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Life Insurance is an arrangement or a long-term contract between the life insurer and the policyholder. It guarantees compensation on loss of life within the term of the plan, in return for a specified premium. The beneficiary/nominee whose name has been mentioned in the contract gets a specific sum called sum assured from the insurer, on death of the policyholder, within the term of the plan.

A Life Insurance Plan gives adequate security to your family on an unexpected demise. Money can never compensate the loss of a loved one. But, there’s no need for your family to suffer financially. You enjoy peace of mind knowing your family is secure.


Why Life Insurance?

Your family enjoys financial security in your absence. Your wife gets the money to meet daily expenses and pay back loans like home loan, car loan and any other liability. Your children enjoy a quality education and there’s money for their marriage.

  • Life Insurance is a contingency plan for death and family’s financial security.
  • Life Insurance must be availed for risk protection. Your family gets the money on an unexpected demise.
  • Life Insurance also has savings and investment plans. They invest your money in equity or fixed income.
  • The loan facility is available against Life Insurance Plans. You can assign the Life Insurance Plan and take a loan against it.
  • Life Insurance enjoys tax benefits. You get tax deductions under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act up to Rs 1.5 Lakhs a year.
  • Life insurers offer annuity plans for retirement. Annuity plans give you regular income after retirement.

The policyholder gets the following benefits from Life Insurance Plans :

  • Term insurance plans are pure risk cover. The death benefit is paid only on the death of the insured within the term of the plan. There are no survival benefits.
  • The survival benefit is paid by endowment life plans at maturity. These plans combine savings and protection.

Terms of Life Insurance


Insured : This is the person whose life in being insured under the Life Insurance Plan. If the person availing the plan is different from the person being insured, the buyer is the proposer of the plan. The proposer must have an insurable interest in the person being insured under the plan.


Term of the contract : This is the time period of the Life Insurance Plan or the period when Life Insurance is available. The life insurer specifies an upper age limit (maximum age), when the term of the policy ends.


Sum assured : The amount being insured is the sum assured of the Life Insurance Plan. According to IRDA regulations, life insurers with terms of more than 10 years must provide a minimum sum assured of at least 10 times annual premium for people below 45 years of age and 7 times for those above 45 years of age.


How is the sum assured paid?

The payment of sum assured takes place on death of the policyholder or expiry of the policy term. The mode of payment of the sum assured is either through a lump sum or in periodic installments. This is specified under the contract.


Premium paid : The premium paid depends on sum assured. Premiums could be monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually and is clearly mentioned in the contract. Some Life Insurance Plans have a single premium paid at the start of the plan. A grace period is provided for delayed premium payments. You can revive the Life Insurance policy within the time frame specified by the life insurer, on payment of pending premiums + penalties.


Bonus in Life Insurance

Life insurers periodically announce a bonus, as a percentage of the sum assured. This amount is added to the sum assured and paid to the policyholder on maturity of the plan. This amount is paid on maturity or in case of death within the term of the plan, the sum assured + accrued bonus is paid by the insurer.


Types of bonuses under Life Insurance


Guaranteed Bonus : Guaranteed bonus is paid as a percentage of the sum assured. It’s paid for the first few years of the Life Insurance Plan, say 5 years. The guaranteed bonus is received at the end of the term of the plan.


Reversionary bonus : An insurer declares a reversionary bonus, if it performs well. This bonus is completely at the discretion of the insurer. This bonus is declared after the completion of the guaranteed bonus period and is applicable only on participating policies.


What is surrender of a Life Insurance Plan?

If you surrender the Life Insurance Plan before the full term of the plan is completed, you get a portion of the money paid in premiums, after certain charges are deducted.If you decide to terminate the Life Insurance Plan before maturity, the insurer pays you (policyholder), what is known as the surrender value.

A surrender charge is deducted which varies across Life Insurance Plans. You can surrender traditional Life Insurance Plans. These are whole Life Insurance Plans, money back plans or endowment plans. Life insurers cannot levy surrender charges if you terminate the plan after 5 years as per IRDA rules and guidelines.


