Monday, August 20, 2007

Life Insurance

Life Insurance Definitions

Application for insurance
This is the form on where you state information and answer questions from the insurance company about yourself and your history. This application along with information from a medical examination, if taken, from your physicians, any hospitals you may have visited and investigation are what’s used by the insurance company to decide whether or not to offer you life insurance and at what rate.

The person(s) named in the policy to receive the life insurance proceeds upon the death of the insured.

Cash (Surrender) Value
The amount that is available in cash for loans and that may be available for withdrawals in a whole life insurance, universal life insurance or survivorship life insurance policy. Accessing Cash Surrender Value may reduce the death benefit and may increase the risk of lapse.

Contestability, Contestable Clause
In an insurance there is a clause which explains the conditions under which the insurer may contest or void the life insurance policy. This contestability is for a limited period of time which in most states is two years. After that period of time the insurance company can not contest the policy.

Convertible Term Insurance
Term insurance which can be exchanged (converted), at the option of the policyowner and without evidence of insurability, for a whole life insurance policy or universal life insurance policy.

Face Amount
The amount stated on the face of the policy that will be paid in case of death. It does not include additional amounts payable under accidental death or other special provisions, or acquired through the application of policy dividends.

Grace Period
Life insurance premiums are due on a certain date, if you are late in paying, policies allow a period of time where you can still pay your premium and not lose your polcy. This is the grace period. Most policies allow a grace period of 30 days from the due date. After the grace period, if the premium is not paid, the policy can lapse i.e. be terminated by the insurance company.

Acceptability to the company of an applicant for insurance.

Insurable Interest
See owner of an insurance policy.

Insured or Insured Life
The person on whose life the policy is issued.

Key person life insurance
When one has a key person in a business without whom the business would suffer financially, key person life insurance is often purchased which helps to reimburse the company for the business loss incurred by the death of this person.

Level Premium (Life Insurance)
Life insurance for which the premium remains the same from year to year. The premium is normally more than the actual cost of protection during the earlier years of the policy and less than the actual cost in the later years. The building of a reserve is a natural result of level premiums. The payments in the early years, together with the interest that is to be earned, serves to balance out the underpayment of the later years.

Life Expectancy
The average number of years remaining for an individual to live shown at each age based on long term studies by insurance companies. These statistics as shown on charts called mortality tables..

Life Insurance
A contract between an owner (often the insured person) and a life insurance company that guarantees the payment of a stated amount of money on the death of the insured.

Loan (Policy Loan)
A loan made by a life insurance company from its general funds to a policy owner on the security of the cash value of a policy.

Mutual life insurance company
A life insurance company owned by the policyholders. Policyholders of a mutual life insurance company may participate in the “divisible surplus” of the life insurance company as owners. They can receive dividends, most commonly on whole life policies, which can enhance the cash value, increase the insurance amount or lower premiums.

Owner of a life insurance policy
A life insurance policy can be owned by the insured person or an individual, a company or a trust with an insurable interest in the insured person. Insurable interest means there would be a financial loss by the owner in the event of the death of the insured person.

Paid-up Insurance
Insurance that will remain in force with no need to pay additional premiums.

Participating Policy
A life insurance policy that is eligible for the payment of dividends by the insurer (see also Dividend.)

Permanent Life Insurance
Any form of life insurance except term; generally insurance that builds up a cash value, such as whole life. Universal life and whole life are types of permanent life insurance.

Policy Owner
The person who owns a life insurance policy. This is usually the insured person, but it may also be a relative of the insured, a partnership or a corporation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

History of Insurance

In some sense we can say that insurance appears simultaneously with the appearance of human society. We know of two types of economies in human societies: money economies (with markets, money, financial instruments and so on) and non-money or natural economies (without money, markets, financial instruments and so on). The second type is a more ancient form than the first. In such an economy and community, we can see insurance in the form of people helping each other. For example, if a house burns down, the members of the community help build a new one. Should the same thing happen to one's neighbour, the other neighbours must help. Otherwise, neighbours will not receive help in the future. This type of insurance has survived to the present day in some countries where modern money economy with its financial instruments is not widespread (for example countries in the territory of the former Soviet Union).

Turning to insurance in the modern sense (i.e., insurance in a modern money economy, in which insurance is part of the financial sphere), early methods of transferring or distributing risk were practiced by Chinese and Babylonian traders as long ago as the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC, respectively. Chinese merchants traveling treacherous river rapids would redistribute their wares across many vessels to limit the loss due to any single vessel's capsizing. The Babylonians developed a system which was recorded in the famous Code of Hammurabi, c. 1750 BC, and practiced by early Mediterranean sailing merchants. If a merchant received a loan to fund his shipment, he would pay the lender an additional sum in exchange for the lender's guarantee to cancel the loan should the shipment be stolen.

Achaemenian monarchs were the first to insure their people and made it official by registering the insuring process in governmental notary offices. The insurance tradition was performed each year in Norouz (beginning of the Iranian New Year); the heads of different ethnic groups as well as others willing to take part, presented gifts to the monarch. The most important gift was presented during a special ceremony. When a gift was worth more than 10,000 Derrik (Achaemenian gold coin weighing 8.35-8.42) the issue was registered in a special office. This was advantageous to those who presented such special gifts. For others, the presents were fairly assessed by the confidants of the court. Then the assessment was registered in special offices.

