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Critical illness insurance

What is critical illness insurance?

Critical illness insurance provides cover for a range of serious illnesses which are commonly terminal or result in a high loss of standards of living such as cancer, kidney failure or stroke.

It can provide a lump sum payment or an ongoing annual income in the event of such illnesses.

Most providers cover a standard range of conditions set out by the ABI known as core conditions, while some insurers may also cover several extra less common conditions as well.

Critical illness insurance can be arranged as a standalone cover or as part of a life insurance policy, decreasing term, level term or mortgage life insurance policy.

The cover will normally be arranged to pay a lump sum benefit which you can choose either based on the amount of cover required or on the premium you are willing to pay.

Critical illness typical cover options

  • Combined with life or independent

    If the policy is life and critical illness cover combined it will only pay out on the first event, meaning a valid life claim on a joint policy would leave the survivor with no critical illness cover.

    This arrangement is cheaper but leaves potential shortfalls in particular for a family with children or for a couple with only one income.

  • Decreasing, level or increasing cover

    Decreasing cover gradually reduces and is designed mainly to cover the balance of a repayment mortgage although the money could be used for anything in the event of a claim unless it is actually assigned to the lender.

    Level cover pays a fixed lump sum that will not change through the term of the policy.

    Increasing cover will actually increase in potential payout throughout the term either on a fixed basis for example 5% per annum or perhaps inline with inflation.

  • Policy Term

    This is the age that the policy will cover you until and is usually limited to a certain age such as 65 or 70.

    The longer the term the higher the premium is likely to be as the risk is greater the older you are.

    This means it is often far more costs effective to arrange the cover when you are younger rather than waiting till later in life.

  • Lump sum or income

    You can usually choose whether to receive a lump sum payment for example to cover a mortgage, or whether to receive an ongoing income to the end of the term.

  • Definition of Disability

    If the definition of disability provided is on an own occupation basis it means that if you were permanently unable through injury or illness to perform your own occupation listed on the policy then the cover would pay out under total permanent disability.

    However if an own occupation basis is not supplied then total permanent disability may only be considered where you cannot perform a role of similar earnings or if you cannot perform everyday tasks depending on the insurers terms.

    This can obviously be a quite a significant difference so care and advice should be considered on this area.

  • Guaranteed premiums

    The cover may be arranged on a guaranteed or reviewable basis.

    Guaranteed means the premium will not change at all during the term of the plan but reviewable premiums may be subject to changes based on the insurer's claims experience, typically once every five years.

  • Waiver of premium

    Waiver of premium means you will stop paying the premium for the insurance if unable to work due to illness or injury, in effect income protection for the payment of premium.

Typical life insurance options will usually be available such as joint or single policy, inclusion of income protection cover, waiver of premiums and monthly or annual payments. The option to put the policy in Trust will also be available should this be necessary.

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