Types of surrender value


Guaranteed surrender value


You get guaranteed surrender value only after paying at least 2-3 annual premiums. If the premium paying term is less than 10 years, your Life Insurance Plan acquires a surrender value after paying two annual premiums. If the premium paying term is more than 10 years, your Life Insurance Plan acquires a surrender value after paying three annual premiums.

If you surrender the Life Insurance Plan after 3 years, the life insurer has to pay at least 30% of the total premiums, excluding the premiums paid for the first year. Any additional premium paid for riders and bonus that you have received from the insurer, is excluded.

  • If you terminate the Life Insurance Plan after 4-7 years, you get 50% of premiums paid.
  • If you surrender the Life Insurance Plan in the last two policy years, you get up to 90% of the premiums paid.

Special Surrender Value


This surrender value depends on sum assured, term of the plan, premiums paid on the plan and bonuses. You can calculate special surrender value by

Special surrender value = Surrender Value of the Life Insurance Plan = [{(Number of premiums paid on the plan / Number of premiums payable on the plan) X Sum Assured of the plan} + Accumulated Bonus on the plan] X Surrender Value Factor.

The Surrender value factor is basically a percentage of Paid-up value + bonus.


What are paid-up insurance policies?

If you stop paying premiums on your Life Insurance Plan after a certain time/period, your Life Insurance policy continues, but with a lower sum assured. This happens for Life Insurance Plans which invest a part of your money for savings/investments.

The Paid-Up Value of Life Insurance = (Number of premiums paid by the policyholder X Sum Assured) / Total number of premiums.

Let’s understand this with an example:

You have availed a Life Insurance Plan with a sum assured of Rs 15 Lakhs. The policy term is 20 years. You have paid premiums for 5 years and then stopped paying premiums. What is the paid-up value of the policy?

Paid-up Value = 15,00,000 * 5 / 20 = Rs 3,75,000.

Insurance cover continues till death of the policyholder or end of the policy term, whichever is earlier. Insurance cover is reduced to paid-up value. The paid-up policy also receives a proportionate bonus. You can avail loans against paid-up insurance plans.


Types of Life Insurance Plans

Term Life Insurance


Term Life Insurance is pure risk cover. You pay a premium for a sum assured (This is specific cover under the plan) for a specific tenure. If the policyholder dies within the term of the plan, nominees get the sum assured called death benefit. This plan has no survival benefits.

Term Life Insurance Plans have low premiums as they are pure risk plans. They offer protection only in the event of death. These plans have no maturity value.

The 3 key factors of term Life Insurance :

  • Sum assured
  • Premium to be paid by the insured
  • Term of coverage

These factors define a term Life Insurance Plan. The term can be a year or more than one year. The premium may be constant or could change with time. The policy holder’s life is insured for a specific term. If the policyholder dies within the term of the plan, nominees get the death benefit. Term life plans have no survival benefits.


Term life plans have several variants


Increasing cover term plans : With increasing cover term plans the sum assured increases by a certain percentage each year. An increasing sum assured helps beat inflation. The increment stops after a certain limit.

Decreasing cover term plans : This is the opposite of the increasing cover term plan. The decreasing term Life Insurance policy reduces your sum assured each year. The decreasing term life plan, addresses various needs at different life stages.

Term insurance plan with return of premium or TROP : The premium is higher than pure term life plans. This is because if you (policyholder) survive the term of the plan, the premiums paid are returned.


Endowment Life Insurance Plans


Endowment Life Insurance Plans have a savings feature. You get a lump sum at maturity. This is the sum assured + any accrued bonus. On death of the policyholder within the term, you get sum assured + accrued bonus. Endowment Life Insurance Plans have tenure ranging from 5-30 years.

You also have the non-participating/no profit version of the endowment Life Insurance Plan. These plans have much lower premium than participating plans. Endowment Life Insurance Plans offer survival benefits unlike term life plans. You enjoy guaranteed and reversionary bonuses on endowment plans. Some Endowment Life Insurance Plans offer the compounded reversionary bonus. The bonus amount is added to the sum assured when it’s declared. Subsequent bonuses are calculated on the enhanced sum assured.


