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10 Important Questions to Ask Before Buying a Life Insurance Policy


OCTOBER 20, 2023 / 3:32 PM EDT / CBS NEWS

Life insurance is a financial product that can offer invaluable protection and peace of mind for you and your loved ones. However, this type of coverage comes at an extra cost, so it’s crucial to do your homework and make an informed decision before purchasing a policy. Otherwise, you could pay out of pocket for a policy that doesn’t offer the coverage that you need or want.

And, to make sure the policy you’re purchasing is the right one, it can be helpful to ask questions — and in some cases, a lot of them. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into with any potential life insurance policy — and can be sure that you’re picking the right option before signing on the dotted line.  

10 important questions to ask before buying a life insurance policy

Be sure to ask these crucial questions as part of your search for the right life insurance policy:

What is my primary reason for buying life insurance?

Before delving into the details of life insurance policies, it’s essential to establish your objectives. Are you purchasing life insurance to provide financial security for your family, cover funeral expenses, pay off debts or as an investment tool? Understanding your goals will guide you in selecting the right type and amount of coverage.

What type of life insurance is best for me?

Life insurance comes in various forms, with the two most common being term life and whole life (or permanent) insurance. Term life offers coverage for a specified period, while whole life provides lifelong coverage — typically with a savings or cash value component. The coverage length, amount and other factors can vary between the two, so make sure you know which works best. And, your choice should align with your financial goals and budget, too.

How much coverage do I need?

Determining the appropriate coverage amount is vital. It should be enough to replace your income, pay off debts and cover future expenses, such as your children’s education or your spouse’s retirement. A common rule of thumb is to aim for coverage that’s 10 to 15 times your annual income, but in some cases, you could need a lot more (or less).

How much can I afford?

Your budget plays a significant role in selecting a life insurance policy. Consider what you can comfortably afford while maintaining your other financial goals, such as saving for retirement or emergencies. Balancing cost with coverage is essential.

What is the insurance company’s financial stability?

It’s important to choose an insurance company with a strong financial track record. Research ratings from agencies like A.M. Best, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to ensure the company is financially stable and capable of meeting its obligations. 

Are there any exclusions or limitations in the policy?

Be sure to read the policy documents carefully. Life insurance policies may contain exclusions or limitations related to pre-existing conditions, suicide and certain activities or occupations. Understanding these terms will prevent any surprises when you need to file a claim.

Can I customize my policy?

Many insurance policies can be tailored to your specific needs. Ask about the possibility of adding riders or endorsements, which can provide additional coverage for specific situations, such as critical illness, accidental death or disability.

How will inflation affect my coverage?

Consider how inflation will impact your coverage amount over time. You may need to periodically review and adjust your policy to ensure it remains adequate to meet your financial needs in the future.

What is the process for filing a claim?

Understanding the claims process is crucial. It’s essential to know what your beneficiaries will need to do to initiate a claim, what documentation is required and how long it typically takes for a claim to be processed and paid.

Can I change my policy in the future?

Life circumstances change, so it’s important to know whether you can adjust your policy if your needs evolve. Some policies offer flexibility through options like converting term insurance to whole life or increasing coverage amounts without the need for a medical exam, but not all will, so be sure you know how any potential life insurance policy functions before purchasing it.

The bottom line

Purchasing a life insurance policy is a significant decision that can have a lasting impact on your financial security and the well-being of your loved ones. By asking these important questions and thoroughly researching your options, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your financial goals and provides the protection you need for the future. Remember that life insurance is not a one-size-fits-all solution, though, so take your time and consider consulting with a trusted financial advisor to find the policy that’s right for you.