The purpose of registering was that whenever the person who presented the gift registered by the court was in trouble, the monarch and the court would help him. Jahez, a historian and writer, writes in one of his books on ancient Iran: "Whenever the owner of the present is in trouble or wants to construct a building, set up a feast, have his children married, etc. the one in charge of this in the court would check the registration. If the registered amount exceeded 10,000 Derrik, he or she would receive an amount of twice as much."

A thousand years later, the inhabitants of Rhodes invented the concept of the 'general average'. Merchants whose goods were being shipped together would pay a proportionally divided premium which would be used to reimburse any merchant whose goods were jettisoned during storm or sinkage.

The Greeks and Romans introduced the origins of health and life insurance c. 600 AD when they organized guilds called "benevolent societies" which cared for the families and paid funeral expenses of members upon death. Guilds in the Middle Ages served a similar purpose. The Talmud deals with several aspects of insuring goods. Before insurance was established in the late 17th century, "friendly societies" existed in England, in which people donated amounts of money to a general sum that could be used for emergencies.

Separate insurance contracts (i.e., insurance policies not bundled with loans or other kinds of contracts) were invented in Genoa in the 14th century, as were insurance pools backed by pledges of landed estates. These new insurance contracts allowed insurance to be separated from investment, a separation of roles that first proved useful in marine insurance. Insurance became far more sophisticated in post-Renaissance Europe,and specialized varieties developed.

Toward the end of the seventeenth century, London's growing importance as a center for trade increased demand for marine insurance. In the late 1680s, Mr. Edward Lloyd opened a coffee house that became a popular haunt of ship owners, merchants, and ships’ captains, and thereby a reliable source of the latest shipping news. It became the meeting place for parties wishing to insure cargoes and ships, and those willing to underwrite such ventures. Today, Lloyd's of London remains the leading market (note that it is not an insurance company) for marine and other specialist types of insurance, but it works rather differently than the more familiar kinds of insurance.

Insurance as we know it today can be traced to the Great Fire of London, which in 1666 devoured 13,200 houses. In the aftermath of this disaster, Nicholas Barbon opened an office to insure buildings. In 1680, he established England's first fire insurance company, "The Fire Office," to insure brick and frame homes.

The first insurance company in the United States underwrote fire insurance and was formed in Charles Town (modern-day Charleston), South Carolina, in 1732.

Benjamin Franklin helped to popularize and make standard the practice of insurance, particularly against fire in the form of perpetual insurance. In 1752, he founded the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Franklin's company was the first to make contributions toward fire prevention. Not only did his company warn against certain fire hazards, it refused to insure certain buildings where the risk of fire was too great, such as all wooden houses.

In the United States, regulation of the insurance industry is highly Balkanized, with primary responsibility assumed by individual state insurance departments. Whereas insurance markets have become centralized nationally and internationally, state insurance commissioners operate individually, though at times in concert through a national insurance commissioners' organization. In recent years, some have called for a dual state and federal regulatory system for insurance similar to that which oversees state banks and national banks.

In the state of New York, which has unique laws in keeping with its stature as a global business center, former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was in a unique position to grapple with major national insurance brokerages. Spitzer alleged that Marsh & McLennan steered business to insurance carriers based on the amount of contingent commissions that could be extracted from carriers, rather than basing decisions on whether carriers had the best deals for clients. Several of the largest commercial insurance brokerages have since stopped accepting contingent commissions and have adopted new business models.

Meaning of Term in Insurance

  • Insurance
    Promise of reimbursement in the case of loss; paid to people or companies so concerned about hazards that they have made prepayments to an insurance company.
  • Protection, security
    Defense against financial failure; financial independence; "his pension gave him security in his old age"; "insurance provided protection against loss of wages due to illness".
  • Assurance
    A British term for some kinds of insurance.
  • Automobile insurance, car insurance
    Insurance against loss due to theft or traffic accidents.
  • Business interruption insurance
    Insurance that provides protection for the loss of profits and continuing fixed expenses resulting from a break in commerical activities due to the occurrence of a peril.
  • Coinsurance
    Insurance issued jointly by two or more underwriters.
  • Fire insurance
    Insurance against loss due to fire.
  • Group insurance
    Insurance that is purchased by a group (such as the employees of a company) usually at a reduced rate to individual members of the group.
  • Hazard insurance
    Insurance that provides protection against certain risks such as storms or fires.
  • Health insurance
    Insurance against loss due to ill health.
  • Liability insurance
    Insurance that provides protection from claims arising from injuries or damage to other people or property.
  • Life assurance, life insurance
    Insurance paid to named beneficiaries when the insured person dies; "in
    England they call life insurance life assurance".
  • Malpractice insurance
    Insurance purchased by physicians and hospitals to cover the cost of being sued for malpractice; "obstetricians have to pay high rates for malpractice insurance".
  • Reinsurance
    Sharing the risk by insurance companies; part or all of the insurer's risk is assumed by other companies in return for part of the premium paid by the insured; "reinsurance enables a client to get coverage that would be too great for any one company to assume".
  • Self-insurance
    Insuring yourself by setting aside money to cover possible losses rather than by purchasing an insurance policy.
  • Term insurance
    Low-cost insurance that is valid only for a stated period of time and has no cash surrender value or loan value; "term insurance is most often associated with life insurance policies".