Life insurance 101: what do I need to know?

Life insurance is important to your financial security. As a vital part of your financial plan, it needs to be reviewed regularly. As you experience changes in your life and career, your goals and protection needs may change.

Why do I need life insurance?

Life insurance is an essential part of any financial program. Most people buy life insurance to replace income that would be lost at the death of a wage earner. The cash provided by life insurance also can help ensure your dependents are not burdened with significant debt when you die.

How much life insurance do I need?

Our insurance needs calculator can help you determine how much insurance you may need to sufficiently provide for the well-being of your family.

How do I choose a beneficiary?

Designating a beneficiary is an important right of life insurance ownership. It lets you determine who receives your policy benefits. Under current tax law, life insurance benefits paid to a beneficiary are generally not taxable income.

Common terminology
  • Primary beneficiary - The person or persons named will be the first to receive the proceeds.
  • Alternate beneficiary — Policy benefits will be paid to the contingent (secondary) beneficiary, if the primary beneficiary is not living.
  • Irrevocable beneficiary - Once you designate an irrevocable beneficiary, you may not change it without the beneficiary's written permission.
  • Default beneficiary - If you don't name a beneficiary, policy benefits will be paid in order of priority as listed in the policy.
How to designate multiple beneficiaries

After determining whom you want to select as your beneficiary or beneficiaries, you may then choose what percentage of the benefit each individual should receive.

For example:

Primary Jane Doe, daughter, and John Doe, son

  • Jane and John will equally share the proceeds. If any additional children are born, they will not be eligible to receive a portion of the proceeds.

Primary Susan Doe, spouse
Alternate Jane Doe, daughter, 75 percent and John Doe, son, 25 percent

  • The proceeds will be paid to Susan Doe. If Susan is not living, then the proceeds will be paid 75 percent to Jane Doe and 25 percent to John Doe.

Primary William Doe, Trustee, his successors or successor in trust under the William Doe Revocable Trust Agreement. Executed by the insured on June 1, 1995.

  • The proceeds will be paid to a formal trust. If the Trust is an institution, the address of the institution should be included.
How do I make changes to existing coverage?

Call ERS at 1-877-275-4377 to make changes to your coverage.

What do I do if I have a claim?

We are committed to providing superior service to you and your family when you have a claim. Our goal is to process all claims promptly, fairly and courteously. Most claims are processed in 5-10 business days of receipt of the necessary claim information.

If you or your family wish to present a claim, please read our step-by-step instructions.

How do I learn more about a life insurance company?

Before purchasing life insurance, employees are encouraged to evaluate the financial strength of the insurance company as well as its ethical reputation. This can be done by requesting information from the state insurance department or reviewing information from an insurance rating service. Employees can also check the state insurance department's web site (if available).

We are highly rated by the major independent rating agencies that analyze the financial soundness and claims-paying ability of insurance companies. Learn more about the rating agencies and view our ratings.