Money Back Plans


Money back Life Insurance Plans are a type of endowment Life Insurance Plan. They not only cover the life of the policyholder across the term, they also pay up a certain percentage of the sum assured as cash payments, at regular intervals within the term of the plan. Money back plans have the added advantage of life cover and regular cash inflow. Money back Life Insurance Plans are participating plans, where the sum assured + accrued bonuses are paid. Money back plans offer low returns.


Whole Life Insurance


Whole Life Insurance offers Life Insurance cover across the entire life of the insured (policyholder), or up to a maximum age specified by the insurer, whichever is earlier. You have to pay the premiums in time, to avail the benefits of whole Life Insurance. Whole Life Insurance also has the shorter premium payment option and the return of premium plan. The whole Life Insurance offers guaranteed additions along with the bonus if any, added to the sum assured. The whole Life Insurance offers guaranteed death benefits and guaranteed cash value among others. Whole Life Insurance is excellent for estate planning as it helps leave a legacy behind. Sadly, Whole Life Insurance doesn’t offer high returns unlike some saving plans.


Unit Linked Insurance Plans


Unit Linked Insurance Plans or ULIPs is a Life Insurance Plan which offers insurance + investment. ULIPs help you earn market-linked returns by investing a part of the premium either in equity or debt (fixed income). ULIPs offer returns in-line with the performance of the market. Part of the ULIP premium is used for mortality cover (life cover) and the remaining amount is invested in equity or debt or a mix of both.

The performance of the ULIP depends on the returns from the investment. The risk and return from the ULIP depends on the fund the ULIP invests. You can choose the fund mix based on a comfortable asset allocation.


Switching of ULIPs


If you avail ULIPs, part of the premium is used for mortality cover and the remaining is invested in equity or debt funds. You have the choice to move between funds called switching. ULIPs give you the option of Fund Switch.
If you are not happy with the returns from the ULIP, switch from debt fund to equity fund. If you want steady returns from the ULIP, switch from equity fund to debt fund.


Fund switch option in ULIP

  • Register for the fund switch option in ULIPs with the website of the life insurer. You can also do this online with the help of the Life Insurance agent and have the form delivered to your residence.
  • Fill the form and the Life Insurance agent submits it to the Life Insurance branch.
  • Attach a self-attested photo identity proof like passport, Aadhaar Card, PAN Card or Driving License along with the form.

Why switch ULIPs?


ULIPs offer an opportunity to earn high returns from the investment with the fund switch option. Let’s say 65% of your premium was invested in debt and 35% in equity. If the stock market is doing well, you can switch part of the funds from debt to equity. If you feel stock markets are going down, switch from equity to debt. You can also make the switch based on life stages.


How ULIPs work?


Part of the premium is for mortality cover and the remaining is invested in your fund of choice. You have the allocation rate which is basically the portion of premium invested. The allocation rate is low in the initial years as charges are high. It increases in the subsequent years. ULIPs offer the top-up option where you make additional premium payments. These are invested in funds after the assignment of the mandatory risk cover.

ULIPs offer both death and maturity benefit. When ULIPs mature (at maturity of ULIPs), the policyholder gets the value of the fund on that date. This value is the number of units credited to the policyholder, multiplied by the NAV of the ULIP on that date. If the policyholder dies within the term of the plan, the life insurer pays the sum assured, higher of sum assured and fund value or both sum assured + fund value, depending on the terms of the ULIP plan. ULIPs may offer guaranteed bonus in the initial years or loyalty bonus at the end of the plan.


Important Charges in ULIPs


1.Premium Allocation Charges
Premium allocation charges are deducted as a fixed percentage on premiums. Premium allocation charges are high during the initial years of the plan. Premium allocation charges include initial/renewal expenses and commission expenses.

2.Mortality charges
Mortality charges depend on sum assured, age and are deducted each month. Mortality charges depend on the fund you have chosen.

3.Fund Management charge
The insurer charges a fund management fee to manage ULIP funds. Fund management fees are deducted before calculating NAV. Fund management fees are adjusted from NAV each day. The maximum fund management fees are 1.35% of the fund value. They are charged each day. Insurers charge higher fund management fees for equity funds vis-à-vis debt funds.

