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What is Life Insurance? And What Are Its Features?

What is Life Insurance? And What Are Its Features?

According to an IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) study, life insurance penetration in India in 2019 was a mere 3.69%. This demonstrates that one of the biggest working-class populations in the world does not consider life insurance an essential part of financial planning.

A large part of this is due to the lack of awareness of key financial concepts like insurance and their unique significance in modern life. Here, we delve into the basics of life insurance and its key features.

What is life insurance?

Technically, life insurance is a contract between an insurance company and a person, known as the life insured. The contract offers the guarantee of financial compensation to the policyholder’s beneficiaries for loss of a policyholder’s life. This financial compensation is provided in return for the payment of a regularly paid fixed amount known as a premium.

Features of life insurance

The primary benefit offered by a life insurance policy is known as the death benefit, or the amount paid to the nominee upon the death of the policyholder. This amount is also known as the sum assured and could also include bonuses. In recent times, policies also offer a benefit upon maturity of the policy, in case the policyholder outlives the term. These benefits are popularly termed as maturity benefits.

A rider provides an enhanced amount of coverage to the policyholder and can be availed along with their insurance policy at a nominal cost. Some of the most popular riders are Accidental Death Benefit, Accidental and Permanent Disability Benefit, Waiver of Premium, etc.

Investment Components
Some life insurance plans come with the dual benefit of an investment component as well. With a single premium, you secure a life cover while also accumulating wealth through investments in a diverse portfolio. Depending on the terms and conditions of the plan, one can invest in equity, debt instruments or various combinations of both. Those opting for policies such as ULIPs can switch and redirect funds, as and when they please.

Tax Benefits
Various kinds of life insurance plans have different tax benefits as per relevant sections of the Income Tax Act. Generally, the premium paid for a life insurance policy tax-deductible up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs under Section 80C. The payout received from an insurance policy, too, is exempt from tax under Section 10(10D) of the ITA. Additionally, premiums paid toward riders like critical illness and surgical care can also be claimed as deductions under Section 80D.

Loans component
Your life insurance policy can not just provide you with a life cover, but also help you during a crisis like loan repayment. One benefit of opting for a loan against a life insurance policy is that the rate of interest charged is lower than that of a personal loan. When you take a loan against a policy, you are essentially borrowing from yourself. The rate of interest for such a loan depends upon the premiums paid by you.

In order to understand better the various features of life insurance plans,it is also necessary to delve in detail into the numerous different types of plans prospective policyholders can choose from:

Term insurance
A term insurance is a pure life cover which offers financial security with the most basic of life insurance benefits- a higher sum assured, at a lower premium rate. Term insurance policies can be availed for a predetermined period of time.

A term insurance plan that you can consider would be the iSelect Star Term Plan. The Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce iSelect Star Term Plan is as diverse as a term plan could get and more. It offers an insurance cover at a price that won’t pinch your pockets. It also offers a plethora of options like augmentation of your cover through various riders, spouse cover, etc. You can also enjoy Loyalty Additions and other discounts, apart from tax benefits as per prevailing tax laws.

Endowment policy
Endowment plans offer the dual benefits of financial protection as well as savings. Such plans are relatively low-risk in nature.

Whole life policy
As opposed to the term insurance policy, which offers protection for a predetermined period of time, this kind of policy extends for the entire lifetime of the policyholder. The premium rates for such policies are higher when compared to that of term insurance.

Money back policy
Money back policy is also similar to an endowment policy, except that it offers multiple survival benefits that are alloted proportionally over the term of the policy.


This unique type of plan offers life insurance benefits along with an investment component. It is highly flexible in nature. Thus, life insurance has something for everyone. Once more individuals are made aware of the multitude of features and benefits that life insurance plans have to offer, the insurance penetration rate in India is sure to grow in leaps and bounds.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to Life Insurance Policies

The premium is one of the most important factors to consider before buying a life insurance policy. Many people buy a life insurance policy with a high sum assured but are unable to process the premiums for the entire premium payment tenure. You can get a better idea of the premium outgo with the premium calculator available in the 'Tools and Calculator' section of

Life insurance plans come with several riders which increase the efficiency of the policy for the buyer. For instance, if you have a history of terminal illness in your family it would be advisable to opt for terminal illness rider with your term insurance plan. Riders or add-ons help in customising the standard policy benefits for the requirement of different families. The iSelect term insurance plan comes with a built-in cover for terminal illness, and option for protection against accidental death or disability. You can also opt to cover your spouse's life under the same policy by paying an additional premium.

Life insurance companies calculate the premiums based on several factors such as age, gender and occupation.

Age: It is one of the biggest factors that influence life insurance premiums. Premiums tend to be low when the life insured is younger as the chance of contracting diseases is low. Young people also opt for the best life insurance policies with longer tenures and pay premiums for a longer duration, which makes the policy cheaper for young people.

Gender: The insurance premium for women is generally lower when it comes to life insurance plans. Women live longer and pose a lesser risk of a claim leading to lower premiums for them.

Lifestyle habits: The premiums for people who smoke or drink is always higher due to higher health risks.

Policy term: Policy terms are also taken into consideration by insurers while deciding the premium amount. Life insurance policies with longer tenure are cheaper as compared to short-duration policies.

Mode of purchase: The platform that you use to buy the best life insurance policy also determines how much you will have to pay for the plan. People who buy life insurance policies online have to pay lower premiums as compared to offline policies.

