A life insurance policy can help see your family through the financial difficulties of settling your affairs when you die, if not the emotional trauma.

Life protection can prove particularly useful if you have dependants who already rely on your income, paying out a single cash lump sum on your death provided it's within the policy term.

However, a cheap policy will mean very little if it doesn't offer suitable cover.

You should think about what income your loved ones would need to maintain their current lifestyle if you were to die, including any outstanding mortgage balance, general bills plus day to day living.

To make sure your loved ones are looked after when you're gone you'll need to make smart life insurance choices by comparing life assurance cover and establishing your priorities before you buy. You'll need to consider:

Decreasing term life insurance

If you expect your costs to decrease significantly over the next few years, you may want to consider decreasing term life insurance people generally take this out to cover mortgage repayment commitments. With these policies your cover decreases proportionally the closer you get to the end of your policy contract.

If you decide to take out decreasing life insurance, seek financial advice and use a life insurance calculator to make sure you'll still have suitable cover during each stage of the policy.

Level term life insurance

The alternative is level term cover which would pay the full payout sum right up until your policy's end at a certain point in the future. This naturally means policy premiums tend to be higher, but it does protect you from the unexpected.

Whole life insurance runs on an ongoing basis and remains valid so long as you keep up with its premiums; it pays a fixed lump sum when you die that can be used to cover funeral costs or settle your affairs - this tends to be the most expensive type of life cover.

Check you're eligible

Life insurance companies UK wide have their own set of application criteria that you'll need to meet to be offered a policy. Whether you opt for level or decreasing cover, make sure you're eligible before applying.

Compare the assurance policy terms and check when they expire; some providers may only offer a 10 or 20 year term on specific policies or if you're over a certain age. If you're retired it can also be worth looking at specialist senior life insurance. Check the maximum age limit if you need (e.g.) over 60s life insurance and tailor your comparison to find the best policies for you.

You should also consider your own health and fitness, as you'll need to declare existing medical problems on your application. A life insurance with medical condition policy won't payout if you die due to that condition, and some providers may not be willing to insure you at all without a medical. If you're in good health you may be able to find life insurance no medical if you can satisfy their health criteria.

Finally, if you're searching for a joint policy or for expats living abroad, check you'll still be covered overseas. If you participate in extreme sports or other unusual activities (horse riding is often included), make sure they'll be listed individually on your policy.

Once you've budgeted for a suitable cover level, made smart insurance decisions and found policies that can match your needs, you can get an individual life insurance quote from each and compare their premiums to find the best deal.

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