4.Policy administration charge
These fees are charged for administration of the policy. Policy administration fees are charged each month.

5.Fund switch charge
If you switch between funds in ULIPs, you incur fund switch charges. You enjoy a limited number of free fund switches each year. Subsequent switches beyond the free limit are charged at Rs 100 or Rs 250 a switch.


Riders on Life Insurance


1.Accidental death benefit rider


In accidental death benefit rider, the life insurer pays sum assured + rider benefit to the nominees of the plan, if the policyholder dies in an accident. The percentage of accidental death benefit rider sum assured is calculated on the original sum assured and varies across life insurers. Some insurers have a cap on maximum sum assured.


2.Accelerated death benefit rider


If you avail accelerated death benefit rider, your family gets a part of the sum assured if you/policyholder suffer from a terminal illness. This money comes in handy to meet medical expenses of the illness. This rider specifies how much of the sum assured is payable in advance.


3.Critical Illness rider


If you avail the critical Illness rider along with Life Insurance Plan, you/policyholder get a lump sum on diagnosis of critical illness like cancer, stroke, heart attack or kidney failure. Treatment for critical illnesses can be expensive. A critical illness rider can easily tide over high costs of medical treatment. After detection of a critical illness, the policy may continue or get terminated.


4.Accidental disability benefit rider


If a policyholder is partially or permanently disabled in an accident, the accidental disability benefit rider comes into play. The rider pays a certain percentage of the sum assured to the disabled policyholder for a period of 5-10 years after the disability caused in the accident. The policyholder and his family can live on this income. The rider comes into play only for disabilities caused in an accident.


5.Waiver of premium rider


The waiver of premium rider is very important if you are unable to pay future premiums due to disability/income loss. The life insurer waives off future premiums, while the policy continues to remain active. This is just like insuring premiums payments on Life Insurance Plans, till the expiry of the policy. What happens if you don’t avail waiver of premium riders? Well, the policy will expire as you cannot pay the premiums. Your family won’t get the death benefits under Life Insurance.


6.Income Benefit Rider


The income benefit rider offers regular income in case of demise/disability of the policyholder. The rider pays monthly income on death of the insured for a period of 5-10 years along with the sum assured.


Loan against Life Insurance Plan

You can avail loan against endowment Life Insurance, ULIPs and Money Back Plans. Premiums must be paid for at least 3 years on these Life Insurance Plans to avail loan against Life Insurance Plan. Term Life Insurance Plans have no surrender value and are not eligible for loan against Life Insurance Plan.


Why loan against Life Insurance Plan?

  • Banks don’t check credit score before sanctioning loan against Life Insurance Plan.
  • Lower interest rate than personal loans.
  • Minimal documentation and quick loan disbursement.

Interest rate on loan against Life Insurance


Interest rates on loan against Life Insurance are around 10-14% and depend on Life Insurance Plan and loan tenure.


Loan amount


You get around 80-90% of surrender value as loan against Life Insurance Plan. You get 40% of the NAV as a loan for equity-oriented ULIPs and 50% of the NAV as a loan for debt-oriented ULIPs.


Documents for loan against Life Insurance

  • Fill the loan application form.
  • Submit the original insurance policy document.
  • Submit payment receipt for loan amount and a copy of the cancelled cheque.
  • Deed of assignment : Assign the policy in favor of the institution or insurer. The policy serves as collateral. The policy holder must execute the assignment and endorse the policy document. (This is transfer of Life Insurance title till loan is repaid). The policyholder must pay all future premiums.

Processing fees


The insurer charges a nominal processing fee for disbursing the loan against Life Insurance.




You don’t need to pay the principal as long as you are regular with interest payments. The principal outstanding is deducted from policy value at maturity or claim. If you don’t pay premiums on the Life Insurance Plan or default on repayment, the policy lapses. The insurer recovers dues from the surrender value of the policy. On repayment of the loan, the insurer reassigns the Life Insurance Plan through an endorsement.


