domestic partner will be reduced after your death.
Pay final expenses

Life insurance can pay your funeral and burial costs, probate and other estate administration costs, debts and medical expenses not covered by health insurance.
Create an inheritance for your heirs

Even if you have no other assets to pass to your heirs, you can create an inheritance by buying a life insurance policy and naming them as beneficiaries.
Pay federal "death" taxes and state "death" taxes

Life insurance benefits can pay estate taxes so that your heirs will not have to liquidate other assets or take a smaller inheritance. Changes in the federal "death" tax rules between now and January 1, 2011 will likely lessen the impact of this tax on some people, but some states are offsetting those federal decreases with increases in their state-level "death" taxes.
Make significant charitable contributions

By making a charity the beneficiary of your life insurance, you can make a much larger contribution than if you donated the cash equivalent of the policy's premiums.
Create a source of savings

Some types of life insurance create a cash value that, if not paid out as a death benefit, can be borrowed or withdrawn on the owner's request. Since most people make paying their life insurance policy premiums a high priority, buying a cash-value type policy can create a kind of "forced" savings plan. Furthermore, the interest credited is tax deferred (and tax exempt if the money is paid as a death claim).
 
How much life insurance do I need?

In most cases, if you have no dependents and have enough money to pay your final expenses, you don’t need any life insurance.

However, if you want to create an inheritance or make a charitable contribution, you should buy enough life insurance to achieve those goals.

If you have dependents, you should buy enough life insurance so that, when combined with other sources of income, it will replace the income you now generate for them, plus enough to offset any additional expenses they will incur replacing services you currently provide (for example, if you do the taxes for your family, the survivors might have to hire a professional tax preparer). Also, your family might need extra money to make some changes after you die. For example, they may want to relocate, or your spouse may need to go back to school to be in a better position to help support the family.

Most families have some sources of post-death income besides life insurance. The most common source is Social Security survivors’ benefits. Many also have life insurance through an employer plan, and some from other affiliations, such as an association they belong to or a credit card. Although these sources might provide a significant income, it is rarely enough.
 
A multiple of salary?

Many pundits recommend buying life insurance equal to a multiple of your salary. For example, one advice columnist recommends buying insurance equal to 20 times your salary before taxes. She chose 20 because, if the benefit is invested in bonds that pay 5 percent interest, it would produce an amount equal to your salary at death, so the survivors could live off the interest and wouldn’t have to “invade” the principal.

However, this simplistic formula implicitly assumes no inflation and that one could assemble a bond portfolio that, after expenses, would provide a 5 percent interest stream every year. But assuming inflation is 3 percent per year, the purchasing power of a gross income of $50,000 would drop to about $38,300 in the 10th year. To avoid this income drop-off, the survivors would have to tap into the principal each year. And if they did, they’d run out of money in the 16th year.

The “multiple of salary” approach also ignores other sources of income, such as Social Security survivors’ benefits. These benefits can be substantial. For example, for a person who had been earning a $36,000 salary at death ($3000 a month), maximum Social Security survivors’ monthly income benefits for a spouse and two children under age 18 could be about $2,300 per month, and this amount would increase each year to match inflation. (It drops when there is only a spouse and one child under 18, and stops completely when there are no children under 18 remaining in the household. Also, the surviving spouse’s benefit would be reduced if the spouse earns income over a certain limit.)

In this example, the survivors would need life insurance to replace only $700 per month (adjusted for inflation) of lost income; Social Security would provide the rest. These survivors would need life insurance to replace about $1,150 per month (adjusted for inflation) once the nonworking surviving spouse has only one child under 18 in her care, and the surviving nonworking spouse would have to replace the entire $3,000 (adjusted for inflation) when the youngest child turns 18.
 
What are the principal types of life insurance?

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.
 
Term

Term Insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. It pays only if death occurs during the term of the policy, which is usually from one to 30 years. Most term policies have no other benefit provisions.

There are two basic types of term life insurance policies—level term and decreasing term.

Level term means that the death benefit stays the same throughout the duration of the policy.
Decreasing term means that the death benefit drops, usually in one-year increments, over the course of the policy’s term.

In 2003, virtually all (97 percent) of the term life insurance bought was level term.
 
