Main article: History of insurance
Insurance began as a way of reducing the risk of traders, as early as 5000 BC in China and 4500 BC in Babylon. Life insurance dates only to ancient Rome; "burial clubs" covered the cost of members' funeral expenses and helped survivors monetarily. Modern life insurance started in 17th century England, originally as insurance for traders : merchants, ship owners and underwriters met to discuss deals at Lloyd's Coffee House, predecessor to the famous Lloyd's of London.
The first insurance company in the United States was formed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1732, but it provided only fire insurance. The sale of life insurance in the U.S. began in the late 1760s. The Presbyterian Synods in Philadelphia and New York created the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of Presbyterian Ministers in 1759; Episcopalian priests organized a similar fund in 1769. Between 1787 and 1837 more than two dozen life insurance companies were started, but fewer than half a dozen survived.
Prior to the American Civil War, many insurance companies in the United States insured the lives of slaves for their owners. In response to bills passed in California in 2001 and in Illinois in 2003, the companies have been required to search their records for such policies. New York Life for example reported that Nautilus sold 485 slaveholder life insurance policies during a two-year period in the 1840s; they added that their trustees voted to end the sale of such policies 15 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
 Market trends
Life insurance premiums written in 2005According to a study by Swiss Re, the EU was the largest market for life insurance premiums written in 2005 followed by the USA and Japan.
 Stranger Originated Life Insurance
Stranger Originated Life Insurance or STOLI is a life insurance policy that is held or financed by a person who has no relationship to the insured person. Generally, the purpose of life insurance is to provide peace of mind by assuring that financial loss or hardship will be lessened or eliminated in the event of the insured person's death. STOLI has often been used as an investment technique whereby investors will encourage someone (usually an elderly person) to purchase life insurance and name the investors as the beneficiary of the policy. This undermines the primary purpose of life insurance as the investors have no financial loss that would occur if the insured person were to die. In some jurisdictions, there are laws to discourage or prevent STOLI.
Although some aspects of the application process (such as underwriting and insurable interest provisions) make it difficult, life insurance policies have been used in cases of exploitation and fraud. In the case of life insurance, there is a motivation to purchase a life insurance policy, particularly if the face value is substantial, and then kill the insured. Usually, the larger the claim, and/or the more serious the incident, the larger and more intense will be the number of investigative layers, consisting in police and insurer investigation, eventually also loss adjusters hired by the insurers to work independently.
The television series Forensic Files has included episodes that feature this scenario. There was also a documented case in 2006, where two elderly women are accused of taking in homeless men and assisting them. As part of their assistance, they took out life insurance on the men. After the contestability period ended on the policies (most life contracts have a standard contestability period of two years), the women are alleged to have had the men killed via hit-and-run car crashes.
Recently, viatical settlements have created problems for life insurance carriers. A viatical settlement involves the purchase of a life insurance policy from an elderly or terminally ill policy holder. The policy holder sells the policy (including the right to name the beneficiary) to a purchaser for a price discounted from the policy value. The seller has cash in hand, and the purchaser will realize a profit when the seller dies and the proceeds are delivered to the purchaser. In the meantime, the purchaser continues to pay the premiums. Although both parties have reached an agreeable settlement, insurers are troubled by this trend. Insurers calculate their rates with the assumption that a certain portion of policy holders will seek to redeem the cash value of their insurance policies before death. They also expect that a certain portion will stop paying premiums and forfeit their policies. However, viatical settlements ensure that such policies will with absolute certainty be paid out. Some purchasers, in order to take advantage of the potentially large profits, have even actively sought to collude with uninsured elderly and terminally ill patients, and created policies that would have not otherwise been purchased. Likewise, these policies are guaranteed losses from the insurers' perspective.
 See also
Annuity (financial contracts)
Corporate-owned life insurance
Critical Illness Insurance
False insurance claims
Independent Financial Advisers
Permanent life insurance
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance
Term life insurance
Universal life insurance
Variable universal life insurance
Whole life insurance
 Specific references
1.^ IRS Retirement Plans FAQs regarding Revenue Ruling 2002-62
2.^ IRS Bulletin No. 2002–42
3.^ [http://www.actuary.org/pdf/life/interim_aug06.pdf "AAA/SOA Review of the Interim Mortality Tables Developed by Tillinghast and Proposed for Use by the ACLI from the Joint American Academy of Actuaries/Society of Actuaries Review Team"] August 29, 2006
4.^ Medical Information Bureau (MIB) website
5.^ MIB Consumer FAQs
6.^ Internal Revenue Code § 101(a)(1)
7.^ "And whereas I have left in the hands of Doctor Ducke Channcellor of London two pollicies of insurance the one of one hundred pounds for the safe arivall of our Shipp in Guiana which is in mine owne name, if we miscarry by the waie (which God forbid) I bequeath the advantage thereof to my said Cosin Thomas Muchell...whereas there is an other insurance of one hundred pounds assured by the said Doctor Arthur Ducke on my life for one yeare if I chance to die within that tyme I entreat the said doctor Ducke to make it over to the said Thomas Muchell his kinsman..." Will of Robert Hayman, 1628 (proved 1632):Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Catalogue Reference PROB 11/163
8.^ Coalition Against Insurance Fraud – Impact Statement
9.^ "Two Elderly Women Indicted on Fraud Charges in Deaths of LA Hit-Run," Insurance Journal, June 1, 2006