Insurance Terms

Accelerated Benefit Rider
A life insurance policy benefit that allows the insured or policy owner The right to receive a percentage of the insurance policy death benefit in advance if the insured is diagnosed with a terminal illness and not expected to live for a period of at least 12 months. Written proof of terminal illness from a medical professional must be obtained before the insurance company will pay a benefit.

Accidental Death and Dismemberment Rider
A life policy rider that pays a percentage of the death benefit if the insured is killed in a covered accident or loses sight or limbs as a result of an accident. This benefit can be added on most life insurance policies but is generally expensive and very limited in what it will cover.

Accumulation Value
In adjustable, equity indexed, variable universal and universal life policies, the accumulation value is equal to the policy’s cash value before the deduction of any applicable surrender charges when determining the policy’s net surrender vale.

Age at Issue
Policies are approved and issued on a specific date. Insurers generally use the nearest age or last age of the insured to determine the insured’s age as of the issuance date.

Individuals or businesses that are licensed to sell life insurance by the State Departments of Insurance. The agent or insurance sales person or entity has primary duties to the insurance company and not to the applicant. Agents may represent just one-ore many-insurance companies, and are generally paid commissions by the insurer with whom the policy has been written.

AM Best Rating Services
AM Best is an independent rating organization that ranks insurance companies by financial strength and managerial abilities. Please see the various financial ratings of each insurance company when requesting a quote. The website for AM Best is

Annual Renewable Term Insurance
Annual Renewable Term (ART) is a type of term life insurance that offers a guaranteed rate for one year. Each subsequent year, the policy renews at a higher rate based on the insured’s next age. At some point, the price of annually renewable term becomes cost prohibitive.

A form provided by the insurer to obtain an individual’s declaration of personal, occupation health, financial, and avocation information. The information provided by the insured (and typically completed by the agent) forms the basis on which an insurance company will make an offer to provide coverage. The application becomes a part of the legal contract of insurance, and the insurer is generally allowed to challenge misstatements if death occurs within 2 years of policy issue.

Life insurance is considered property. Therefore insurance policies are legally assignable to another party in part or in full including all rights.

An individual or entity that receives the rights in a life insurance policy assigned by the policy owner.

Attained Age
The current age of the insured as measured from the age at the time the policy was issued.

Automatic Premium Loan Provision
Generally applicable to fixed premium policies such as whole life, an “APL” provision will allow the insurance company to borrow the due and payable premium from cash values if the premium hasn’t been paid after 31 days from the premium due date. This provision prevents unpaid premium from putting the policy into a “lapse” condition.

An individual or individuals, corporation, or trust that is entitled to receive the policy proceeds of an insurance policy in the event that the insured is deceased. Beneficiaries can be named in a number of different ways including primary, contingent, tertiary, revocable and irrevocable to list a few.

The terms “broker” and “agent” are defined by the various State Departments of Insurance. A broker (a term typically applied to those selling property and casualty insurance) is deemed to primarily represent the customer and not the insurance company. A broker generally represents more than one insurance company, and the broker’s compensation is generally paid as a commission by the insurer with whom the policy has been written.

Cash Surrender Value
The actual cash value that the policy owner would receive in the event a policy is surrendered. In a whole life policy, the surrender value is typically equal to the cash value less the surrender charge if applicable. The surrender value may be less in indeterminate premium policies, depending on how long the policy was in force before surrender.

Cash Value
Cash value is the excess accumulation of funds within a whole life or universal life insurance policy. Cash values generally grow tax deferred and can be withdrawn or borrowed if the policy allows. Cash values are not guaranteed.

Children’s Insurance Rider
A rider added to an insurance policy to protect the lives of children. Usually offered in increments of $5,000.00 and generally covers all eligible children to their age 18. Not available with all policies.

Collateral Assignment
Similar to an assignment, certain rights in a life insurance policy can be assigned to a third party, typically as security for a loan or other transaction. Collateral assignments are generally not made for a specified amount, rather are defined “to the extent that his interest may appear.” The assignment is registered with the insurer, and typically the assignee must prove to the insurer the amounts that are owed to it if and when the assignment collection criteria are met.