Occupation: The nature of your work is an important factor that influences the premium amount. Certain occupations like shipping and mining are considered more dangerous as compared to jobs in services industries. The insurance premium rises with the risk profile.

Processing life insurance claim is a transparent and smooth process with Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance.

In case of the death of the life insured, the nominee will have to intimate the company by filling a Death Claim Form and sending it to the nearest branch office.

Once the form is received, the claim is registered by the insurer.

After the registration of the claim, the company will send the claims pack along with the related forms such as physician’s statement form and employer certificate that need to be filled.

Along with the duly filled forms a few documents such as original [policy document, death certificate, copy of bank passbook, hospital or treatment records, photo identification and address proof have to be provided.

The claim is processed on the submission of relevant documents. Once the documents are verified, the claim amount is released post all due diligence.

Household expenses rise with age. The cost of children's education increases along with other lifestyle expenses. The iSelect term plan offers an option to increase the cover according to the life stage. If opted, the insurance cover increases by 25% at every 5-year terminal till the 20th policy year.

Even though a life insurance policy is bought to protect your family in your absence, there are chances of the claim being rejected due to several factors.

False information: If the policyholder provides false information or conceals important information while buying the life insurance policy, the insurer has the right to reject the claim after his/her death.

Type of death: Deaths due to suicide in first policy year, intoxication or pre-existing disease is not covered under life insurance plan.

Premium payment: The payment of premiums on time is of utmost important to avail the benefits of life insurance. Life insurance policy may lapse on the failure to pay the premiums

Nominee details: A life insurance company can put the claim on hold if the nominee details have not been filled or not been updated by the policyholder.

Suicide: If the life insured commits suicide within 12 months of buying the life insurance policy, the insurance companies generally pay 80% of the total premiums paid.

Buying the best life insurance plan online is not only safe but a better option. Online life insurance policies have lower premiums and the individual is not required to visit the insurer's branch or a bank. The best life insurance policies online insurance offer higher benefits. Customers should, however, buy online life insurance policies only from credible insurers and should check for SSL certificate on the website to ensure that the website is legitimate.

The cost of life insurance policies varies depending on factors like age, gender and occupation. The average cost of life insurance plans, especially term plans, is very low compared to the amount of coverage offered.

An individual is allowed to have multiple life insurance policies. People opt for more than one life insurance policy to increase the cover or avoid claim rejection. In case of multiple life insurance policies, even if the claim is rejected by one insurer, the beneficiaries may receive the benefit from a different insurer.

Life insurance policies are of different types. In case of unit-linked or endowment policies the policyholder receives the maturity benefit at the end of the policy term. However, in the case of term insurance plans, there are no maturity benefits. The death benefit is only paid out after the death of the life insured.

When you buy a life insurance policy, the insurance company asks for the nominee details. Only the person named as the nominee in the life insurance plan can cash out in case of death of life insured.

A life insurance policy is generally taken for a specified period. After the policy duration of a term plan gets over, the policy simply terminates and ceases to exist. However, in case of unit-linked plans or endowment, you can use the policy as a tool for retirement planning and the accumulated corpus is used by the insurer to pay you monthly amounts for your entire life.

If a policyholder purchases a term plan for 25 years and dies during the policy term, the beneficiary receives the death benefit. In case of iSelect term plan, the policy provides four payment options to the beneficiaries. If the regular payment option is chosen, the policy works as a source of regular income.

It is a popular misconception that life insurance plans are only for accidental deaths. A term life insurance plan like iSelect Star Term Plan also covers terminal disease along with death. A terminal illness cover is important as health insurance pays only for the cost of treatment and hospitalization, but a terminal illness cover pays you a lump-sum amount which takes care of other expenses. On the other hand, unit-linked policies such as Invest 4G cover death and also provide decent returns for other financial goals such as buying a house of child's education.

It is ideal to buy a life insurance plan in your early 20s because it is the time when people have just started with their professional life and so there are lesser responsibilities and financial liabilities to take care of. Also, if you buy the best life insurance plan at this age, you will be paying relatively lower insurance premiums since it’s a due fact that mortality rate in case of young people is low. And that is why life insurance companies offer lesser premium rates to younger people as they think that they are most likely to be fit and healthier with less chances of filing a claim in future.

Once you have cancelled your life insurance policy, you will instantly lose your life insurance cover. Afterwards, your insurance company will get in touch with you and ask for valid reasons regarding the cancellation of your policy. In case you cancel your life insurance policy within the grace period, i.e. 15 to 30 days, depending on your insurer, then insurance company will reimburse the premium amount paid by you. But, no refunds will be paid to you if the policy is cancelled after the grace period.

Yes, you can take life insurance under Married Women’s Property (MWP) Act, 1984 only if you are a married man and a resident of India. Buying a life insurance plan under MWP Act would be helpful in saving your family’s financial well-being when you are not around. As per this policy, only wife and children would be eligible to receive the death benefits. You can also buy a policy if you are a widower or a divorcee. However, in that case, you can give your child’s name as your beneficiary. It is very simple to buy a life plan under MWP Act. All you need to do is to fill up an MWP addendum while purchasing an insurance policy.

Yes, there are different payment options for you to pay premiums. Here’re some of them

    1. Regular premium payment option – This premium payment option allows you to pay premiums equal to your policy term either monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually.

    2. Single payment option – Through this premium payment option, you can pay the lump-sum amount in one single payment.

    3. Limited payment option -In this premium payment option, you can pay premiums for a specific period of time less than policy term either monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually, but benefits of insurance can be enjoyed for a longer period of time.

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