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Over 50 Life Insurance - Over 50 doesn't mean over the hill!

So you are now over 50 and more than likely inundated with leaflets through your door for 'over 50s cruises', 'over 50s retirement plans' and 'over 50s life insurance plans' (or over 50s plans as they like to call themselves). But what real difference does your age make to your life insurance protection?

Many a leaflet drop or television advert would have you believe that the only option left open to you is a no-medical over 50s plan. Luckily this simply isn't the case and whether you are over 50, over 60 or over 70, a variety of options still exist to you just like they did before your 50th birthday.

Do I need Over 50s Life Insurance in the first place?

Life Insurance is a vital part of your personal and family protection whatever your age. It is essential if you have liabilities such as a mortgage, outstanding loans or if you would like to ensure that your family can meet funeral expenses upon your death.

Without adequate protection, many families find themselves unable to continue making mortgage repayments and unfortunately mortgage companies are very quick to attempt repossession if payments are not kept up to date. Whilst most mortgage companies will sympathise with your families loss, they will be keen to ensure they do not lose out financially.

On the other side of the coin is the issue of funeral expenses. With the average funeral now estimated at costing in excess of 6000, without over 50s life insurance, your family could be left with a large bill whilst dealing with your sad loss.

What's the difference between normal Life Insurance and an Over 50s plan?

Its easy to confused between normal Life Insurance and over 50s plans such as those advertised on the television. The aims of both are the same; to pay your family a lump sum upon your death. However the process for getting such cover and the finer detail can be a little different.

Our table below shows some of the differences between the two:

Life Insurance Over 50s Plan
How old do I need to be? You can take these policies at any age up to your 90th birthday. You need to be aged over 50 and usually younger than 80.
How soon will it cover me? You are covered immediately from the first day your policy starts. For instance if the worse was to happen the day after your cover started, your family would still receive the full cash lump sum. You pay the premiums from day 1 but your family would, in most cases, not receive a payout until the policy had been in place for between 12 and 24 months.
Will I need a medical? Depending on the insurance company you choose and your past medical history, your over 50s life insurer may need to look through your doctors medical notes and in a small number of cases, may ask you to attend a short medical (paid for by the insurance company) Usually no medical is required at the application stage because medical underwriting (assessment of your health) is done when your family needs to make a claim. This means that if any medical conditions are discovered which the insurance company were unaware of, they may reject a claim due to non-disclosure.
How much will it cost me? Prices will vary depending on your age, amount of cover, smoker status, sex and health. For most people these are better value for money. Prices will vary depending on your age and amount of cover required.
Am I guaranteed to be accepted? Acceptance is not guaranteed but for a vast majority of people, cover is offered. With most policies you are guaranteed to be accepted.
Until what age am I covered? You have the option to cover yourself until a particular age of your chosing or until your death with a whole of life cover. You are usually tied into the length of cover you must taken and these policies generally will not pay out within the first 12 or 24 months of the policy.
Is the amount paid out fixed? You have the option to choose between decreasing, level and increasing premiums. The best option for you will depend on your circumstances and in general the increasing option allows you to offset the effects of inflation and increases in the retail price index. With most policies the amount you pay is fixed.
Can I protect against inflation? Yes! You can protect your 'sum assured' (the amount the cover will pay out) with increasing or index linked premiums. With these, your sum assured and premium increase slightly each year to ensure that your payout keeps its real value. The increases are optional (you can turn them down on a yearly basis) and are connected to the retail price index. No! Unfortunately you are covered for a set amount which will probably (due to the inflation) not be worth the same once your family comes to claim.
Can I add Critical Illness Cover on? Yes. With a vast majority of policies you can opt to have life and critical illness cover which will then protect you against conditions like heart attacks, strokes and advanced cancers. No. With most policies you will not have the option to cover yourself against Critical Illnesses like heart attacks, strokes and cancers.

Why would I opt for a policy that may require a medical?

Whilst a policy that offers the opportunity of no medical may seem appealing, it comes with an additional risk of non-disclosure and therefore a higher chance that a payout will not be made when you family need it. In addition because the insurance company don't have a lot of information to consider you on, they consider the policies to be higher risk and therefore generally charge more.

With a normal over 50s life insurance, assuming you provide accurate information to your advisor, there is a much lower risk of non-disclosure. The insurance company will also write to your GP and/or request a medical if they feel they need some more information about your health. Because they can get a complete picture of your medical background, the life insurance company generally consider you a lower risk, than where they have very little information, and as such the premiums tend to be lower.

What about if my health has been poor?

Most people, as they get older, will experience some form of medical condition ranging from the very minor to something serious like a heart attack or stroke.

You medical background can have some bearing on the premiums that the over 50 life insurance company ask you to pay. The effect your health has on the premiums can vary dramatically depending on the condition you suffered from, how long ago you suffered, the severity, remaining effects and a wide range of other factors.

Because of the differing nature of medical conditions, it can be hard to give you an exact idea of what effect your health will have on your life insurance premiums. As such it is always best to speak with a qualified advisor who will be able to explain the past experiences and results for people with your condition and therefore give you a rough estimate as to the increase you can expect.