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Universal Life Insurance

In essense Universal life is a combination of term insurance protection with the cash savings value of whole life. Interest rates paid on the cash value are typically higher with Universal life than Whole life because they tend to follow the markets. The contract is typically designed with flexibility in mind.

Premiums can be paid in a lump sum, annually, or anywhere in between. Interest on the cash value is usually guaranteed, but will vary according to the investment performance. Each month deductions are made from the cash value fund to support the costs of the insurance protection. As long as the cash value is substantial enough to maintain the monthly costs, the policy will remain in force. Typically the death benefit reduces in proportion to the increase in cash value, thus causing a level death benefit.

Another form of Universal life is Variable Universal Life. Variable Universal life combines the growth potential of stocks with a guaranteed death benefit. This type of policy allows premiums to be paid, reduced, or skipped at any time, and the contract will not lapse as long as sufficient cash value exists. The cash value fund can be split between different investment mediums such as stock, money market, and bond funds.

The key to any form of Universal Life is that it's interest-sensitive and allows for an adjustable death benefit.

Selecting a Quality Life Insurance Company

Before considering any life insurance plan it is important to investigate the company offering coverage. Avoid companies without adequate reserves to pay claims! Consider as a minimum standard that the insurance company should have at least one of the top 3 ratings for financial strength, or claims paying ability. Insurance company ratings including the ability to pay are available from the following organizations:

  • Duff & Phelps
  • Standard and Poors
  • A. M. Best
  • Weiss Research


Some life insurance companies pay dividends to policyholders after they have owned a policy for a specific period of time. Policies with participating stock insurance companies and mutual insurance companies sometimes pay dividends if the company is profitable and declares a dividend. Dividends are in no way and under no circumstances guaranteed and are only one factor in determining the potential value of a policy. The Internal Revenue Service has considered dividends on life insurance policies to be a return of excess premium and therefore not a taxable event (Consult your tax Advisor).

Premium Payment

Know what your grace period is and make certain that the insurance company receives your premium on time. Coverage can be canceled if premiums are not paid on time. It is possible reinstate coverage if this occurs, but if you need it badly you will most likely be denied.

Ask for all options of paying your premium (monthly, Electronic Funds Transfer, quarterly, semi, annual, and annual) in order that you may evaluate your options carefully. Discounts are generally given for EFT and annual modes of premium payment.

Typical Exclusions

Read your policy carefully. Among typical exclusions are suicide, death while in the commission of a felony and death that occurs as a result of an act of war, but a few exceptions exist.


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