Statistics show that most of all, term life insurance policies will never pay out a death benefit. Although this may sound extremely alarming, there is a justifiable reason behind this statistic. It should absolutely not discourage you from buying a term life insurance policy, as we will explain why.
Term policies are temporary life insurance contracts lasting 10, 20, 30, or 40 years. Even at the minimum term contract length of 10 years, that can be a whole lot of time for life, budgets, and household priorities to change.
As a result, it’s easy for a life insurance policy to get lost in daily life, resulting in a missed payment and causing the term policy to lapse and never payout.
While a lapsed term life insurance policy is guaranteed not to pay out a death benefit, it is only a small example of why most term insurance plans will never payout. The primary reason term policies don’t pay out is simple: most policyholders will outlive their term length.
As mentioned, term insurance plans are built using contract lengths. They are temporary life insurance plans available to most people between the ages of 18 and 80. A large majority of the people who purchase term insurance are often within the age group between the ages of 20 and 50.
The 20-50 age group represents a large group of people within their working years, have accumulated a large portion of debt such as a mortgage, and often have a family with young children. These factors tend to result in a high need for financial protection.
This age group can often get great term insurance rates because of their young age and good health, putting them at a low risk of dying during the contract length. As a rule, life insurance underwriters are correct in that assessment and, therefore, is the main reason why term insurance is affordable.
Life insurance is an important piece of financial planning. It can provide security to your family and give you the comfort of knowing your family will have a financial foundation if something happens to you. It’s also one purchase you hope never to have to use.
That leaves a big question for people who purchase a term insurance policy and outlive their contract length.
What happens now?
You actually have a few options when your term policy is coming to an end. You can convert your policy, renew it annually, or purchase an entirely new policy.
In this article, we have broken down the three most common renewal options for you. If your term policy is about to end, or you want to pre-plan for the future, read on to learn about your options at the end of your term policy.
How Term Life Insurance Pays Out
When you purchase a term insurance policy, you have to choose a contract length and a coverage amount referred to as the death benefit.
The premiums you pay during your policy term go towards your own potential death benefit and the death benefit of everyone else the life insurance company covers.
Any death benefits that the insurance company pays out are taken from the money amassed from premiums paid by all policyholders. That’s how life insurance companies can offer such large coverage amounts for low premiums.
As an example of how this works, let’s say you have a $500,000, 20-year term policy that you pay $30 a month for. So over the course of 20 years, you’d pay the life insurance company $7,200. That’s only about .14 percent of your death benefit amount.
The life insurance company wouldn’t be able to pay out your death benefit on your premiums alone. However, if thousands of policyholders all pay their premiums, and only around one percent of those policyholders die during the course of their policy, the life insurance company will have more than enough to payout those policies.
This is also why your premiums aren’t returnable or refundable in most cases. Unlike a savings account or an investment portfolio, the premiums you pay in a term policy don’t build up or earn interest. You can’t access them or use them for anything else. Instead, you’re paying for pure death benefit protection that will only payout in the event of your death.
However, the end of your term doesn’t have to be the end of your life insurance coverage or even the end of that specific policy. You have several options when your term policy is nearing its end. The right option for you will depend on your specific circumstances.
Making a Coverage Decision When a Term Life Insurance Policy Ends
When your term insurance policy is coming to an end, the first thing to consider is your current need for life insurance. After all, at least a decade’s worth of time will have passed since you first took out your policy.
That means your life insurance coverage needs may have changed too.
So, just as when you first bought your term life insurance plan, you’ll need to sit down and reevaluate your overall financial needs to determine if your life insurance needs will need to be adjusted.
It’s important to revisit all the reasons you had for getting coverage in the first place so you can see if they still apply to your current needs.
This often includes considerations such as:
- Do you have dependents that are supported by your income?
- Have your children become financially independent?
- Is your mortgage completely paid off?
- Do you have any other large debts?
- Do you have a small business or other financial responsibility?
- Do you have enough savings for a funeral or other end-of-life expenses?
If any of the above financial obligations are still present after your term life insurance policy has ended, there’s a good chance you may still require life insurance protection. Depending on how many of these financial obligations are still present can influence your next step.