Conditional Receipt
A conditional receipt is given to an insured that submits money with the initial application for life insurance. It offers immediate coverage “conditionally”, after the medical exam is completed, contingent upon the company’s acceptance of the insured. The terms of the conditional receipt will vary among insurance companies.

Contestable Clause
All insurance companies have a period of two years from the policy issue date during which statements made on the application can be challenged for misstatement should death occur within that period. After the contestable period, the policy becomes incontestable except for application statements that can be proven as fraudulent.

Contestability Period
Within the first 2 years of an insurance policy, the insurance company has the right to investigate a death claim for fraud and misrepresentation. The contestability period allows the insurance company to deny claims that are fraudulent. All insurance companies will investigate death claims with the first 2 years. The burden of proof for denying a claim is on the insurance company.

Contingent Beneficiary
An individual or entity that is entitled to receive the proceeds of a life insurance policy if the primary beneficiary is not living at the time of the insured’s death. The contingent beneficiary can be an individual, several individuals, a corporation, trust, or charitable organization.

A life insurance policy is considered a legal contract between the insurer and the owner of the policy. Only the policy itself serves as the contract. Statements made by the agent and policy illustrations are not part of the contract of insurance.

Conversion Privilege
This benefit allows the covered individual the opportunity to “convert” or exchange an existing term life insurance policy for a permanent or “whole life” policy without evidence of insurability. The conversion privilege protects an insured’s ability to maintain insurance coverage when outside coverage may not be attainable due to significant health problems. Conversion privileges vary among insurance policies. In short, if all other things are equal, the policy offering the longer conversion period is usually the better the policy.

Convertible Term Insurance
Term insurance which can be exchanged (converted), at the option of the policy owner and without evidence of insurability, for a permanent insurance policy.

Cost of Insurance
Generally applicable to current assumption policies such as equity indexed, variable and universal life, cost of insurance charges are monthly charges for mortality and other elements of insurer expense that are assessed against the policy based on the insured’s current age, the original rate class, and the current net amount at risk.

Current Assumption
Life insurance policies that provide for contractually guaranteed minimum interest rates and maximum costs of insurance while at the same time offering the potential for higher non guaranteed policy credits and lower non guaranteed costs of insurance and other expenses. Assumptions may be changed by the insurer at its discretion and experience.

Current Interest Rate
The interest rate that the insurance company declares at the beginning of each determined period that is credited daily to the unloaded portion of the accumulation value. The current interest rate will never be less than the guaranteed interest rate.

Date of Issue
The effective date of the policy as issued by the insurer.

Death Benefit
The insurance amount stated in the insurance policy. Can be any amount subject to certain specific limitation set forth by the insurance company. Death benefits are payable on the death of the insured and are generally payable to the beneficiary or beneficiaries income tax free.

Death Claim
When an insured dies, the policy owner will provide the insurer with poof of death (including a death certificate) and other information to cause the proceeds of the policy to be paid to the beneficiary.

Decreasing Term
Decreasing term is a type of term life insurance where the insurance amount decreases over time. Most decreasing term policies are tied to some form of note or mortgage and as you pay down the mortgage, the insurance amount decreases. These policies were very popular 10-15 years ago; however, level term life insurance is now generally more competitive.

Deduction Amount
A monthly charge in a universal life policy, deducted from the accumulation value on each deduction day, which is comprised of the cost of insurance charge and any other expense charge shown on the policy summary and any charge for supplemental benefits.

Deduction Day
Each month, the day on which the deduction amount is taken from the policy. The deduction day is always listed in the policy summary. The first deduction day is the policy date.

Dividends are cash payments credited to whole life policies generally as a percentage of current cash value. They are not guaranteed. Dividends are paid by mutual insurance companies and are considered to be a return of excess premium payments. Dividends can be used to increase cash value, reduce the current premium, or buy additional paid up insurance

A policy will endow when the whole life or “endowment” policy’s cash value is equal to the death benefit of the policy.

Evidence of Insurability
When purchasing any life insurance policy, you must prove that your health is reasonably good. Proving your health is the evidence that you are insurable. Once a life insurance policy is in force, no further evidence of insurability is required to maintain the policy.

Excess Interest
The difference between the current rate of interest an insurer actually pays and the guaranteed interest rate.

