1. Picking the type of cover and the term you need can save you many thousands over 20 years
Though an agent or adviser can help, this question is completely down to you. The main thing to consider is what is the reason for getting life insurance and what will the payout be used for. If it is for funeral expenses you probably want to insist on a whole of life insurance policy - these typically pay less commission to the agent than term policies so you might need to ask specifically for a whole of life quote.
Whole of life insurance means you are covered until you die, regardless of how long you live for. As you are looking for your funeral to be covered and no-one knows when they are going to die, whole of life is the only way to guarantee a pay-out.
If, on the other hand, you have young children and you want to make sure that should the worst happen your kids don't suffer financial hardship, then you probably need a term life insurance policy. This is much, much cheaper then whole of life insurance. For example, let's say you are a 40 year old and you have two kids aged 5 and 7. You need life insurance as you know if anything happens to you there will be a huge reduction in the household income and possibly an increase in childcare costs. You still need the roof over their heads, food on the table and clothes on their backs, so they will need financial help to avoid being forced to move house and rely on state help.
So let's say you think £250,000 will get the mortgage paid off and leave some money behind to ensure they don't suffer financially. On a whole of life basis this will cost you at least £165 every single month. Or, you can get a lower cost term policy to age 90 for a much more reasonable £39 per month. But, wait a second, the reason for the cover was for your young kids aged 5 and 7 to make sure they don't suffer financially, right? So when your 90 years old, your kids will be in their 50's.....older than you are right now! The mortgage will be paid off and the kids will (hopefully) be earning their own money by then and buying their own food and clothes.
So let's look at matching the term to the reason you need the cover in the first place......think roughly what age will your kids no longer be financially dependent upon you. Even play it safe a little, say when they are 25 and 27. Okay so we can look at a 20 year term, meaning if anything happens to you while the kids are financially dependent on you, there is £250,000 to help them out. This brings the cost down for the same level of cover to only £15 per month.
Total cost over 20 years for the £250,000 of cover:
Whole of Life = £39,770
Term to 90 = £23,400
20-year term family protection = £3,600 (£36,170 saving on Whole of Life and £19,800 saving against term to 90)
These are pretty big savings and money that can be spent on enjoying life!
2. Non-disclosure could see your claim declined or cut in half
The answers you give on the medical application are YOUR responsibility. You will be warned to answer all questions truthfully and accurately otherwise a policy may not pay out in the event of a claim. But what if you miss a question or the agent you speak to doesn't put it in the application?
Well these mistakes could cost your family tens of thousands of pounds. Let's take the smoking question as an example, typically they will ask if you have smoked or used tobacco products in the last 12 months. Let's say you say to the agent that you used to smoke, but haven't for about a year. If the agent just puts in "no" and it turns out that your doctor records show you still smoked 8 months ago, the provider could decrease the payout by around half.
So you might have insured yourself for £100,000 to cover your mortgage and leave money for the kids, but the policy pays out £50,000 which might not even cover the mortgage.
Worse still if a serious medical condition is not disclosed that would have resulted in the provider not offering terms, the claim will be declined and all your family will get is their premiums returned.
3. Don't fund the taxman
Ask about trust. Putting your policy into trust can save thousands in inheritance tax and probate costs. Inheritance tax could swipe up to 40% of the value of the policy out your families hands into the tax mans pocket. You can use our inheritance tax calculator
to estimate your potential inheritance tax liability and savings or you can ask your agent or provider for a trust form and ask them to help you fill it out. This is free, but the savings can be tens of thousands of pounds for your family when they need it most.
4. Watch out for loaded premiums from banks and mortgage advisers!
This is a tactic used by many banks and some mortgage and financial advisers. Basically they take the standard premium then hike on an extra amount to get more commission.
Easy way to check though, go to a site like WeCovr
where you can get an expert to provide you a range of quotes. If your bank or adviser loads their premiums, the policy you are getting is identical but can cost you 20% more....which over the term could cost you thousands.
As an example we looked at Santander who offer life insurance from Aviva. The results were shocking! Everything is the same - same date of birth, same smoking status, same policy term, same amount of life insurance and crucially, the same provider. So why is the "discounted" Santander policy nearly £5 more expensive every month? Well we don't know the exact details of the commercial arrangement, but you have to assume the extra is going into the bank's back pockets.
So watch out for big banks and their discounts and loyalty bonuses, really they are just discounting an already massively inflated price.
5. It's not cheaper going direct, in fact it can be more expensive
An extremely common myth is going direct to the insurer will save you money because they don't need to pay commission to the broker. This is true, but they do need to pay for their advertising, their staff and overheads. With a broker they only pay if you buy, so often brokers can get lower prices than going direct to the provider.
If you want the best price, you're almost always going to get the best deal from a broker.