If you only have a few smaller financial obligations left after your term policy has ended, you might be able to get a smaller life insurance policy such as a final expense whole life insurance plan. These are smaller whole life insurance plans that can offer a maximum death benefit amount of generally $50,000 or less.
They are perfect for older applicants who do not require a large amount of coverage and who are mostly focused on having life insurance coverage to help pay for end-of-life expenses such as funeral costs or smaller debts.
Best of all, final expense insurance does not require a medical exam. Instead, approval is primarily based on answers to health questions listed within the life insurance application.
If your financial obligations have stayed the same or are still relatively high, you might need to stay at your current level of coverage and determine how long those obligations are expected to last. From there, you can determine an appropriate contract length to go with your coverage amount.
What happens if you no longer need life insurance coverage?
When your term life insurance policy ends, you may find that you no longer need life insurance coverage which is very common. If dependents are financially independent and debts are minimal, you might have the personal savings you need to cover your final expenses.
If this is your situation, you can simply let your term insurance policy end. You can pay your last few premiums, but you won’t need to take any other actions.
Your coverage will end when your policy does. Remember, once a term life insurance policy ends, there is no value. Term insurance is pure death benefit coverage only which is what keeps the life insurance coverage so affordable.
It’s important to note that having coverage in place is the best idea for most people. This is because the money you set aside in your will, such as savings accounts, could go through a lengthy probate process before it is paid out to your intended recipients.
That may leave your family scrambling to pay the costs of your funeral or final medical bills. However, a life insurance policy in place will pay the death benefit out to whomever you have listed as a beneficiary on your policy and avoid a potentially lengthy hang-up with probate.
As soon as the life insurance company processes the death claim, the beneficiary is paid the life insurance death benefit directly.
3 Key Options To An Expiring Term Life Insurance Policy
If you have a current term life insurance policy or are considering buying a term life insurance policy soon, at some point, it’s going to end. The following portion of this article will focus on the top three options you can take if you still require life insurance coverage when your term insurance contract ends.
Options for when you outlive your term life insurance policy
|Conversion Option||Annual Renewable Option||Buy New Coverage Option|
|Underwriting:||Approval is guaranteed||Approval is guaranteed||Can be turned down for approval|
|Medical Exam:||Not Requried||Not Requried||May be required for some|
|Premiums:||Will remain the same over the life of the policy||Will increase with each new policy year||Will remain the same until the contract has expired|
|Coverage Type:||Permanent||Term insurance||Choice or term or permanent|
|Overall Cost:||Much more expensive than term insurance rates||Can become very expensive with each new policy year||Most affordable option|
Option #1 - Converting An Expiring Term Insurance Policy
Most term insurance policies offer a built-in policy provision called a term conversion. This option allows the policy owner to convert their existing term insurance coverage to a permanent life insurance product, such as universal life or a whole life insurance plan offered by the insurance company.
The greatest benefit of having a conversion option is that it allows you to convert your entire term insurance policy without going through any new medical underwriting. There are no medical exams or health questions required, and approval is guaranteed. That means you can get coverage even if your health has declined since the start of your term policy.
In fact, most policyholders that choose to convert their existing term insurance plan often choose to do so when they have experienced a health change that would prevent them from qualifying for a new life insurance policy.
As mentioned, when you convert your term insurance to permanent coverage, it is likely to switch to either whole life insurance, universal life insurance, or another permanent plan offered by the insurance company. The conversion options available will vary depending on the company and should be outlined within the actual term insurance contract you receive after the policy has been active.
Although a term conversion offers a guaranteed acceptance to permanent life insurance coverage, it is important to view any potential disqualification factors listed within the term contract under the conversion section of the policy.
For example, insurance companies generally limit the option to convert a term insurance policy up until the very end of the level contract period or up to a certain age. As a result, most conversions must be elected by the end of the level term period or by age 70, whichever occurs first.
Choosing to convert your existing term insurance policy to a whole or universal life policy means your coverage will last for the rest of your life, no matter how long that is. It also means your policy will likely gain a savings component as most permanent life insurance plans offer a cash value account built into the policy.
When you pay your premiums, part of the money goes toward your death benefit, and part goes toward your cash-value account. Over time, the cash value builds where you can make withdrawals from the cash value account if needed.
