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Dec 23, 2020 by |

San Francisco and California Life Insurance and Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Life Insurance 101 For Seniors: Different Kinds of Life Policies and How They Work


Types of Life Insurance

The Differences Between Term, Whole Life, and Universal Life Insurance

Particular Questions for Seniors

Life insurance agents sell life insurance in three forms: term, whole, and universal policies.  Agents primarily approach seniors with whole or universal life insurance options.  The premiums on those policies are higher; so are sales commissions.  Below, we offer an overview of all three forms of life insurance and suggest some important issues for seniors to consider before you buy.  If you are over age 60 and live in California and have suffered a loss as a result of cancellation or surrender of a whole or universal life insurance policy, call us today at (415)441-8669 for a free review of your policy.[1]  A list of the major providers of whole and universal life insurance in California is included below for your reference.

Types of Life Insurance Policies

The kind of life insurance that may (or may not) be appropriate for you depends on your objectives.  Some contracts, like term insurance, just provide straight death protection; other contracts, like whole or universal insurance, are sold by agents as investments.  The differences among the three types are important:

  • Term life insurance is perhaps most common for all consumers, especially younger consumers. Term life insurance provides life insurance at a set amount for a set period of time (10-20 years, for example) during which “term” you the insured pay  periodic premiums that are set in the policy from the beginning.  When the “term” period of the policy expires, or you stop paying the premium, the coverage ends and there is no rebate to the policyholder of any amounts previously paid (that is, term policies do not accrue any cash value for you).  Term premiums are generally lower than with other types of life insurance. 
  • Whole Life insurance policies differ from term policies in that whole life is “permanent” as long as the policy is in force and does not expire at a pre-determined period of year. Rather, the coverage continues until your death as long as it is “in force.” Keeping the policy in force may require continuing premium payments but the coverage does not expire just because a period of years has passed (like in a term policy). The cash value that is accrued in a whole policy may be withdrawn or you can borrow against it.  You can also use the accumulated cash value to pay premiums but the carrier charges interest when  you do that and, if the cash value is used up to cover premiums, the policy will lapse unless you keep paying into it.  Any withdrawal of the cash value moreover may incur surrender charges and tax liability.  Of course, if you withdraw the full cash value the policy lapses unless you restart with premium payments.
  • Universal Life insurance is a hybrid of whole and term life concepts. The premium payments are “flexible” unlike the pre-determined premium payments in whole life policies. The “growth” of your premium payments can be set at a fixed percentage or indexed to some market fund performance.  The interest crediting features of universal policies are very complex and predictably work in the carrier’s favor.  Be sure you understand how the policy operates before you buy.  Also, understand how the “flexible” premium structure operates; the premium amounts will increase overtime and often the required premium 10-20 years out on the policy can be several times greater than the premium levels for the early years.  Always, consult a professional with nothing to gain from a sale before you buy.  Universal life insurance policies are very complex.

Surrender Penalties

Any whole and universal life policy will impose surrender charges on withdrawals for a period of years under the respective policy.  Typically, surrender charges are high in the first years of a policy, and then are reduced over time and may disappear entirely but not until ten or twenty years out.  if you are a senior you need to look very closely at a policy’s surrender provisions.  If you need to withdraw your money for an emergency or because of increased care costs and the like, surrender charges can be a real disadvantage just as with deferred annuities.  

Contact Us

Ingrid M. Evans and the other Evans Law Firm, Inc. life insurance and financial elder abuse litigators represent seniors who lose money on whole or universal life insurance.  If you are over 60 and surrendered a whole life or universal life insurance policy in San Francisco or elsewhere in California, contact for a free review of your policy at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=””></a>. Our attorneys have experience with complex indexed universal and whole life policies and annuity contracts and cases against large insurance companies. 

Some of the primary issuers and distributors of life insurance in California are listed below.  We are not in any way suggesting that any of these carriers or distributors has done anything wrong.  The list is provided solely as a reference for our readers.

AIG/American General Life Insurance Company

Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America

American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company

American General Life Insurance Company/AIG

American International Group, Inc. (AIG)

American National Life Insurance Company

Athene Annuity & Life Assurance Company

Athene Annuity and Life Company

Athene USA

Aviva Life Insurance Company

AXA Equitable Financial Services, LLC

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company/AXA US

AXA Advisors, LLC

Brighthouse Financial, Inc./MetLife

EquiTrust Life Insurance Company

Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Company

Genworth Financial, Inc.

Genworth Life and Annuity Insurance Company

Genworth Life Insurance Company

Guggenheim Partners, LLC

Guggenheim Partners/Security Benefit Life Insurance Company

ING USA Annuity and Life Insurance Company

Jackson National Life Insurance Company

John Hancock Life Insurance Company

Lincoln Benefit Life Company

Lincoln Financial Group

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company

Metlife/Metropolitan Life Insurance Company/Brighthouse Financial, Inc.

Minnesota Life Insurance Company

Nationwide Investor Services Corporation (NISC)

Nationwide Life and Annuity Insurance Company

Nationwide Life Insurance Company

New York Life Insurance Company

Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company

Pacific Life & Annuity Company

Pacific Life Insurance Company


Security Benefit Corporation

Security Benefit Group, Inc.

Security Benefit Life Insurance Company/Guggenheim Partners

Security Investors, LLC

Security of Denver Life Insurance Company/Voya

Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Voya Financial Advisors

Voya/Reliastar Life Insurance Company

World Financial Group Insurance Agency, Inc.

[1] We do not offer investment or tax advice of any kind.

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