What are the types of term insurance policies?

Term insurance comes in two basic varieties—level term and decreasing term. These days, almost everyone buys level term insurance. The terms “level” and “decreasing” refer to the death benefit amount during the term of the policy. A level term policy pays the same benefit amount if death occurs at any point during the term.

Common types of level term are:

yearly- (or annually-) renewable term
5-year renewable term
10-year term
15-year term
20-year term
25-year term
30-year term
term to a specified age (usually 65)

Yearly renewable term, once popular, is no longer a top seller. The most popular type is now 20-year term. Most companies will not sell term insurance to an applicant for a term that ends past his or her 80th birthday.

If a policy is “renewable,” that means it continues in force for an additional term or terms, up to a specified age, even if the health of the insured (or other factors) would cause him or her to be rejected if he or she applied for a new life insurance policy.

Generally, the premium for the policy is based on the insured person’s age and health at the policy’s start, and the premium remains the same (level) for the length of the term. So, premiums for 5-year renewable term can be level for 5 years, then to a new rate reflecting the new age of the insured, and so on every five years. Some longer term policies will guarantee that the premium will not increase during the term; others don’t make that guarantee, enabling the insurance company to raise the rate during the policy’s term.

Some term policies are convertible. This means that the policy’s owner has the right to change it into a permanent type of life insurance without additional evidence of insurability.

“Return of Premium”

In most types of term insurance, including homeowners and auto insurance, if you haven’t had a claim under the policy by the time it expires, you get no refund of the premium. Your premium bought the protection that you had but didn’t need, and you’ve received fair value. Some term life insurance consumers have been unhappy at this outcome, so some insurers have created term life with a “return of premium” feature. The premiums for the insurance with this feature are often significantly higher than for policies without it, and they generally require that you keep the policy in force to its term or else you forfeit the return of premium benefit. Some policies will return the base premium but not the extra premium (for the return benefit), and others will return both.
 
Whole Life/Permanent

Whole life or permanent insurance pays a death benefit whenever you die—even if you live to 100! There are three major types of whole life or permanent life insurance—traditional whole life, universal life, and variable universal life, and there are variations within each type.

In the case of traditional whole life, both the death benefit and the premium are designed to stay the same (level) throughout the life of the policy. The cost per $1,000 of benefit increases as the insured person ages, and it obviously gets very high when the insured lives to 80 and beyond. The insurance company could charge a premium that increases each year, but that would make it very hard for most people to afford life insurance at advanced ages. So they keep the premium level by charging a premium that, in the early years, is higher than what’s needed to pay claims, investing that money, and then using it to supplement the level premium to help pay the cost of life insurance for older people.

By law, when these “overpayments” reach a certain amount, they must be available to the policyowner as a cash value if he or she decides not to continue with the original plan. The cash value is an alternative, not an additional, benefit under the policy.

In the 1970s and 1980s, life insurance companies introduced two variations on the traditional whole life product—universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance.
 
What are the different types of permanent policies?

Whole or ordinary life

This is the most common type of permanent insurance policy. It offers a death benefit along with a savings account. If you pick this type of life insurance policy, you are agreeing to pay a certain amount in premiums on a regular basis for a specific death benefit. The savings element would grow based on dividends the company pays to you.
Universal or adjustable life

This type of policy offers you more flexibility than whole life insurance. You may be able to increase the death benefit, if you pass a medical examination. The savings vehicle (called a cash value account) generally earns a money market rate of interest. After money has accumulated in your account, you will also have the option of altering your premium payments - providing there is enough money in your account to cover the costs. This can be a useful feature if your economic situation has suddenly changed. However, you would need to keep in mind that if you stop or reduce your premiums and the saving accumulation gets used up, the policy might lapse and your life insurance coverage will end. You should check with your agent before deciding not to make premium payments for extended periods because you might not have enough cash value to pay the monthly charges to prevent a policy lapse.
Variable life

This policy combines death protection with a savings account that you can invest in stocks, bonds and money market mutual funds. The value of your policy may grow more quickly, but you also have more risk. If your investments do not perform well, your cash value and death benefit may decrease. Some policies, however, guarantee that your death benefit will not fall below a minimum level.
Variable-universal life

If you purchase this type of policy, you get the features of variable and universal life policies. You have the investment risks and rewards characteristic of variable life insurance, coupled with the ability to adjust your premiums and death benefit that is characteristic of universal life insurance.
 