Advantages of Converting Term Insurance
There are many benefits to converting an existing term life insurance policy:
- Approval is guaranteed
- You don’t need to go through medical underwriting
- You keep your originally approved rate classification
- You can decide to convert some or all of your coverage amount
- Your coverage will last for the rest of your life
Skipping the medical exam and keeping your original life insurance rate class is one top reason to convert your policy.
For example, let’s say you were in excellent health when you applied for your term policy and qualified for the top rate classification of preferred plus. However, you develop a few chronic health issues over the years of having your term insurance policy.
If you choose to convert your policy, you’ll be able to keep your preferred plus rate class despite your age and health. That means it could be one of the best ways to get coverage if your health has declined.
Disadvantages of Converting Term Insurance
There are a few disadvantages to converting your term policy to consider:
- Generally limited to age 70 or less
- Your premiums will go up
- You’ll be limited to the coverage options offered by your conversion rider
- You might need to convert your policy within a set time frame
While you will keep your original rate class, that doesn’t mean you’ll keep your original price. Whole life insurance and universal life insurance policies can cost anywhere from four to fifteen times more than the cost of a term insurance policy.
Although you will pay a higher price for permanent life insurance coverage, it could end up being cheaper than applying for a completely new whole or universal life insurance policy.
This is because you are carrying over your originally approved rate class from the term insurance plan. So if you have had a change in your health and decided that after your term life insurance ends, you would like a permanent plan, you can choose to convert your coverage rather than go through the entire underwriting process and potentially receive a higher rate class.
To reduce the cost of a converted term insurance policy, you can always choose to reduce your death benefit amount to a lesser amount than the term insurance policy.
In most cases, you are not required to convert the full death benefit of the term insurance policy. As a result, your coverage amount will be less, but you’ll still have the advantages of converting your policy to a permanent plan.
You should always review the rules and limits of your conversion rider if you’re thinking about taking this option. You’ll need to make a choice while your policy is still active, and some companies might require you to make that call early in the life of your policy.
Most term conversions need to be elected either before the end of the level term length or before reaching age 70. Some companies may limit the conversion up to age 65, while others will offer to age 75.
It’s a good idea to call your insurance company at least a year before your policy term ends to make sure you know how the conversion rider will work and how much it will cost to switch to permanent coverage.
Option #2 - Switch To An Annual Renewable Term Life Insurance Policy
When your term insurance contract ends, it really doesn’t. What is ending is the level premium period of the term insurance contract. Most term life insurance policies include a guaranteed renewability feature good up to a specific age.
That means that you can choose to extend your term insurance policy, generally on a year-to-year basis, also known as an annual renewable term or ART policy.
Just like converting your policy, you can renew your term policy without reapplying or taking a new medical exam. You can keep your benefit amount, and your coverage will be guaranteed generally to age 90 or 95, again depending on the provider.
However, there are some definite drawbacks to renewing your term policy on an annual basis. The primary drawback is that while you’ll be able to keep your coverage, you won’t keep the same premiums that you were paying throughout the duration of the original contract.
Your premiums will go up substantially after your original term length ends. Plus, since you’ll be renewing year-to-year, your premiums will only be guaranteed for a year at a time. So each anniversary year on the date you originally purchased your term policy, your premiums will continue to climb every year you choose to renew the policy.
There are times when this can make a lot of sense to keep paying on an expired term insurance policy. As an example, let’s say your 20-year-policy is ending. Unfortunately, you’ve had a major medical setback, and your life expectancy has drastically been reduced to a few years. In this scenario, you might want to continue to renew your policy.
While the premiums will be expensive, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to get new coverage with your current health status. Plus, your premiums could stay relatively manageable because you would only be renewing your policy for a few years, and your death benefit will remain the same as it was during the level period contract length.
Your policy will spell out how renewability works and how much you can expect to pay. The insurance company will generally let you know roughly two months before the annual policy anniversary date as to the new premium for the following year.
If you can pay those premiums for a few years, renewal can be worth it in certain cases. But, of course, before you commit to even a year of a renewed policy, it’s always a good idea to get some quotes for other policies. You might be able to find more affordable coverage, even if your health has declined since the start of your original term insurance contract.
Choosing to renew an expired term policy can be a good idea if you have suffered a major health change that would affect your chances of getting a new policy, but it’s not the only reason to keep paying on an expired term contract.
