1. How do I know if the agent is authorized to sell life insurance policy?
A life insurance agent is a representative of a particular life insurance company and can provide advice on the products marketed solely by that life insurance company. An agent who sells life insurance products is registered with the IRDA and is required to pass a pre-contract examination, conducted by NSE.IT. Always insist on seeing agent's authorization card issued by IRDA, before interacting with them.
2. What is the difference between a participating and non-participating policy?
A participating (or with profits) policy would enable the policyholder to share in the profits of a life insurance company, while a non-participating (or without profits) policy does not have this right. Profits that are allotted to the participating policyholders are usually in the form of reversionary bonuses or dividends. These bonuses or dividends are not guaranteed and can increase or decrease depending on the investments returns of the life funds.
3. How does a life insurance company evaluate my risks?
The risk class or mortality of a policyholder is determined by an underwriting process through which a life insurance company would decide whether or not to accept a risk. The risk of death is determined by several factors such as age, sex, habits, personal and medical history, occupation, etc. The life insurance company's decision to insure your life is based on the information provided in the application form, the medical examination report (if required) etc. Be truthful whilst filling in your form so that the life insurance company can be fair in its assessment of the risks involved.
4. What will happen to my policy if I fail to pay my premium on time?
The policy contract provides for a 'grace period', which gives the policyholder an additional period of time after the due date for the payment of the premium. During this period, you can still pay your premium and the life policy still continues to be in force. For monthly mode of payment, the grace period is usually 15 days, while for other frequency of payments (semi-annually or annually), it is usually 30 days. When your life insurance policy has lapsed, you may revive or reinstate it to full force within a period of time and under certain conditions such as declaration of your state of health at the time of reinstatement.
5. Can I get full refund of premium if I cancel my policy within the free look period?
Yes, under the free look period, you can cancel your life insurance policy within 15 days by returning the policy to the life insurance company after you have received the policy document.
6. Should I cancel my existing policy and replace it with another?
Since buying a life insurance policy is a long-term commitment, it is not advisable to terminate your policy early as you will not receive the total amount of premium that you have paid because the surrender value is usually less than what you have paid. Replacing an existing policy with another is not in your best interest because the new policy is likely to be at a higher premium as you are older. There will also be an initial cost of writing the life insurance policy for a second time. Additionally, the two-year period of contestability will begin again. Furthermore, the present life insurance company can often make the changes that you want at lower cost to you.
7. How much will I receive if I surrender my life insurance policy?
When a life insurance policy is in force for a number of years (normally a minimum of five years) it would acquire a cash value. The cash value is the 'savings' portion of a life policy. It is derived when your premium payments are more than the cost of insurance, whereby the excess goes into a cash value account and draws interest. If you decide to surrender your life insurance policy, the life insurance company will pay you the cash value, also known as surrender value. You will suffer a loss if you surrender your policy before the maturity period.
8. Is a life insurance sales illustration a legal document, like a contract?
A sales illustration is not a legal document. Legal obligations of a life insurance policy are spelled out in the policy itself. Therefore, a policyholder must read the fine print of the contract carefully to ensure that he/she understands the exact nature of the policy, the risks that are covered as well as the limits or exclusion clauses, before signing the contract.
9. Should I pay my premiums through the agent?
You have the option of paying the premiums directly to the insurance company or through the agent. If you choose to pay through the agent, you must ensure that the cheque is written in the name of the insurance company. You must also ensure that you receive the receipt from the insurance company.
10. How much will I be paying for my insurance cover and will I be able to afford the premiums over the long term?
The amount of premiums paid depends on the insurance coverage you need. First, you must look at what current benefits your insurance policy provides whether you are opting for a rider. With some riders, you may stop paying premiums for your policy when you become disabled and still enjoy the benefits of life insurance protection. However, if your policy does not have this benefit and you are finding it difficult to continue meeting the premium payments, you should discuss with your financial adviser on other options which may be available for you to consider.
11. What happens if I fail to make the required premium payments?
You typically have a 15-31 days grace period during which you can pay the premium with no interest charged. If you do not pay your premium within this grace period, and as long as your policy has sufficient cash value, the insurance company will automatically pay your overdue premium by taking a loan against the policy's cash value. This keeps your policy in force but you will have to pay interest on this loan.
12. How do I make a claim?
You should fill out a claim form and contact the financial adviser from whom you bought your policy. You need to submit all relevant documents such as original receipts to your insurer to support your claim. If your insurer can settle your claim, you will be issued a cheque generally within 7 days from the time they receive all relevant documents. However, if your insurer is unable to deal with all or any part of your claim, they will explain to you in writing.
13. Which are the Traditional Life Insurance instruments available?
Traditional Insurance products consist of Term Insurance, Endowment and Whole Life Policies. You can benefit from such instruments as they have a cash value which increases every year as you pay premiums. Some traditional life policies are participating, meaning they issue dividends. You also get a tax benefits and more over the premium on traditional life insurance is level throughout the life of the policy.