Why should I purchase permanent insurance?

A permanent life policy provides lifelong insurance protection. The policy pays a death benefit if you die tomorrow or if you live to be a hundred. There is also a savings element that will grow on a tax-deferred basis and may become substantial over time. Because of the savings element, premiums are generally higher for permanent than for term insurance. However, the premium in a permanent policy remains the same, while term can go up substantially every time you renew it.

There are a number of different types of permanent insurance policies, such as whole (ordinary) life, universal life, variable life, and variable/universal life. In a permanent policy, the cash value is different from its face value amount. The face amount is the money that will be paid at death. Cash value is the amount of money available to you. There are a number of ways that you can use this cash savings. For instance, you can take a loan against it or you can surrender the policy before you die to collect the accumulated savings.

There are unique features to a permanent policy such as:

You can lock in premiums when you purchase the policy. By purchasing a permanent policy, the premium will not increase as you age or if your health status changes.
The policy will accumulate cash savings.
Depending on the policy, you may be able to withdraw some of the money. You also may have these options:

 
Use the cash value to pay premiums. If unexpected expenses occur, you can stop or reduce your premiums. The cash value in the policy can be used toward the premium payment to continue your current insurance protection – providing there is enough money accumulated.
Borrow from the insurance company using the cash value in your life insurance as collateral. Like all loans, you will ultimately need to repay the insurer with interest. Otherwise, the policy may lapse or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit. However, unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions.
 
How is life insurance sold?

You can buy life insurance either as an “individual” or as part of a “group” plan.

Individual Policy

When you buy an individual policy, you choose the company, the plan, and the benefits and features that are right for you and your family. You might be able to buy the policy from the same agent or company representative who sells you property and liability insurance for your home, auto or business. And although you won’t qualify for any discounts by buying your life insurance and other insurance from the same representative, working with a single advisor for all your insurance needs can make your financial life simpler.

Individual policies are typically sold through insurance agents or brokers. If you buy a policy through an agent or broker, you will pay a commission, also called a “load,” that is built into the premium rate. The commission compensates the agent or broker for the time spent advising you on how much and what type of life insurance to buy, for facilitating the application process, and for any further service that’s needed in future years to keep the policy up-to-date (such as changing beneficiary designations, arranging policy loans or coordinating your financial plans with your lawyer and accountant).

There are two other ways to buy individual life insurance. In Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, you can buy it from a savings bank. Or you can buy a policy directly from an insurance company or from a fee-only financial advisor—what’s known as a “no load” or “low load” policy. Although there is no sales commission on these policies, the company will still have charges built into the premium to cover its marketing expenses, application processing expenses and subsequent services. Finding an insurance company that will sell you a no-load policy isn’t easy; typing in “no load life insurance” on Internet search engines will in many cases lead you to an agent or broker.

Group Policy

You might have life insurance automatically from your employer; many large companies do this. Your employer also might offer you the chance to buy additional life insurance under a group policy. And you might be eligible to buy life insurance under a group policy from a union or trade association or other group you belong to (such as a college alumni association or an automobile club).

Compared to buying an individual life insurance policy, there are several advantages to buying life insurance under a group policy:

Group purchase can sometimes offer you a lower rate for a given death benefit either because the employer or other group sponsor subsidizes the premium or because the rates are averages weighted by people younger than you.
There are virtually no health qualifications for getting the group coverage.
Premium payment is usually by payroll deduction (for employer-based group coverage) or linked with other payments (e.g., credit card bills), lowering the chance of missing a payment.

Most employer group plans are term insurance, but if you leave that employer your state may require that you be allowed to convert the policy to a form of whole life insurance with the same insurance company that provides the group life insurance. You would then pay premiums directly to the company and keep the insurance in force. This can be an advantage if you are older, or have experienced deteriorating health, as it gives you the opportunity to qualify for whole life insurance without having a medical exam.
 
BUYING AND SAVING MONEY

How should I choose what type of life insurance to buy?