In many cases, policyholders may choose to keep paying on an expired term contract because they only need extended coverage for a couple of more years.
Keep in mind that most term contract lengths begin at 10-year durations. So, if you only have financial obligations that will be present for a few years after your term contract has expired, it might be worth it to keep paying on the expired term.
Option #3 - Buy A New Term Life Insurance Policy
When a term life insurance policy ends and life insurance coverage is still needed, in many cases, simply buying a new life insurance policy will be the best option for many people.
Shopping for a new policy can seem overwhelming, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from exploring this option. Although you’ll need to fill out a new application, undergo new underwriting, and possibly take a new medical exam, this route can be the simplest and, in many cases, the most affordable one.
A major benefit of buying a new policy is cost. If you’re still in relatively good health, this will be the least expensive option. Even if you have a few pre-existing health conditions, you will likely be able to get a new term insurance policy and pay less than converting to permanent or choosing to pay expired term insurance rates.
You can reduce the price even more if it’s determined that you don’t require as much death benefit protection as you originally had on the term insurance coverage that will be ending.
For example, let’s say that you’re in your 60s and your 30-year policy is ending. You’re getting ready for retirement, your children live on their own, and your mortgage is paid. In these circumstances, you might need a much smaller policy than the original term policy.
You could purchase a new term policy with a lower face value. For example, many life insurance companies offer death benefits on term insurance plans as low as $25,000. That can keep your premiums low.
Of course, if your health has declined significantly, it might be hard to get a policy. So it’s a good idea to start shopping around before your policy expires. You can start to get quotes and see what type of policy and amount of coverage your health and budget allow you to purchase.
Options for a New Life Insurance Policy
When your term life insurance ends, you will find out that you have more than a few options to choose from to purchase a new life insurance policy. You can stick with the exact type of term policy ending or explore other options based on your current needs.
Be sure to weigh out all your coverage options:
Traditional term policies – If you already have a traditional term life insurance policy, you’re already familiar with how the life insurance coverage works. You choose a contract length and an amount of coverage that works for your current circumstances and budget. Your life insurance may require you to take a medical exam to get a new policy, but it will likely be the cheapest option for new life insurance coverage.
No exam term policies – You don’t always have to take a medical exam to get a policy from a top life insurance company. A non-medical exam term life insurance policy allows you to get coverage without going through the traditional medical exam requirements. Instead, you’ll answer medical questions on your application, and the insurance company’s underwriting will check against third-party databases to provide an accelerated non-medical underwriting experience. This is a great option for those under 65 and who require $1,000,000 or less in coverage.
Instant decision policies – Like no exam policies, you can get an instant decision policy without a medical exam. Instead, you’ll fill out an online application and get a decision for coverage in minutes. In some cases, you might have a quick phone interview. The coverage amounts available with instant decisions aren’t as high as what’s available with standard terms, but they might be enough to cover your needs. Plus, your coverage will start right away, making instant term policies a good choice if your term policy is about to end.
Life insurance policies with living benefits – Life insurance provides financial protection in the form of a death benefit payable to a beneficiary when the insured has passed away. The valuable death benefit protection life insurance offers can replace a deceased spouse’s income, help pay for daily living expenses, and cover debts placed on surviving family members. However, many newer life insurance plans can also provide financial protection if you become sick with a critical or chronic illness. If you’re looking for a new life insurance policy, you must look into a policy that can offer living benefits.
Return of premium life insurance policies – Term life insurance does not build cash value. However, there is a form of term life insurance that can refund 100% of every premium paid at the end of the term length contract. This type of life insurance is called a return of premium term life insurance policy. Contract lengths are generally available in either a 20 or 30-year duration, and the cost will be greater than a traditional 20 and 30-year contract. At the end of the contract, you will receive a payment from the insurance company that equals the lumpsum amount of every payment you paid towards the life insurance coverage.
Annual renewable term life policies – An annually renewable policy is a one-year term policy that you can renew every year. This is the same concept as when a term life insurance policy ends and becomes an annual renewable term. Instead, with this option, you would go through underwriting to receive rates that would be much cheaper than the rates on an expired term contract. An annual renewable term plan can be a good idea if you don’t want to commit to a lengthy contract. Generally, these policies are inexpensive during the first five years before the prices begin to climb. Anything over five years, and we would recommend locking into a longer duration term contract.
