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Viatical/Life Settlements

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides the public with useful information that you should read before you consider selling your life insurance policy (or before you consider investing in one of these policies).   We recommend that you take the time to review the NAIC material.   

We also recommend that you seek help from an unbiased advisor before you commit to any viatical/life settlement transactions. Additionally, we encourage you to take a few minutes to go through the questions and answers below.

General Questions:
What is a life (or viatical) settlement? Answer
Why might you want to sell your life insurance policy? Answer
Why might you not want to sell your life insurance policy? Answer
 
Before You Sell Your Life Insurance Policy:
What should you know before you sell your life insurance policy? Answer
How do you know if you’re getting a fair price for the policy you are selling? Answer
Should you seek professional advice from independent parties? Answer
 
Before You Invest in a Life Settlement Transaction:
What should you know before you buy a life insurance policy as an investment? Answer
What impact does the insured’s life expectancy have on the rate of return earned by the investor? Answer
Besides the insured’s life expectancy, what are some of the other factors that could impact your investment? Answer 
General Questions:
 
What is a life (or viatical) settlement?

A life (or viatical) settlement is the sale of a life insurance policy to a third party, such as an individual, investor or investment group. The owner (viator) of the life insurance policy sells the policy for an immediate cash benefit.

The buyer (the viatical settlement provider) becomes the new owner of the life insurance policy, pays future premiums, and collects the death benefit when the insured dies.

At one time, most viatical settlements were from people with a life-threatening illness. Now, individuals who are not facing a health crisis may sell their life insurance policies to get cash.

Life settlements are an alternative to the policy surrender and accelerated death benefit options that may be available in your insurance contract.

 
Why might you want to sell your life insurance policy?

You no longer need or want the policy benefits and/or you need cash to pay expenses or reduce debt.

 
Why might you not want to sell your life insurance policy?

Here are a few reasons:

First, life insurance policies are a valuable asset and their value may grow over time.  By selling your policy you may be giving up valuable benefits that could have negative financial consequences for you and your beneficiaries.  

Second, you’ll need to provide access to lots of personal information so that a value can be placed on the policy.  But, you may feel uncomfortable sharing personal health and financial information with strangers. 

Finally, you may feel uncomfortable knowing that the policy’s death benefit will be paid to someone who has no obvious insurable interest in your life. 

To learn about other reasons why you may not want to sell your policy, please review the NAIC material

 
Before You Sell Your Life Insurance Policy:
 
What should you know before you sell your life insurance policy?

You may have other options that can put you and your beneficiaries in a better financial position.  That’s why it’s important to seek the advice of an unbiased financial planner or agent.  Also, make sure you understand the tax implications of the life settlement, who the owner of the policy will be after the settlement, and if that owner has the right to re-sell the policy.

 
How do you know if you’re getting a fair price for the policy you are selling?

This is a tough one.  Be sure to review multiple bona fide bids from competing buyers.  You should also confirm that your present insurance company can not make a more attractive offer.  You will also want to seek help from your financial advisor because the competing offers may contain different provisions which are difficult to quantify.   

 
Should you seek professional advice from independent parties?

Yes. You should, for example, always seek the advice of an unbiased financial expert before you commit to any viatical/life settlement transactions.

 
Before You Invest in a Life Settlement Transaction:
 
What should you know before you buy a life insurance policy as an investment?

These are private transactions and even some professionals can get them wrong.  Make certain you double-check all the assumptions (e.g., the insured's assumed life expectancy) and confirm your understanding before you invest your money.

 
What impact does the insured’s life expectancy have on the rate of return earned by the investor?

The impact can be quite dramatic.  An illustrated rate of return of, say, 10% per year could easily drop to 0% (or less). 

Investors should understand that life settlements are mortality leveraged transactions.  For example, if the insured lives five years longer than the illustrated “life expectancy,” the premiums to keep the policy in-force will need to be paid for an extra five years and the death benefit proceeds will be paid five years later than illustrated.  Both the extra premium payments and the delayed receipt of the death benefit payment work against the investor and can substantially reduce the illustrated investment return.

 
Besides the insured’s life expectancy, what are some of the other factors that could impact your investment?   

Factors to consider include the insurer’s creditworthiness, policy provisions, and legal actions from the insured’s family.  For more information, please search the NAIC web site or contact us.


 
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