There is a common misconception between the terms ‘life assurance’ and ‘life insurance’, with many people thinking they are synonymous. However, there is a distinct difference between the two.
Assurance is something with is ‘assured’ to happen; i.e. in this case; your death. Therefore, a life assurance policy pays out ‘when’ you die, not ‘if’ you die. Life assurance policies usually have some investment element to them so that they build in value over time. Because of this, it is usually more expensive than a life insurance policy.
Life insurance, on the other hand, is based on something which might happen (again, your death); but during a specific time period. Life insurance policies are therefore for a fixed term and are often purchased to cover another financial product such as a mortgage or a loan. In other words, should you die during the life policy period, which will often coincide with the period of the loan/mortgage, then there will be a pay out. If you outlive the policy, there is no residual value at all – it can’t be cashed in.
A life insurance or assurance policy is often entered into (and is normally a requirement) when you take out a mortgage. This means that should you die before the mortgage is paid off; the life insurance lump sum is used to pay off the remaining mortgage. You can often get a much better deal on life insurance by shopping around than direct from your mortgage provider.
Decreasing life insurance cover is often used for the term of a repayment mortgage or loan over a fixed period of time. As the amount payable decreases, so does the life cover available.
Employees are sometimes offered some form of life assurance as part of an employer sponsored pension arrangement. This can be a very valuable benefit, but is becoming more and more uncommon.
For both types of life policy, you normally pay a regular premium to the insurer, and in return, on your death, they pay out a lump sum to your beneficiaries i.e spouse etc.
Life assurance pays out in the form of a lump sum and usually has some form of investment value attached to it. This is because the value of the policy is expected to increase over time. Most life companies will offer life assurance as well as life insurance, but life assurance can often be more expensive.
Of course, the type of life assurance or insurance policy you take out and the premiums can vary widely, so it is always sensible to get a comparison. It is best to shop around to see what cover there is available and which type better suits your needs and personal circumstances.