There are many kinds of life insurance, generally they fall into two categories: term insurance and permanent insurance.
Term insurance is designed to meet temporary needs. It provides protection for a specific period of time (the "term") and generally pays a benefit only if you die during the term. This type of insurance often makes sense when you have a need for coverage that will disappear at a specific point in time. For instance, you may decide that you only need coverage until your children graduate from college or a particular debt is paid off, such as your mortgage.
In contrast, permanent insurance provides lifelong protection. Because it is designed to last a lifetime, permanent life insurance accumulates cash value and is priced for you to keep over a long period of time. Permanent life insurance can be used to supplement your retirement, pay for long term care, or go on that family trip you always dreamed of.