Group life policies – The ending of your term policy can be the right time to take advantage of your employer’s group life insurance benefit. Employer-based coverage isn’t enough for most people while they have multiple financial obligations, but if you’re already considering a smaller policy, it might be a good fit. Employer coverage is often very low cost or even free. However, keep in mind that your coverage will end when you leave your job or retire.
Guaranteed acceptance policies – Guaranteed acceptance policies are a type of final expense insurance. As the name implies, almost everyone will be able to get a guaranteed acceptance policy. This type of policy is a good option for people who cannot get other types of coverage. The coverage is generally expensive, and benefit amounts are limited to a maximum of $25,000, but guaranteed acceptance policies can still be the best bet in some situations.
Frequently Asked Questions About When A Term Life Insurance Policy Ends
It’s not always easy to decide what path to take when your term policy ends. So it’s understandable if you still have questions.
Check out the answers to some common ones below and if we missed out on answering your specific question, be sure to submit your question using our online submission form located at the end of our FAQ portion of the article.
We will answer your question and add it to our list of growing FAQs if we believe it will help others who have the same question.
What does the level premium period mean?
The level premium period is the time during the term contract where the premiums are locked in. So, for example, if you purchased a 10-year term policy, your level premium period would be 10 years. After the 10-years are up, the term contract no longer has a level premium period as it converts to an annual renewable contract.
How do you choose a good term length?
Choosing the perfect term length takes some planning. The shorter the contract length, the cheaper the life insurance will cost. Conversely, longer contract lengths will be more expensive, as the potential risk of the insurance company paying out a death claim is greater.
While choosing a shorter contract length can be tempting for their lower cost, it can be risky when you have long-term financial needs.
A term policy that ends too early can become costly if you experience a drastic change in your health. While you will likely have the option to keep paying or possibly convert coverage to permanent protection, it will result in a much higher premium than what you were paying for during the level premium period of your term contract.
Your term length should be on par with the length of how long your financial needs remain present. Of course, for many people, the price will play a large factor. Just beware of the potential risk factors of choosing a term length that ends too soon.
Plus, not everyone will qualify for all term lengths as there are age cutoffs for every term length. For example, with most term life insurance providers, the age cutoff for a 30-year term length is 55. So after age 55, you’re limited to shorter contract lengths.
If you’re unsure of how long you should have a life insurance policy last, it’s always best to reach out to a licensed life insurance agent to do some planning and determine the best option to protect your financial needs.
What happens if I get sick before my term life insurance policy ends?
Changes in health are a common occurrence that comes with age. So getting sick before a term life insurance policy ends is not unheard of. It is one of the main reasons it is important to review your term insurance policy with a life insurance agent every couple of years.
If you become sick, an agent can help determine the necessary steps to take if you think you will require life insurance protection after your term life insurance policy ends.
Depending on the level of sickness, an agent can discuss conversion options to permanent coverage and review potential costs of paying on an annually renewable basis. An agent will also have the ability to reach out to multiple life insurance providers to see how they would view your current medical condition for new insurability.
It is imperative that if you ever become sick while your term life insurance policy is still active, reach out to an agent to discuss your option before letting the term life insurance policy end and lapse.
If I outlive my term life insurance policy, will my beneficiary still get the death benefit?
As long as you’re making premium payments and your policy is still active, your term life insurance policy will pay out the full death benefit to your beneficiary.
Remember, after the level premium period has expired, you have the option to continue paying on the current contract or convert the coverage to permanent life insurance.
It is hard to outlive a term insurance policy if you’re willing to pay the higher premiums to continue with the coverage. However, if you don’t make payment and the life insurance policy lapse and terminates, your beneficiary will not receive the death benefit.
Will I receive any money after my term life insurance policy ends?
This is one of the most asked questions about buying term life insurance, and it’s because the majority of people who purchase term insurance will outlive their level premium coverage.
The answer to this popular question is no. You will not receive any cash value payment or refund of premiums when your term insurance policy has ended.
The premium payments that have been paid over the course of a term insurance contract stay with the insurance company. It is how the insurance makes money and pays for other policyholder’s death claims.