You should consider term life insurance if:

You need life insurance for a specific period of time. Term life insurance enables you to match the length of the term policy to the length of the need. For example, if you have young children and want to ensure that there will be funds to pay for their college education, you might buy 20-year term life insurance. Or if you want the insurance to repay a debt that will be paid off in a specified time period, buy a term policy for that period.
You need a large amount of life insurance, but have a limited budget. In general, this type of insurance pays only if you die during the term of the policy, so the rate per thousand of death benefit is lower than for permanent forms of life insurance. If you are still alive at the end of the term, coverage stops unless the policy is renewed. Unlike permanent insurance, you will not build equity in the form of cash savings.
If you think your financial needs may change, you may also want to look into “convertible” term policies. These allow you to convert to permanent insurance without a medical examination in exchange for higher premiums.

Keep in mind that premiums are lowest when you are young and increase upon renewal as you age. Some term insurance policies can be renewed when the policy ends, but the premium will generally increase. Some policies require a medical examination at renewal to qualify for the lowest rates.

You should consider permanent life insurance if:

You need life insurance for as long as you live. A permanent policy pays a death benefit whether you die tomorrow or live to be 100.
You want to accumulate a savings element that will grow on a tax-deferred basis and could be a source of borrowed funds for a variety of purposes. The savings element can be used to pay premiums to keep the life insurance in force if you can’t pay them otherwise, or it can be used for any other purpose you choose. You can borrow these funds even if your credit is shaky. The death benefit is collateral for the loan, and if you die before it’s repaid, the insurance company collects what is due the company before determining what’s goes to your beneficiary.

Keep in mind that premiums for permanent policies are generally higher than for term insurance. However, the premium in a permanent policy remains the same no matter how old you are, while term can go up substantially every time you renew it.

There are a number of different types of permanent insurance policies, such as whole (ordinary) life, universal life, variable life, and variable/universal life.
 
How do I pick a life insurance company?

Roughly 1,000 life insurance companies sell life insurance in the U.S., but many are members of groups of companies and so aren’t really competitors with each other. Having separate companies enables a group to offer its products through separate distribution channels, to more efficiently meet the regulatory requirements of particular states, or to achieve other organizational goals. There are an estimated three hundred company groups.

Moreover, not every group has a company licensed to operate in each state. As a general rule, you should buy from a company licensed in your state, because then can you rely on your state insurance department to help if there’s a problem. And if the insurance company becomes insolvent, your state’s life insurance guaranty fund will help only policyholders of companies it has licensed. To find out which companies are licensed in any state, contact that state’s state insurance department.

There are several other points to keep in mind when selecting a life insurance company:

Product – most, but not all, companies offer a broad range of policies and features, so choose a company that offers the product and features that meet your needs.
Identity –life insurance company names can be confusing, and different companies can have similar names. Life insurance company names often use words that suggest financial strength (such as Guaranty, Reserve, or Security), financial sophistication (such as Bankers, Financial, or Investors), maturity (such as First, Pioneer, or Old), dependability (such as Assurance, Reliable, Trust), fairness (such as Beneficial, Equitable, or Peoples), breadth of operations (such as Continental, National, or International), government (such as American, Capital, or Republic), or well-known and respected Americans (such as Jefferson, Franklin, or Lincoln). Be sure you know the full name, home office location, and affiliation (if any) of any company you are considering (for an example, click here).
Financial Solidity – life insurance is a long-term arrangement. There is no guarantee for life insurance policyholders similar to that provided for bank accounts by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Select a company that is likely to be financially sound for many years, by using ratings from independent rating agencies.
Market ethics – some life insurance companies subscribe to the principles and codes of conduct of the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes ethical conduct in life insurance marketing.
Advice and service – for many people, life insurance is a strange, complex product, so that it helps to deal with a representative with whom you can communicate and who is attentive to your needs. This might be connected to the selection of a life insurance company because some agents represent only one or a very few life insurance companies. See How do I select a life insurance agent?
Claims – you may want to check a national claims database to see what complaint information it has on a company. Also, your state insurance department will be able to tell you if the insurance company you are considering doing business with had many consumer complaints about its service relative to the number of policies it sold.
Premium and cost – The premium is the amount you pay the company for the life insurance contract with all of its benefits. Even for a given death benefit and type of insurance (e.g., term life), the premium can vary widely among companies, either because some companies’ policies have features that others don’t, or because some charge more than others for the same coverage. So the first step in comparing policies is to make sure you compare similar insurance plans, based on
Your age
The type of policy and policy features
The amount of insurance you are purchasing

