Life insurance is a contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer, where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money (the benefit) in exchange for a premium, upon the death of an insured person (often the policy holder). Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness can also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as one lump sum. Life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the liability of the insurer; common examples are claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot, and civil commotion.
Life-based contracts tend to fall into two major categories:
- Protection policies – designed to provide a benefit, typically a lump sum payment, in the event of specified event. The most common form of a protection policy design is called “term insurance.”
- Investment policies – where the main objective is to facilitate the growth of capital by regular or single premiums. Common forms are whole life, universal life, and variable life policies.