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How to read and understand your life insurance policy

Most people hate the thought of reading a life insurance policy (or any insurance policy, for that matter). However, if you can find the time and the patience, it's a good idea to read through your whole policy. If you do, you'll understand your policy better.

The parts of a life insurance policy

A life insurance policy contains the following parts:

The cover page

This is who the insurance company is and the type of plan you’ve purchased, and it’s signed by an insurance company officer.

The schedule of benefits and specifications page

On this page, you’ll find descriptions of the benefits and details of your policy. These include things like

  • how much and how often you’ll pay;
  • who the insured person(s) are;
  • the date the policy was issued;
  • the policy number (this is especially important for filing a claim later);
  • other details about the policy.


This section defines some of the jargon in the policy to help you better understand it. Make this section your friend.

Your rights

As the owner, there are certain rights you have with your policy, including

  • the right to transfer or assign the policy;
  • the right to change or update beneficiaries;
  • the right to receive the cash value and dividends (if applicable);
  • the right to take out a loan against the cash value (again, if applicable).

Claims and settlements

This includes instructions on how to make a claim and information about the choices your beneficiary has regarding the death benefit.

Riders and endorsements

If you have a rider (extra benefits you’ve added to the base policy) or endorsements (adjustments or changes to the base policy), they’ll be attached to the policy along with a copy of your application.

How to learn more about life insurance

Life insurance may seem complicated, but it’s not that hard once you know the basics. Of course, we are happy to help. You can also use the TruStage Life Insurance Calculator to compare different types of insurance and learn more about your options.

Keep reading:

What are the different types of life insurance?
It may seem simple but understanding insurance types can also be confusing. We’ve broken down a few of the most common types of life insurance policies to simplify things.

What should I look for in a reputable insurance company?
Cost isn’t everything in choosing the best life insurance policy. There’s also a lot to be said about choosing an insurance company you can really trust.

How much life insurance do you need?
This article walks you through several popular methods for estimating how much life insurance you need to ensure your family’s future.

Life insurance when you're young
It’s tempting to put off buying life insurance when you’re young, especially if you’re just starting out and money is tight. But there are two good reasons to buy life insurance now instead of waiting.