Life insurance is a contract between the policy owner and the insurer, where the insurer agrees to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money upon the occurrence of the insured individual's or individuals' death or other event, such as terminal illness or critical illness. In return, the policy owner agrees to pay a stipulated amount (at regular intervals or in lump sums). There may be designs in some countries where bills and death expenses plus catering for after funeral expenses should be included in Policy Premium. In the United States, the predominant form simply specifies a lump sum to be paid on the insured's demise.
The value for the policyholder is derived, not from an actual claim event, rather it is the value derived from the 'peace of mind' experienced by the policyholder, due to the negating of adverse financial consequences caused by the death of the Life Assured.
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; for example 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 in the event of specified event, typically a lump sum payment. A common form of this design is term insurance.
- Investment policies - where the main objective is to facilitate the growth of capital by regular or single premiums. Common forms (in the US anyway) are whole life, universal life and variable life policies.