Changing your life insurance policy

About to change your life insurance policy? Not so fast. There's a few important things you should consider first.

Whether you have decided to change your life insurance due to a change in your circumstances, financial reasons, or simply due to your current policy reaching the end of its term, it is still a decision which must be carefully considered and researched before you make the move. Some questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Is there a different type of life insurance policy that is now more relevant to me?
  • If I switch providers will I need to get reaccessed?
  • Will taking out life insurance through my superannuation be beneficial to my current situation?

No matter what your reasons are for changing policies, you should take the time to understand what happens when you change to ensure you are making the right choice.

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What should I take into consideration when changing my policy?

In the past, when whole life insurance was at the height of its popularity, deciding to change your policy was a much more complex process, with people having to factor in things like the policies cash value versus inflation. This sort of life insurance is no longer available in Australia, having been replaced by the much easier to understand term life insurance.

That being said, this doesn't mean you should rush in and commit to the first offer given to you. Some crucial things to think about when changing your life insurance are:

  • Whether a different type of life insurance better suits your needs now.
  • If taking out your new policy inside of superannuation would now be beneficial.
  • The extra cost that a new policy could incur.
  • Your age, as taking out a new policy later in life will attract higher premiums.
  • The stability of the new life insurance provider.
  • The reputation of the life insurance agency and experience of the agent you are dealing with if you are using this service.

I want to change the type of life insurance I have, what's available?

There are a range of policies available that are considered life insurance, with each being designed to cover different events and suit different needs. Therefore, if you are thinking of taking out a new policy you might find that one of these is now more relevant to your requirements. Here is a brief rundown of the types of life insurance available in Australia:

Why would I want to take out a new policy inside super?

Purchasing a life insurance policy through your superannuation fund can be beneficial, but like all things also has its drawbacks. Once again, deciding whether or not this is the best option for you boils down to your specific life insurance needs. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of taking out life insurance inside super:

  • Cheaper. If you are changing policies due to financial circumstances this option can be more affordable.
  • Limited cover. The range of cover is generally lower than that of life insurance outside of super.
  • Tax benefits. In certain cases you can claim tax reductions on premiums.
  • Waiting periods. The benefit is paid to the super fund, then to you or your beneficiaries, which can result in lengthy waiting times.
  • No medical required. Good option if you are having trouble getting cover outside of super.
  • Unable to nominate beneficiaries. Typically the trustee of the super fund has sole discretion as to who your policies benefit goes to.

As you can see, this life insurance option can be a right or wrong choice depending on the person. For example, if you are changing life insurance policies due to financial constraints, the cheaper premiums and tax benefits of inside super life insurance is great. On the other hand, if you are wanting a more comprehensive level of cover than you currently have, this probably won't be as attractive.

Watch out for the churning trap

Churning is when an insurance agent misleads and lies to you in order to get you to cancel your existing life insurance policy and replace it with a new one. This was a very popular scam when whole life insurance was available in Australia, as they could draw down your existing policies cash value to cover the new one while gaining additional commission, which of course left you out of pocket.

With the removal of whole life insurance from the Australian market this practice has lessened, as term life insurance does not have a cash value attached to it. However, it has not been eradicated completely, as unscrupulous insurance agents can still hoodwink you into switching policies regularly to generate more sales and therefore more commission for themselves.

Some red flags to watch out for are if the agent:

  • Warns you not to tell your current insurance provider and relatives about changing your policy.
  • Tries to get you to sign an incomplete contract you do not understand.
  • Badmouths other agents and insurance companies.

While the majority of insurance agents are honest professionals, the dishonest minority does exist. Therefore, it is very important that you always read the fine print carefully, and seek outside advice or guidance if you feel something suspicious might be going on.

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Photo by Becca Tarter on Unsplash

Maurice Thach

An insurance researcher and writer for finder.com.au who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?" Maurice has also completed a Tier 1 Life Insurance and a Tier 2 General Insurance Certification under ASIC's Regulatory Guide 146. This means he can confidently provide general advice for life insurance and non-life insurance products.

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