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Your life keeps changing - and so should your insurance

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Updated: 12/13/2012 12:34 pm

(BPT) - Life insurance is not a “set it and forget it” type of tool. While millions of Americans know it's important to protect their loved ones with life insurance, many may be unaware that when significant life events - like getting married or starting a business - occur, they need to reassess their life insurance coverage.

Even if you already have life insurance, financial and insurance professionals recommend that you review your policy periodically to make sure you and your loved ones are properly covered.

"As you go through life changes, your life insurance policy should change as well to reflect those changes," says Mike Plazony, senior vice president of the Life division at Erie Insurance. "The amount of life insurance you need really depends on where you are in your life and your individual circumstances."

Plazony lists eight specific circumstances that should prompt a policy review.

1. When wedding bells ring Anyone getting married should also say "I do" to life insurance. Without a policy in place, there's no guaranteeing that your spouse and children would be provided for in the event of the unthinkable.

2. When you buy a home Just purchased your dream home? Congratulations! In addition to taking out a homeowner's policy, you'll also want to take out a term life insurance policy. It may cost less than a whole life policy - and can cover the cost of your mortgage until it's completely paid off.

3. When you have a baby Becoming a parent changes everything - including insurance requirements. According to the Insurance Information Institute, one-third of all families with a new baby haven't updated their life insurance protection. If you already have a policy, take the time to update your beneficiary designations.

4. When one spouse decides to stay home The thing to remember here is that stay-at-home spouses continue to make a financial contribution to the family. Should that spouse pass away prematurely, the surviving spouse would have to cover expenses for child care, cleaning, cooking and other forms of home maintenance - and those can add up quickly. In fact, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the annual cost of day care for a preschool-aged child ranges anywhere from $3,900 to $14,050.

5. When a child enters college With the cost of higher education increasing every year, many parents end up co-signing on their kids' education loans. It's great that you want to help, but know that you'll be liable for the loan should tragedy strike. A life insurance policy on both the student and the parent will ensure school loans are one less worry.

6. When you open a business Many lenders require life insurance on small business loans. It's with good reason since a separate policy protecting the business can help ensure that the business debts and operating expenses are handled. It can also give you peace of mind knowing that the policy you have for your family remains available for them when they need it.

7. When retirement is imminent Leaving the workplace may mean leaving some life insurance benefits behind, so make sure you do a thorough review before the final quitting time.

8. When a divorce happens Even though you're no longer married, you may still have people who depend on you financially. Review your policy's beneficiaries and what coverage is in place to protect any children you and your former spouse had together.

Because of the complexity involved in determining exactly which type and how much life insurance you need at any given point in your life, many financial sites offer tools to help you determine your needs, such as the Erie Insurance online life insurance calculator. But even after doing your homework, you should check with your financial adviser or insurance agent to ensure you're getting the coverage that's right for you.

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