Free-look in Life Insurance


You have a 15 day free-look period from the date of receipt of the Life Insurance policy documents. You can cancel the policy within this period and get a refund, if you are not happy with terms and conditions. Only Life Insurance Plans enjoy the free-look period. Health insurance plans which have the free-look period must have term of at least three years.


How to cancel Life Insurance Plan within free-look period?


If you are not satisfied with the terms and conditions of the Life Insurance Plan, communicate the intention of cancelling this in writing, within the free-look period. Life insurers have a standard form for cancelling the Life Insurance Plan. State the policy details, receipt date of policy documents, agent details and reason for cancellation.

The insurer processes your request and refunds the premium after deducting stamp duty charges, medical examination fees which had been incurred by the insurer, pro-rated risk premium for the period of cover. You will have to prove the date of receipt of policy documents. For online Life Insurance Plans, the free-look period is 30 days.


Related Articles



How much sum assured should I take in Life Insurance?


Avail Life Insurance for risk protection. The sum assured must be sufficient to meet the financial needs of your family on an unexpected demise. It must cover all liabilities like a home loan or a car loan. Never go by the figures like “Take Life Insurance of 1 Crore”. Avail Life Insurance based on your family’s daily expenses, financial goals and liabilities like major loans. This could even mean a sum assured of more than a crore.


What is Life Insurance with maturity benefits?


A Life Insurance Plan with maturity benefits is a double advantage plan. Your family gets the death benefit on an untimely demise within the term of the plan. You get the survival or maturity benefit on surviving the term of the plan. This is the sum assured and all bonuses which accrue under the plan. It’s great to know that most people survive the term of the plan. Endowment plans and ULIPs are popular Life Insurance Plans with maturity benefits.


What should be the tenure of Life Insurance?


Should the tenure be 10 years, 15 years, 20 years or 25 years? Well the answer is simple. The term Life Insurance Plan should secure your dependents till they are financially independent. Avail term Life Insurance across your working life.


Can I change the duration of my Life Insurance Plan?


No, you cannot change the duration of the Life Insurance Plan.


Does Life Insurance premium change during the tenure of the plan?


No, the premium remains constant across the term of the Life Insurance Plan.


Why is Life Insurance premium higher for a smoker than a non-smoker?


The smoker is more likely to suffer a critical illness and smoking-related diseases and die at a young age. The life insurer has to bear this risk. This results in higher premiums on Life Insurance.


Should an occasional smoker declare himself as a tobacco user?


If you have smoked in the last year, declare yourself as a tobacco user. The insurer conducts a thorough investigation before settling the claim. Even an occasional smoker must declare the habit or the claim of your family may be denied.


How does an insurer declare you as a smoker while availing online Life Insurance?


A life insurer categorizes a smoker into 3 categories.

  • A smoker who is fit is called a preferred smoker.
  • A smoker with minor health issues is a typical smoker.
  • A smoker with major health issues is a table rated smoker.

A person smoking occasionally or regularly in the past few months is classified as a smoker by the insurer. You have to make a declaration as a smoker/non smoker in the proposal form while availing Life Insurance. Medical tests can detect even small amounts of nicotine in your blood or urine. If you give a false declaration, the insurer would reject your family’s claim.


What if I become an NRI after purchasing the Life Insurance Plan?


The Life Insurance Plan continues even after you become an NRI. You have to intimate the insurer on this change or the term life plan won’t be valid for the first 2 years. Update KYC as an NRI on all existing Life Insurance Plans. If you don’t do this you can’t renew existing Life Insurance Plans purchased when you were an Indian resident.


Are terror attacks covered under Life Insurance?


Some insurers cover death due to a terrorist attack. On death of the policyholder within the term in a terror attack, nominees get the death benefit.


Why buy an Accidental Death Benefit plan if accidental death is covered under Life Insurance?


Yes, Life Insurance covers death in an accident. If you have the Accidental Death Benefit plan, nominees enjoy an additional payout.


Can I take term life plan for spouse?


Yes, you can avail term life plan on the life of your spouse. On an early demise, you get the death benefit under the plan. This serves as income replacement (in case of a working wife) and money can be used for children’s education and marriage.


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