Some people are lucky enough to have sufficient insurance through their employer, but some staff benefits are not currently being made available to new employees, while redundancy and moving jobs may also affect the cover that you have in place.
Karen Peterkin, financial adviser at Chiene + Tait Financial Services in Edinburgh, offers her top ten tips on ensuring you're covered in the event of something happening to you or your partner.
1 CHECK WHAT YOUR EMPLOYER PROVIDES
IT IS important to make sure that you are fully aware how much death in service cover and/or income protection insurance you have in place (if any) with your employer. Bear in mind that should you change job or be made redundant, you will no longer have cover in place, unless you have existing personal cover and/or your new employer offers similar benefits.
2 GETTING COVERED INDEPENDENTLY
Death in service and income protection are not automatically provided by employers. Both can be set up independently, although being covered for one does not mean you automatically are covered for the other.
Income protection can provide you with income up to 75 per cent of your earned income, minus state benefits if you are unable to work owing to accident or sickness after a specified deferred period. State benefits are currently around 90 per week (dependent on personal circumstances) – could you and your family survive on this level of income if you were unable to work?
3 REPLACING EMPLOYER COVER
If you have recently become self-employed or been made redundant you will not benefit from any company death in service cover or group income protection. Ask an independent financial adviser to research the market for the most appropriate plans to suit your needs, as well as the most competitive premium.
4 CRITICAL DECISION
Think carefully about cancelling any existing life cover or mortgage protection plans that you currently have, such as critical illness cover. Illnesses that life companies are willing to class as "critical" are changing constantly. If you have a plan that was set up, for example, seven years ago, it is likely that you are covered for a wider range of critical illnesses compared to setting up the same plan with the same provider today. New critical illness plans can be expensive and will cover you for fewer illnesses.
5 JOINT COVER
Joint life cover can be set up to pay out twice, for very little extra cost. For example, a joint life policy can be set up with a sum assured of 200,000 on each life. If you both die during the term of the plan it will pay out twice, rather than once (which is common with traditional life cover policies). You can also set up the sum assured to be different on each life if required, and critical illness cover can also be included. The level of critical illness cover does not need to be set at the same level of life cover.
6 KNOW WHAT YOU'RE COVERED FOR
Life cover does not automatically include critical illness cover and does not provide you with an income. A life cover plan simply pays out a lump sum on death only. You can add critical illness to these plans for an additional cost if you wish. Income protection plans are separate as they provide regular income, not a lump sum.
7 HEALTH ISSUES
Don't assume that you will be granted life cover if you are in poor health.
Some companies have more relaxed underwriting rules than others, and while their premium may not be the most competitive, they may still be able to offer you life cover.
However it is likely that they will apply an exclusion and/or increase the premium.
8 FINDING SPECIALIST COVER
If your application is rejected on health grounds you could then approach an alternative provider who may be willing to offer cover. It is sometimes possible to submit a short application form in the first instance so the provider can tell you if it will consider it.
9 MORTGAGE PAYMENTS
A mortgage protection plan should cover your outstanding mortgage in the event of first death (or earlier critical illness if applied for). However, it is vital that you review your plans every time you increase your mortgage or move house. Mortgage payment protection does not usually leave you with a surplus for your family to survive on, so additional life cover is essential.
10 FAMILY FORTUNES
Do not underestimate the value of your wife/husband/partner who does not contribute to the household income. For example, it has been estimated that the value of work mums do around the house is over 32,000 a year. Could your family maintain its living standards if mum was no longer around to provide childcare or domestic work?