How Often Should I Check My Insurance Policies?

Your life will be a process of constant change, and during the course of a single year, you might find a new job, earn a promotion, buy a new car or home – even welcome a child. You could tie the knot, finalize a divorce, win the lottery or send a child off to college. Each of these scenarios will change your financial picture and family obligations, and term life insurance experts say it’s important to conduct an annual check of all your insurance policies.

Here are five questions to answer and check-off your life insurance review list:

#1: Did Your Responsibilities Change?

Michael Barry, spokesperson for Insurance Information Institute, says you may want more life insurance if you add another child to the family, get married or if high college tuition bills are in your child’s future. Also, sometimes it is better to get additional term life insurance to supplement the group life insurance policy you may have at work.  If your kids are now living on their own you will want to review—not cancel—your life insurance to ensure you have enough for estate planning purposes, advises Debra Newman, chairperson for the LIFE Foundation.

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#2: Did Your Beneficiaries Change?

“I can’t tell you how many times a person has gotten divorced but the old wife is still the beneficiary when they die,” said Newman.  She suggests sparing your family a lot of headaches in probate court by checking the current status of your life insurance policies, annuities, 401 (k) plans, investments and other accounts.

#3: Did Your Bills Increase?

“Did you buy a new house, take out a home improvement loan, and put more on your charge cards this year? Debt doesn’t go away and your family will need more money to pay it off,” Newman says. Taking on additional debt is another reason to increase your life insurance coverage since there is now more debt for your beneficiaries to cover if something happens to you.

#4: Check Your Policy’s Age

The cost of life insurance policies has dropped in the last several years, due to increases in life expectancy and medical advancements. Newman says many people with older policies, especially those more than 15 years, are finding they can get better coverage at a lower cost than with their original policy.

#5: Are You Healthier?

If you’ve kicked a bad habit, maintained a healthier lifestyle or have been cancer-free for five years, you might qualify for life insurance at a better rate, insurance experts advise. If you suffer from a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but the condition under control, it might be a good idea to get documentation from your physician and any documentation you’ve been given after taking a new physical examination and show it to the insurance company. This will encourage your insurer to revisit your life insurance premiums and make sure they reflect those positive changes.