An all-too-common occurrence for life insurance policy holders is one in which someone purchased a life insurance policy several years ago, they have been paying premiums faithfully, and they unexpectedly receive a Lapse Notice. The Notice states, “… your premium is not enough to cover the policy expenses, please submit (a lot more) money to keep your valuable coverage.”
You’ll probably look to the insurer or agent for help. Here are some things you should consider to maintain your valuable coverage.
Often the policy owner thinks of life insurance the same way they think of auto insurance. They receive a premium notice, they pay the premium amount stated on the notice, and they believe they have met their requirement to secure the coverage. What they don’t realize is that with life insurance plans, such as universal life, indexed life, whole life and variable life, the premium is not the same as the cost.
Premium is what you pay to the insurance company. The policy fees are the cost of the coverage.
With these policies as the insured gets older the life insurance policy costs more. This is where the trouble usually happens. At some point in time, and often unbeknownst to the policy owner, the policy expenses exceed the premium being paid. This triggers a feature in the policy which allows the insurer to take money from the policy’s cash value, without having to notify the policy owner, to make-up any shortage of policy expenses. As this event occurs every month, the life insurance policy will be depleted of its cash value and move towards a lapse.
Before a life insurance policy lapse, the insurer is obligated to mail a lapse notice which allows the policy owner 31 days to pay enough premium to cover one month’s worth of expenses. The problem however, is that the expenses will typically have greatly exceeded the amount of premium the owner had been paying.
It’s common for the new premium to be three or four, or even more, times as much as they had been paying. This can put the cost of coverage out of their financial reach. The increase in premiums may not be justified, and a life insurance expert should evaluate the policy to determine if you’re being over-charged.
One thing you can do to make sure you aren’t caught off guard by increasing policy fees, and lose your valuable coverage, is to review your policy with an agent every year. In this meeting you should bring a recent Annual Statement for the policy and the agent should bring in-force illustrations. These are the tools that will best inform you of the policy’s expenses and where your premium amounts should be set for the year.
If you’ve received a lapse notice for your life insurance policy, here are a few things you can do:
1. Lower the death benefit to an affordable amount. The lower the death benefit the lower the premium will be.
2. Ask the insurer for the cost to keep the policy in-force to an age less than maturity. In other words, a universal life insurance policy, as one example, will stay in-force until the insured’s age 100. Fees are set based on this age assumption — 100. If you tell the insurer you only want the policy to stay in-force to age 86 (for example), the premium required will be less.
3. Ask the insurer if they offer a less expensive insurance product that you can exchange your policy for.
4. Get the assistance of a qualified agent to help you understand and make decisions about your policy.
5. Have a life insurance analyst review the policy, past payments and future payments to determine if you’re being over-charged for the coverage.