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When it comes to understanding life insurance, most of the premiums, charges and fees are fairly straightforward. While the premium pays for benefits of the policy, the charges and fees are generally about handling of the policy itself.

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If there a fee that might be confusing in nature, it is the surrender charges on life insurance policies. Although it is actually fairly simple in its effect, it is the type of fee that can catch many people off-guard or unaware of its full effect.

What is a Life Insurance Surrender Charge?

A life insurance surrender charge occurs when the life insurance policy is cancelled and is levied against the policy holder. Basically, this is the fee that is designed to cover the cost of keeping the policy on the insurance company’s records. This is also known as a life insurance surrender fee, but the effect is the same.

Basically, once the policy holder informs the insurance company that they are cancelling their policy the fee is to ensure that the company has its administrative costs of the policy covered. The size of the surrender charge will vary from insurance company and will also depend on other factors as well which will be spelled out in the information sent by the insurance company to the policy holder.

A typical surrender charge starts at 10% of the funds collected in the first year and subsequently dropping by 1% each year.

So, if you contributed $1000 in the first year, the surrender charge would be $100. After 10 years, many policies no longer have this charge. However, keep in mind that different insurance companies will have different policies about their surrender charges.

When the Surrender Charge is Levied and Waived?

To avoid paying the surrender charge life insurance policy, there are a number of different waivers available again depending on the parameters of the policy and insurance company rules.

Pay until Termination: With most policies, there is a time between when a policy holder announces to the insurance company that they are discontinuing the policy and when the policy itself is cancelled by the insurance company. If the policy holder keeps paying the premiums until the insurance company makes the cancellation, then there are usually no fees.

Term Life: Surrender charges are part of whole life policies. If you purchase term life insurance then you will not face a surrender charge. This is because you are not building up any savings or investments with a term policy.

Window of Cancellation: Many insurance companies will establish a window of opportunity for their whole life policy holders to cancel without facing a surrender charge. Usually, this window occurs on the anniversary of the policy itself. This will mean that a formal notification by the policy holder during that time or perhaps that they request that the policy itself terminates on the anniversary will mean not facing surrender fees.

The life insurance surrender charge is something that can be avoided with a little planning ahead, so it is important that you read about the fees associated with your policy.