For Mark Roberts’ Use: In your younger days, you understood that life insurance was a vital component of protecting your young family in the event of your death. Now, however, your children are grown and self-supporting, and you may be wondering whether life insurance is still necessary. Before you drop your policy, there are a few important things to consider.

Protect your spouse. Widows and widowers age 55 and older are statistically more likely to live in poverty than married people of the same age. Even if your children have flown the nest, your spouse may still depend on your income. If you’re retired and receive Social Security benefits, survivor benefits may not be enough to cover household expenses. Life insurance is particularly important if you have a mortgage or other debts that your spouse would need to cover in order to maintain their standard of living.

Help your beneficiaries. It’s impossible to predict the expenses you might incur toward the end of your life, but they could include high medical bills, legal fees involved in settling your estate, and other types of debt. Life insurance death benefits are paid quickly, and usually are not subject to federal income tax. Your life insurance policy could provide the quick relief from final expenses that your heirs need at a difficult time.

Is your term life insurance policy expiring? Term life insurance policies usually offer lower premiums than other forms of life insurance, but they only provide coverage for a specified length of time. If your term life insurance policy is expiring soon, ask your insurance agent about extending the length of the policy (possibly at a higher premium, due to your age). Another option is to convert to a permanent life insurance policy or simply purchase a new permanent policy.

The premiums for a permanent life insurance policy remain the same, no matter how long you live, and part of your premiums goes into a cash-value account which accumulates on a tax-deferred basis for the life of the policy. The rates vary based on age, health status, and other factors. Talk to your insurance agent about protecting your spouse and heirs with a life insurance policy that is designed to meet your needs at this time in your life.