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You’ll likely have a lot of questions as you shop for life insurance quotes — not only about what you’re buying, but also about what can happen after your purchase.

Life insurance isn’t like buying a car or a TV. Unless you tap into life insurance later in life, you won’t benefit from a life insurance policy. However, you can have peace of mind knowing that your loved ones are protected. 

Life insurance doesn’t have to be confusing. Let’s walk through common questions about life insurance so you can get a better handle on the topic: 

Can you have multiple life insurance policies?

Yes, you can have multiple policies from the same or different life insurance companies.

For example, you could have a permanent life insurance policy like whole life or a term life policy for a shorter need. That may include paying a mortgage or for your children’s college if you were to die. 

How much life insurance do I need?

A thorough “life insurance needs analysis” looks at your current and ongoing expenses, plus your future expenses like college, or your funeral.

But simply adding up all those numbers could amount to a bigger policy than you need. You should also subtract assets that can go toward those expenses, such as savings and investments.

Common term life insurance policies are worth $100,000, $200,000 and well over $1 million. In fact, you can find term life policies worth $25 million.’s Life Insurance Calculator can help you determine your life insurance needs.

What is a life insurance premium? What happens if I don’t pay?

Typically, you will have a 30- or 31-day grace period. If you pay within this time period, your policy continues.

If you don’t pay within the grace period, your policy may lapse, depending on the type of policy. With a permanent policy, however, your life insurer may use your cash value, if available, to cover premium payments.

If you’re unable to pay because you have become disabled, and you elected a waiver of premium provision or rider on your policy, you don’t have to pay premiums for the duration of your disability. Universal life insurance policies generally offer policyholders increased flexibility in premium payments that may be important when your cash flow is variable.



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What if my insurance policy lapses?

A policy (other than universal life insurance) lapses when you fail to pay your life insurance premium by the end of the grace period. If you have a permanent life insurance policy and enough cash value in it, you may borrow from the policy to pay the premium.

If you have a term life policy and don’t pay your premium within the grace period, your policy will lapse and simply end.

Why buy life insurance when I’m young?

An advantage to buying life insurance when you’re young and healthy is you’ll be able to lock in a good rate for the duration of the policy. If you have dependents in the future, you will have secured a low rate and guaranteed your “insurability,” meaning you won’t have to worry about higher rates as you age and possibly experience declining health.

The older and less healthy you are when you buy a policy, the higher the price. Let’s look at some examples of a non-smoker who is classified as “Regular” health. 

Average Annual Premiums for Term Life death benefit of $250,000

Gender and term lengthAge 30Age 40Age 50Age 60
Female, 10-year term$225$307$576$1,190
Female, 20-year term$316$480$961$2,324
Female, 30-year term$432$698$1,544$7,300*
Male, 10-year term$264$359$738$1,723
Male, 20-year term$370$567$1,232$3,149
Male, 30-year term$530$878$2,032$7,300*

*Limited quotes available. Data source: Compulife Quotation System as of November 2020.

As you can see, a 30-year-old woman seeking a 30-year term life policy would pay only $432 on an average annually. That’s compared to $1,544 for a 50-year-old woman. This is one reason why it makes sense to get a life policy while you’re still young and healthy. 

Can I get life insurance with no health exam?

There are a few options for those who want a life insurance policy without a health exam. 

Group policies generally don’t require medical exams, unless you have to prove your “insurability” in order to buy a large group life amount. Most group life insurance enrollments are held annually through your employer.

simplified issue policies require that you answer some medical history questions but don’t require an exam. Read more about simplified issue term life insurance.

Guaranteed issue policies require no medical exam or medical questions. However, yo pay significantly more in premiums than you would with an underwritten policy, even if you’ve had some health issues. These policies can be an easy way to get coverage to pay for your funeral. Here’s how to evaluate final expense insurance.

What do insurance companies look for in the health exams?

The medical exam generally collects your height, weight, blood pressure, urine sample and blood sample. These results, along with your age, gender, family health history and answers to health questions, will determine what rate class you fit in.

Your agent or insurance company should explain what criteria determine the class into which you fall. Find out more about taking a life insurance medical exam.

If you don’t qualify for the preferred rate today, you might be able to improve your rate category if certain health factors improve. For example, say a 35-year old woman buys a life insurance policy. She is 50 pounds overweight, has high blood pressure and is trying to quit smoking. Two years later, her policy is still in force and she has lost 50 pounds, her blood pressure is normal and she has been nicotine-free for a year. She could talk with her agent about possibly getting a re-evaluation of her rates.

If the medical evaluation showed a new health condition for which she would be classified into an even higher rate category, she would remain at her current rate.

The insurance company will not reclassify you into a higher rate bracket during a re-evaluation.

Who can be a beneficiary of life insurance?

If you own the policy, then you can name whoever you want as the beneficiary.

While many people choose only their spouse, it is possible to name more than one person as a beneficiary. For example, if you have a $100,000 individual life insurance policy, you could name your spouse and four children to share in the policy equally at $20,000 each.

Is my life insurance beneficiary automatically my spouse?

Usually not. Life insurance companies typically write a check to whoever is named on the policy as a beneficiary. Sometimes that could be an ex-spouse if the policy owner didn’t change beneficiaries after getting divorced.

A spouse has no automatic right to life insurance money except in states with community-property laws. In those states, a spouse might be entitled to a portion of the benefit. Find those community-property states listed here.

Can I get a life insurance policy on anyone?

Yes, but only if you have an “insurable interest” in that person. That means you would suffer financially if that person passed away.

This usually means a spouse, domestic partner, live-in companion,  business partner or parent. You can’t buy a policy on a random neighbor, for example.

Can you get life insurance on someone without them knowing?

Although there are certain exceptions in some states (a husband or wife, for example, may be able to purchase insurance on his or her spouse), the answer to the question generally is “no.” You cannot take out an insurance policy on someone else’s life without his or her knowledge and consent.

Read more about how difficult it would be to take out a secret life insurance policy.

How do life insurance policies work? Can they cancel each other out?

No. Upon your death (assuming you have paid all the necessary premiums), both policies will pay out to the beneficiaries named. A person could have multiple policies.

However, life insurers will become suspicious if you are buying several policies without showing the need for them.

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Les Masterson


Les, a former managing editor, insurance, at QuinStreet, has more than 20 years of experience in journalism. In his career, he has covered everything from health insurance to presidential politics.