Life insurance is a contract between a life insurance company and the insurance policy holder. It is a form of financial protection for the beneficiary of the insured person in case of death. The policy holder pays periodic amounts called premiums for the duration of the policy and upon death, the insurance company pays a specific sum of money to a designated beneficiary in form of income. The insurance policy can also cover other expenses related to burial and funeral. Payment from the policy can be a lump sum or an annuity, which is paid in regular installments for either a specified time or for the lifetime of the beneficiary.
In 2015, the United States was the leading life insurance premium writing country, with a total value of life direct premiums written amounting to 552.51 billion U.S. dollars. The second and third largest life insurance markets were Japan and the People's Republic of China, with life direct premiums written estimated at 343.82 billion U.S. dollars and 210.76 billion U.S. dollars respectively.
There were 616 life insurance companies in the United States in 2015, most of them categorized as “stock life insurance companies”, based on their organizational structure. In 2016, Metlife was the largest life insurance company in the country, by market capitalization. The New York-based company also was the American insurer with most life insurance policies issued - approximately 237.67 billion U.S. dollars worth of policies in 2015 alone.
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