The premium for the policy isn’t the same as the cost of the protection portion of the policy. One policy might have a higher premium but also offer more benefits (for example, it might pay policy dividends) than another. Or both might promise dividends, but in different amounts at different points in time. In each case, the higher-premium policy might have a lower cost of protection. How can you tell what a policy’s cost is? Companies should tell you a policy’s Net Payment Cost Index and its Surrender Cost Index. Use the Surrender Cost Index if you’re thinking of keeping the insurance only for a specific period of time; use the Net Payment Cost Index if you expect to keep the policy indefinitely. Generally, the lower the cost index, the better.
 
How can I assess the financial strength of an insurance company?

Five independent agencies—A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Weiss—rate the financial strength of insurance companies. Each has its own rating scale, its own rating standards, its own population of rated companies, and its own distribution of companies across its scale. Each agency uses numbers or plusses and minuses to indicate minor variations in rating from another rating class.

The agencies disagree often enough so that you should consider a company’s rating from two or more agencies before judging whether to buy or keep a policy from that company. Moreover, agencies will announce changes of ratings on any day. It’s probably prudent to check annually on the ratings of any company you’re interested in.

Some points for using the ratings:

Don’t rely only on what the insurance companies say about their ratings from these agencies. Companies are likely to highlight a higher rating from one agency and ignore a lower one from another agency, or to select the most favorable comments from a rating agency’s report.
To use the ratings from more than one independent agency, you need to understand that each agency’s rating code is different from the others. For example, an A+ from A.M. Best is the next-to-top rating of its 15 categories, but an A+ from Fitch or S&P is their 5th-highest rating (out of 24 categories for Fitch, and out of 19 categories for S&P). Moreover, Moody’s doesn’t have an A+ rating.

However, the ratings can be classified into “secure” and “vulnerable” mega-categories. Here, as of August 2004, are the rating scales for each of the “secure” rating classes, and all the “vulnerable” classes combined (source, except for Weiss: The Insurance Forum, September 2004 issue).
 
Rating Agency Category Description # of companies in category % of rated companies
in category
A.M. Best A++ Superior 97 6.4
  A+ Superior 223 14.8
  A Excellent 292 19.3
  A- Excellent 325 21.5
  B++ Very good 179 11.9
  B+ Very good 141 9.3
  B and lower Vulnerable 253 16.8
         
Fitch AAA Exceptionally strong 32 8.2
  AA+ Very strong 54 13.9
  AA Very strong 60 15.4
  AA- Very strong 78 20.1
  A+ Strong 37 9.5
  A Strong 43 11.1
  A- Strong 36 9.3
  BBB+ Good 18 4.6
  BBB Good 13 3.3
  BBB- Good 6 1.5
  BB+ and lower Vulnerable 12 3.2
         
Moody's Aaa Exceptional 22 7.0
  Aa1 Excellent 20 6.4
  Aa2 Excellent 42 13.4
  Aa3 Excellent 90 28.7
  A1 Good 20 6.4
  A2 Good 36 11.5
  A3 Good 48 15.3
  Baa1 Adequate 14 4.5
  Baa2 Adequate 4 1.3
  Baa3 Adequate 3 1.0
  Ba1 and lower Vulnerable 15 4.8
         
S & P AAA Extremely strong 55 8.7
  AA+ Very strong 9 1.4
  AA Very strong 111 17.5
  AA- Very strong 48 7.6
  A+ Strong 82 12.9
  A Strong 138 21.7
  A- Strong 33 5.2
  BBB+ Good 68 10.7
  BBB Good 39 6.2
  BBB- Good 8 1.3
  BB+ and lower Vulnerable 44 7.0
         
Weiss A+ Excellent 29* 3
  A Excellent 29* 3
  A- Excellent 29* 3
  B+ Good 282* 29
  B Good 282* 29
  B- Good 282* 29
  C+ Fair 380* 39
  C Fair 380* 39
  C- Fair 380* 39
  D+ and lower Vulnerable 272* 28
*As of March 25, 2003
 