Exclusions are specific events or circumstances where the insurance company has the right to deny an insurance claim. They are always listed in the policy. Common exclusions include suicide within the first 2 years and fraud. A careful review of your policy for exclusions is wise.

Expense Charge
A monthly charge paid to an insurance company based on various elements of the policy such as insured’s attained age, original rate class, etc. Allowable charges are specified in the policy; at its discretion, the insurer may charge less than the contractual amount as circumstances allow.

Face Amount
The amount of insurance listed in the policy and applied for by the purchaser. The face amount is the same as the death benefit. Face amounts can be any amount subject to certain specific limitations set forth by the insurance company.

Flat Extra Rating
A flat extra rating is an extra charge that is applied to some policies where the insured has very adverse health conditions such as cancer or does hazardous sports or hobbies such as skydiving. Flat extra charges are usually applied as a dollar cost per thousand. For example, an individual that had cancer within the last 3 years may be charged a flat extra rating of $3.00/$1,000 of insurance for the first 5 policy years. The flat extra charge allows the insurance company to offer a policy where they might otherwise have to decline to make an offer.

Free-Look Provision
The free look provision allows policyholders a 10-30 day period to review the policy and, if they choose not to accept the policy, return it for a full refund. If returned, the policy will be considered to be void from inception.

Funding Premium
The premium for policies such as universal, equity-indexed and variable universal life that are designed without fixed premiums. As these indeterminate premium policies do not have a set premium, the term funding premium is used to describe the chosen premium that is paid for a specific policy. The funding premium can change at the discretion of the policyholder subject to certain policy minimums.

Grace Period
The period after the premium payment is due wherein the policy owner is generally given 31 days within which to make payment without jeopardizing the death benefit. Universal Life and Variable Universal Life policies may allow 30-60 days for additional funding premiums to be paid if there is insufficient cash value to sustain the policy during the monthly calculation of expense charges and policy credits.

Gross Return
Generally a term for Variable Universal Life, a gross return is the long-term average return assumed to be earned before deducting the management fees and other expenses described in the prospectus. Variable Universal Life Illustrations almost always assume a gross return, not to exceed the regulatory maximum of 12 percent. Annual fees can range from 0.25 percent to more than 2.0 percent of the account value.

Guaranteed Insurability Option
A policy rider, the guaranteed insurability option assures the policy holder the right to purchase additional amounts of insurance at predetermined future intervals or ages without providing evidence of insurability.

Policy indebtedness is all outstanding loans on an insurance policy, including any unpaid interest. The loan interest rate charged, which is payable in advance, is shown on the policy summary.

Indeterminate Premium
A characteristic of equity index, universal, adjustable, and variable universal life policies in which the premium is estimated but not guaranteed. As long as the policy minimum premium is paid, the policy may remain in force. If however, only the minimum premium is paid, there is a strong likelihood that premiums will have to be increased in the future to maintain enough cash to cover the increased insurance costs. It is the policy owner’s responsibility to manage policy payments to ensure the sufficiency of the policy.

Insurable Interest
When a policy is purchased, the buyer must have an economic interest in the life if the insured, or a demonstrable expectation of loss upon the death of the insured. A spouse is always considered to have an insurable interest. A business partner is similarly considered to have an insurable interest based on the economic value of the partnership. Your neighbor, however, cannot but a policy on your life-even with your cooperation-unless a valid economic basis can be demonstrated. Once a policy is purchased, the policy owner is free to designate anyone he or she wishes as beneficiary. Policy ownership can be transferred after the policy had been issued, somewhat bypassing insurable interest statutes.

Insurability refers to an individual’s good health and ability to obtain life insurance. If an individual is unable to obtain life insurance due to bad health, the individual is considered to be uninsurable.

Insured or insured life
The person on whose life the policy is issued.

Issue Date
The specific date when the insurance company issues an insurance policy. The issue date is shown in the policy summary.

Key Person Insurance
Also known as Key Man insurance, Key Woman Insurance, or Business Life Insurance. Key Person insurance is life insurance purchased by the company on the life of an employee or employees whose loss would have adverse effects on the company. Employees are valuable assets and the loss of some key employees could significantly impact the profitability, stability and progress of the company.

Lapsed Policy
The termination of an insurance policy resulting from non-payment of premiums within the specified premium grace period.

