Up to 4.2 million people in the UK risk leaving loved ones with the financial burden that mortgage repayments carry because they do not have their mortgages covered by life insurance, according to a report published by Sainsbury's Bank.

The bank says its research indicates that a staggering GBP217 billion worth of mortgages are not protected by life insurance and is urging all homeowners to make sure they have adequate life insurance.

It attributes a large part of the protection gap to the surge in the housing market which saw the number of new mortgage approvals rise to 122,000 in December 2005, the highest since May 2004, and warns the problem could get worse.

The bank insists people should consider the worst case scenario, where the death of a spouse could result in crushing financial pressure for the partner left behind. It also suggested that increased coverage level does not necessarily mean increased premium payments.

David Pickett, life insurance manager at Sainsbury’s Bank, said, Life insurance provides financial cover should the unthinkable happen, enabling people to be secure in the knowledge that their dependants could receive a cash lump sum if they were to die.

Homeowners in particular should take care not to overlook life insurance as it can help to ensure the property is paid for upon death alleviating any financial burden and may even provide financial security for loved ones.