Ratings Agency Contact Information
   
Agency Web site Address Phone number
A.M. Best Company, Inc www.ambest.com Ambest Rd.
Oldwick, NJ 08858
908-439-2200
Fitch Ratings www.fitchibca.com 1 State Street Plaza
New York, NY 10004
1-800-75-FITCH
Moody’s Investor Services* www.moodys.com 99 Church Street New York, NY 10007 212-553-0300
Standard & Poor’s Insurance Ratings Services* www2.standardandpoors.com 55 Water Street
New York, NY 10004
212-438-2000
Weiss Research** www.weissratings.com 15430 Endeavor Drive
Jupiter, FL 33478
800-289-9222
*To use these Web sites, you have to register, but it’s free.
**Weiss charges $14.99 for each rating. However, its public Web site lists the ten highest and ten lowest ranked companies, and the companies themselves might reveal their Weiss rating.
 
How should I organize and store my life insurance records?

The last thing you want to happen after you die is for your beneficiaries to be unable to locate and submit a claim on your life insurance. To prevent this, you should have copies of your life insurance records in at least two places. This is to make it less likely that you’ll lose them (to fire, flood, accidental discarding, etc.) and more likely that, after your death, your beneficiaries will find them.
 
What information should I keep?

For each individual life insurance policy on your life, you should record the following information:

The full name of the life insurance company that issued the policy
The city and state of the home office of the company that issued the policy
The name and U.S. headquarters of the group, if the issuing company belongs to a group of companies
The policy number
The date the policy was issued
The amount of the death benefit
The name and address of the agent/broker who sold you the policy
The type of policy (e.g., term, whole life, etc.)
The location of the original life insurance policy

You might have life insurance automatically from your employer. Your employer also might offer you the chance to buy additional life insurance under a group policy. And you might be eligible to buy life insurance under a group policy from your union or trade association or other group you belong to (such as a college alumni association or an automobile club). For each of these life insurance benefits, you should record the following information:

The name of the employer or group that sponsors the insurance
The office or person to contact when it’s time to file a claim
The certificate number (comparable to the policy number under an individual policy)
The date the insurance was started
The amount of the death benefit

Sometimes financial programs that are mainly designed for income or other purposes have death benefits as additional features. This might include pensions, annuities, workers compensation programs, disability insurance, travel accident insurance, etc. For each such program, you should record the following information:

The type of policy that has a death benefit as part of its features
The full name of the life insurance company that issued the policy
The city and state of the home office of the company that issued the policy
The policy number
The date the policy was issued
The amount of the death benefit
The name and address of the agent/broker who sold you the policy
The location of the original insurance policy

Credit cards and lending institutions may offer life insurance to pay off your outstanding loans in the event of your death. For each life insurance benefit on your life dedicated to paying off a loan, you should record

The full name of the lending institution through which you obtained the life insurance
The loan number and issue date of the loan
The name of the person or office to contact when it’s time to file a claim
The policy number of the life insurance policy that pays off the loan
 
Where should I keep the information?

Keep one set of these records in your home, in a place where others who need this information are likely to find it (and after you put the information there, tell the people who’ll need it where it is). This might be with your other financial records (such as income tax, checking account, investment records), with your other legal papers (such as a copy of your will, living will, health care proxy, etc.), or anywhere your survivors are likely to look for them.

Keep another set of these records “off site”—that is, outside of your home, perhaps in a safe deposit box, or with a professional or a relative who can be counted on to produce them when they’re needed.

On each page, record the date on which the information was last updated. That way, if the copy in your home differs from the one in the safe deposit box, it’s easy to tell which is the more current.
 
How often should I review my policy?

You should review all of your insurance needs at least once a year. If you have a major life change, you should contact your insurance agent or company representative. The change in your life may have a significant impact on your insurance needs. Life changes may include:

Marriage or divorce
A child or grandchild who is born or adopted
Significant changes in your health or that of your spouse/domestic partner
Taking on the financial responsibility of an aging parent
Purchasing a new home
A loved one who requires long-term care
Refinancing your home
Coming into an inheritance

 
 
Insurance Information Institute From http://www.iii.org
 
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