Level Premium
Generally refers to the initial period of a term policy in which the premiums are guaranteed to remain fixed. At the end of the initial period, premiums will generally increase annually and at a significantly higher rate than the level premium.

Level Premium Period
The level premium period generally refers to the length of guaranteed premiums for level term life insurance policies. For example, insurance companies currently offer 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30-year level premium policies.

Level Term Insurance
Level term insurance offers a fixed price and fixed death benefit for a predetermined time period usually 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years.

Life Settlement
A life settlement is a transaction in which an existing life insurance policy that is no longer needed or is in danger of lapsing is offered for sale to institutional investors in the secondary market. Individuals over the age of 70 with moderate health concerns who own such insurance might find that their policy is worth as much as 25 percent of the current death benefit. The financial enterprises that purchase life settlements will maintain such policies until the insured’s death.

Maturity Date
A Life insurance policy will typically mature at age 95 or 100, although newer policies may provide for contract maturity as far out as age 120. When the policy matures, all accrued benefits as described in the policy are paid. Some insurers allow the deferral of matured values until the insured’s actual death.

Medical Information Bureau (MIB)
All responses on a policy application are subject to submission to the MIB, an independent entity that collects and stores medical data on life and health insurance applicants. This information is exchanged among member insurance companies with written authorization of the insured. Its purpose is to prevent applicant fraud and to help insurers discover withheld information that may be contained in the database.

Misstatement of Age
If the age of the insured is misstated and is not discovered until death of the insured, the insurance company has the contractual right to adjust the death benefit to reflect the face amount that would have been paid with the corrected age and actual premiums paid.

Modal Premium
The modal premium is the payment method selected by the insured to pay policy premiums. There are generally 4 premium mode options including annual, semiannual, quarterly, and monthly bank draft. There is usually a higher incremental cost for all modal premium options other that annual. In other words, you may pay 2-6% more on an annualized basis for semiannual, quarterly, and monthly bank draft options.

Modified Endowment contracts (MEC)
Modified Endowment Contracts (MEC) are the result of paying too much funding premium into a equity indexed universal life, variable universal life , or other adjustable life policy in too short a period of time (usually in the first 7 years). The insurance company can accurately determine whether payments into a life insurance policy run the risk of becoming a “MEC.” When a policy becomes a MEC, the tax status of death benefit is unaffected and any policy build up continues to grow tax deferred. However, any withdrawal of cash values prior to the insured’s age 59 ½ will be subject to a 10% penalty. Additionally, withdrawals from the policy are taxed on the LIFO tax basis meaning the cash value “last in is the first out” therefore generating an instant taxable event.

Monthly Anniversary
Adjustable life, indexed life, universal and variable universal life insurance policies account for expenses and credits on a monthly basis. Therefore, the monthly anniversary is the same day of each month as the policy anniversary date.

Moody’s Investor Service
Moody’s Investor Service is an independent insurance rating service that rates the financial strength of all insurance companies. You can visit Moody’s Investor Service online at A password is required.

Net Amount of Insurance at Risk
The difference between a life insurance policy’s total face amount and the policy’s cash value. The net amount at risk is the amount of insurance that the insurance company is responsible for covering in the event that death occurs. Insurance companies calculate the actual insurance costs associated with a specific policy based on the net amount of insurance at risk.

Net Cash Surrender Value
A life insurance policy’s cash surrender value less any outstanding loans or surrender charges.

Nonforfeiture Values
For more than 100 years, insurance regulators have required that permanent life insurance policies have certain equity rights, even when the policy might lapse due to non payment of premiums. Nonforfeiture values include cash value net of loans, reduced paid-up life insurance, and extended term insurance.

Option A-Level Death Benefit
Universal life policyholders may elect a level death benefit (Option A) that is fixed and doesn’t increase unless required to maintain a policy’s status as life insurance under IRS rules. With a level death benefit option, the net amount of insurance at risk with decrease over time assuming proper premiums are paid.

Option B Increasing Death Benefits
Universal life policyholders may elect an increasing death benefit (Option B) that increases as a policy’s cash values increase. With an increasing death benefit option, the net amount of insurance at risk never decreases over time as all cash values are added to the initial face amount to determine the actual death benefit.

