Life insurance is a contract between an insured (insurance policy holder) and an insurer, where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money (the "benefits") upon the death of the insured person. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness may also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as a lump sum. Other expenses (such as funeral expenses) are also sometimes included in the benefits. The advantage for the policy owner is "peace of mind", in knowing that the death of the insured person will not result in financial hardship for loved ones and lenders. It is possible for life insurance policy payouts to be made in order to help supplement retirement benefits; however, it should be carefully considered throughout the design and funding of the policy itself.
Life-based contracts tend to fall into two major categories:
Four main types of life insurance policies are:
An annuity is a series of payments at fixed intervals, guaranteed for a fixed number of years or the lifetime of one or more individuals. Similar to a pension, the money is paid out of an investment contract under which the annuitant(s) deposit certain sums (in a lump sum or in installments) with an annuity guarantor (usually a government agency or an insurance firm). The amount paid back includes principal and interest, either or both of which (depending on the local regulations) may be tax exempt. An annuity is not an insurance policy but a tax-shelter.
In the United States an annuity contract is created when an insured party, usually an individual, pays a life insurance company a single premium that will later be distributed back to the insured party over time. Annuity contracts traditionally provide a guaranteed distribution of income over time, such as via fixed payments, until the death of the person or persons named in the contract or until a final date, whichever comes first. However, the majority of modern annuity customers use annuities only to accumulate funds free of income and capital gains taxes and to later take lump-sum withdrawals without using the guaranteed-income-for-life feature.