Because there is no monetary value to outliving a term policy, it is one of the main reasons term insurance is priced lower than any other type of life insurance coverage.
Will the life insurance company let me know when my term life insurance policy will expire?
Term insurance is simple. Once you have been approved and have received your policy, all you need to do is to remember to pay the premium, and that’s pretty much all that is required. So, it’s easy to purchase a plan and then forgot about the end date, especially when that won’t be for another 10 to 30 years later.
When your term insurance policy is nearing the end date, the insurance company should start mailing notices that the level premium contract period will expire. Generally, you can expect those notices to start arriving 60-90 days before the contract expires.
The letter will notify you that the level premium will expire on a specific date, along with the cost of the new renewable premium, should you choose to continue paying an annual renewable term contract.
Once you receive notice that your level premium period is ending, you should start planning your next steps as soon as possible if you still require life insurance protection.
How expensive will the rates increase on an expired term insurance contract?
When the level premium period of a term insurance contract comes to an end, the life insurance company will notify you of the new cost to continue coverage. The increased cost will be much higher than what you were originally paying during the level premium years.
Unfortunately, you will not know the cost of continuing coverage until the contract is due up for renewal. Although you won’t be required to undergo new underwriting, insurance companies will determine the new rates using their own factors.
From experience, we have seen rates increase anywhere from 4-8x the cost of coverage during the level premium years. Keep in mind that cost will only continue to increase every year you choose to renew the term coverage.
What happens if I don't notify the insurance company that I don't want to keep my term life insurance policy when it ends?
You are not required to notify the life insurance company that you do not wish to continue coverage after the term insurance contract has ended. As long as a premium payment is not paid to the insurance company, after generally a 30 day grace period, the contract will lapse and terminate on its own.
However, if you have your premium payments automatically drafted from your bank account each month, we recommend that you call the insurance company and request that they stop the auto draft. This will prevent the insurance company from drafting the annual renewable term cost after the level premium period has ended.
Can I own multiple term life insurance policies so that they end at different times?
Owning multiple life insurance policies is perfectly legal. It’s actually a great form of strategic life insurance planning.
Life insurance is purchased to provide financial protection against unexpected death. Debts such as a mortgage, credit card, medical bills, or even to protect future debts like child education expenses can all be handled with a life insurance policy.
A life insurance policy can also provide a replacement of income to a surviving spouse to maintain the same standard of living.
Traditionally, purchasing a single term life insurance policy can provide financial protection to manage all these financial needs. Or, you can take it a step further by buying multiple life insurance plans and laddering the death benefit and contract lengths to end when certain life events no longer need financial protection.
The concept behind a multiple life insurance policy structure is to reduce the cost of coverage as life insurance needs lessen and become non-existent over time.
How does return of premium term insurance work?
A return of premium term insurance is a form of term life insurance that refunds every premium payment paid into the life insurance coverage once the level premium contract has ended.
Other than getting all your money back at the end of the term contract, a return of premium term insurance policy works no differently than how a traditional term insurance plan works.
You choose a contract length and death benefit based on your life insurance needs, and your premium payments are locked in for the entire duration of the term contract.
Contract lengths for a return premium life insurance policy are generally limited to either 20-year or 30-year plans. Once your term contract has been completed, the insurance company will make a lumpsum payment to you that is equal to every premium payment made over the course of having your policy.
Can I change my benefit amount if I convert my term policy?
If you choose to convert your term insurance policy to a permanent life insurance plan, you can normally change your death benefit to a lesser amount of coverage than what you had on the term insurance policy.
Increasing your coverage to an amount greater than what you originally had with your term insurance policy will not be permitted. Any increase in coverage would require you to go through a new underwriting.
Remember, choosing to convert an existing term insurance plan requires no new medical underwriting as acceptance is guaranteed.
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You’re very likely to outlive your term life insurance policy. You have options when that happens. The right option for you depends on your circumstances.
It’s a good idea to take time to figure out your current budget and financial obligations when your term is ending. For some people, converting or renewing their policy can make financial sense. In other situations, it’s best to buy a new policy.
No exam policies are a great option when your term policy ends. You can get a new policy without the stress of a medical exam. At No Medical Exam Quotes, we can show you quotes from the best no exam coverage. You can create a policy from the comfort of your home.
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