Other Insured Rider
An optional policy rider that provides specified amounts of term insurance on the life of a spouse or child of the primary insured.

Participating Policy
A participating policy is typically issued by a mutual life insurer whose profits (surplus) are for the benefit of its policyholders. If there is sufficient surplus to be paid out amongst the current policyholders, they will be paid out in the form of dividends. Dividends can be taken in cash, used to reduce the premium due, or used to purchase additional paid up insurance.

Typically the policy owner, the payor is the person or entity making premium payments on a life insurance policy.

Permanent Life Insurance
Permanent life insurance is “whole life” insurance. Permanent insurance is more costly than term because it builds cash value and is designed to last a lifetime. The premiums and death benefits are generally fixed for the insured’s lifetime.

Planned Periodic Payment
Adjustable life, equity indexed universal life, and variable universal life insurance policies do not have specified planned periodic premiums. The policy owner determines how much premium to pay subject to policy minimums. The application will ask for a specific amount to be billed on a periodic basis (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual), and this amount can generally be changed at the policy owner’s discretion.

The policy is the basic written agreement between the insurer and the policy owner. The policy, together with the application, exam and all endorsements and attached papers, constitutes the entire contract of insurance. The policy illustration is specifically excluded from the contract.

Policy Anniversary
The policy anniversary occurs yearly on the day and month of the policy date.

Policy Date
The actual day month and year on which coverage becomes effective.

Policy Exchange
Usually the result of a policy replacement, any potential taxable gain associated with terminating a policy can be deferred by qualifying the purchase of a new policy as an exchange under the provisions of Internal Revenue Code 1035.

Policy Loan Amount
An amount of cash values less the policy surrender charges that can be borrowed by the policy owner. The policy loan does not have to be repaid, but interest (as specified in the policy) will be charged and the total loan plus unpaid interest will be subtracted from policy proceeds if the loan is outstanding at the time of death or surrender of the policy.

Policy Month
Twelve one month periods during the policy date of the policy anniversary.

Policy Owner
The policy owner is an individual, trust or entity that has control of or owns the policy. The policy owner has rights to changing the beneficiary, payment modes, and payout options.

Preferred Risk
Preferred risk refers to the general health of the individual applying for insurance. All insurance companies have several categories of risk that allow the insurance company to properly price the individual risk associated with each application for life insurance. A Preferred Risk is considered to be an individual in very good health with an above average life expectancy.

The payment amount required to maintain the insurance policy. Premiums can generally be paid annually, semiannually, quarterly, or monthly bank draft.

Primary Beneficiary
The primary beneficiary is the individual(s), trust, or other entity that receives the proceeds of the insurance policy in the event of the insured’s death.

Rated/Rate Class
Individuals are “rated” based on health, occupation, avocation, and other lifestyle considerations. Individuals with above average “ratings” are generally classified as “preferred, “and all things being equal will pay lower premiums than individuals that are”standard” or “sub-standard” risks.

Reinstatement Provision
Most life insurance policies will grant the policy owner the right for a limited period of time to reinstate a policy after it has lapsed. Evidence of insurability will generally be required, as well as back premiums and interest.

Often defined by state insurance regulation, a replacement is typically deemed to have been made when an agent solicits a new policy in exchange for an old one.

A rider is an additional feature or benefit added to a policy at an additional cost. Riders are usually available for disability, children’ insurance, an additional purchase options. Riders may vary among insurance companies.

Secondary Guarantee
Contractual guarantees offered by life insurance companies that state policies are guaranteed to pay a death benefit even if the cash value falls to $0. Rather than the cash value sustaining the policy, the insurer provides a secondary guarantee that it will pay the death benefit regardless of policy reserves. Secondary guaranteed policies are extremely cost effective for assuring a long term death benefit but will not build excess cash values. They are designed to provide low cost life insurance protection for an individual’s lifetime whether they live 30 years or to age 110.

Second-to-die (Survivorship) Life Insurance
Second-to-die (Survivorship) life insurance is a form of whole life insurance that covers two lives and pays the proceeds at the death of the second insured. This type of policy is used primarily for estate planning.

