Gordon Powers

Ask parents about the merits of buying life insurance for their children and you'll hear several different and emotional answers — assuming they're willing to broach the subject at all.

Some see it as an effective way to put money aside for the future and to ensure their kids will be covered as adults in case some future illness makes them uninsurable.

This is particularly true in families that have already dealt with catastrophic illness in parents or siblings.

Others view it as an old school approach that's been replaced by more effective savings tools, such as RESPs or TFSAs.

And then there are many who maintain that, since life insurance is designed to replace a portion of the family's income following a breadwinner's death, it makes little sense to cover someone who doesn't earn any money to begin with.

In other words, it depends.

But there is one point that all insurance advisors agree upon: Parents shouldn't even be thinking about life insurance for their children until they are completely covered themselves.

While no one in their right mind believes that any financial benefit could offset the death of a child, there are a few instances in which buying a policy on a child's life might be worth considering, says Helena Smeenk Pritchard, a consultant with over 36 years of experience in the insurance industry.

For instance, while the chances of a child becoming uninsurable later in life may be fairly low, they aren't non-existent.

If you have a long family history of health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease, it might be tough for your kids to get insurance when they're older. In this case, life insurance coverage for your children might make sense.

And there's your own mental health. Many companies will give parents time off with pay when a child dies, but how quickly would you be ready to go back to work after such a tragedy? The death benefit could allow you to take the time you need to grieve without having to worry as much about money, she suggests.

Some parents have also been known to use the money to establish memorials or foundations to help other children in need.