We all think of life insurance as a way to provide cash to our loved ones upon our unexpected deaths. But life insurance is more than that. It’s actually can be a key part of an estate planning portfolio for many Massachusetts residents.

Here are some thoughts on the matter.

1. Younger people just starting out often buy life insurance to replace income their family would lose, but sometimes they purchase just enough to pay off the mortgage and maybe the car. Thinking longer term, life insurance can be used for college expenses down the road, for example. Life insurance, especially when purchased at a younger age, is an affordable means to protect a family immediately and in the future.

2. If you’ve started a second family, life insurance can help to head off disputes between your children and a new spouse. One way to do so is to name your spouse the beneficiary of your life insurance and leave other assets to your children. Or, if you have kids from several relationships, each could be a beneficiary of a policy, allowing for an equal inheritance.

3. If you own a business, life insurance can protect a business partner in the case of your death, assist in succession planning or provide income to the family if the business is sold or shuts down.

4. Life insurance proceeds can be used to pay for any federal or state estate taxes that might be owed when your assets are distributed to your heirs. It also can be used to provide available cash if it is needed while assets are sold.

Life insurance is a valuable yet often overlooked means of estate planning. Ask your estate planning attorney how large of a role life insurance should play in your plans.