Standard and Poor’s Rating Services
Standard and Poor’s is an independent insurance rating service that ranks the financial strength of all insurance companies. You can visit Standard and Poor’s online at

Standard Risk
Standard risk is an underwriting classification that refers to the overall health of the individual applying for life insurance. A standard risk is an individual that is in average health with an average life expectancy.

Stated Amount
A dollar amount used to determine the death benefit of the policy.

Sub-Standard Risk
Sub-Standard risk is an underwriting classification for individuals that have significant health concerns. Generally, sub-standard risks have a shorter than average life expectancy due to a health impairment and will therefore pay higher premiums for their insurance than preferred or standard risk individuals.

Suicide Provision
All life insurance policies have a standard suicide provision that states there will be no insurance proceeds paid in the event that the insured commits suicide within the first 2 policy years. During this 2-year period, the insurance company’s liability is limited to premiums paid.

The policy owner’s right to terminate policy coverage in exchange for the policy’s cash surrender value or other nonforfeiture values.

Surrender Charge
Typically applicable to adjustable life, indexed universal life, and variable universal policies, a generally declining schedule of charges against the cash value may be imposed on the policy for a certain number of years from policy inception if the policy is surrendered, the death benefit is reduced, or in some instances, the surrender charge is taken into account in the monthly calculation to determine if the policy is still in force.’

Surrender Value
In most policies, the surrender value is typically the cash accumulated value less any applicable surrender charges. The surrender value will vary depending on the insurance company and the actual policy type. Generally speaking, the surrender value will equal cash values after a certain period of time depending on the specifics of the policy and how long the policy has been in force before the policy is surrendered.

Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance is “temporary” coverage usually offered in level periods of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years. Term life insurance is designed to cover specific risks for a specific time period. Term insurance is the cheapest form of life insurance.

The underwriter (insurance company) is an employee of the insurance company and is the individual responsible for reviewing applications and medical histories and accessing the applicants risk to the company. The underwriter is the person that determines the rate class that each applicant will obtain based on the applicant’ medical history.

Underwriting is the process where the insurance company reviews each individual’s application and medical history and determines the rate class that each individual will obtain. Underwriting is the most crucial part of the entire process of applying for life insurance.

Universal Life Insurance
Universal life insurance is a combination of whole life insurance and term life insurance. The pricing of the policy is based on annual renewable term life insurance and increases each year. The premiums are flexible and are designed to cover the costs of the insurance with the difference being applied to a cash value that grows at a given interest rate. Universal life polices are more expensive than term and cheaper than whole life. Some universal life policies offer long term guarantees but most do not. If considering universal life, make sure than you buy a policy hat offers long-term guarantees.

Valuation Date
A date on which policy account values-typically in variable policies-are contractually determined.

Variable Universal Life Insurance
Universal life insurance is a combination of whole life insurance and term life insurance. The pricing of the policy is based on annual renewable term life insurance and increases each year. The premiums are flexible and are designed to cover the costs of the insurance with the difference being applied to a cash value that grows at a given interest rate. Universal life polices are more expensive than term and cheaper than whole life. Some universal life policies offer long term guarantees but most do not. If considering universal life, make sure than you buy a policy hat offers long-term guarantees.

Waiver of Monthly Deduction
A rider that waives monthly cost of insurance charges in an Adjustable, Universal, or Variable Universal life insurance policy for a period of disability as outlined and defined in the policy.

Waiver of Premium Rider
The waiver of premium rider can be added to the basic life policy and covers the insured in the event that he or she becomes disabled. If disability occurs and the rider is in effect, the insurance premiums are waived for the period of disability. Generally, this benefit becomes effective after the insured had been disabled for 6 months and lasts until the insured is no longer disabled.

Waiver of Specified Premium
A rider that waives premiums in a Whole Life or term policy-or waives a planned premium in an Adjustable, Variable, or Universal Life policy-for a period of disability as outlined and defined in the policy.

Weiss Research Rating Services
Weiss is an independent insurance rating service that ranks insurance companies for safety. Weiss Research is the most conservative of all rating services. You can visit Weiss Research online at

Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance offers fixed premium payments for life and builds guaranteed cash value. Whole life is the most expensive form of life insurance. Purchasers of whole life insurance are “self-funding” their insurance program and want to “own” their life insurance.