Life insurance is a critical part of your long term financial planning. Every person with dependents should have life insurance.
Life insurance is particularly important if you are the sole breadwinner for your family. The loss of you and your income could devastate your family. Life insurance will ensure that if anything happens to you, your loved ones will be able to manage financially.
But don't ignore life insurance if you are the 'stay-at-home' spouse. Your value to the family will include child care and many other functions which will potentially become 'paid' functions if you are gone.
While called "life insurance," what you are being insured against is your death. The benefit (in most life insurance policies) will only be paid out if you die. Some life insurance policies accumulate a cash value - and this would be the only exception in which you could receive a 'benefit' from a life insurance policy without dying. However, the cash value is many times less than the death benefit, and life insurance is (in fact) a savings plan and insurance rolled into one.
Many life insurance policies carry restrictions around the circumstances of your death. Usually if you commit suicide your loved ones will not receive any death benefit's (This is one area where "cashing in your chips" won't leave you with a big bank roll).
For more information regarding life insurance check out the following pages: Life Insurance, Why do I need life insurance, How do I decide what I need, What types of life insure can I get, Permanent life insurance, Whole life insurance, Universal life insurance, Term life insurance, Other types of life insurance and don't forget to check out the How can I reduce life insurance costs page.