Everything You Need To Know About Life Settlements

Life insurance is one of the most widely utilized financial products in the United States. According to the ACLI, as of 2018, there were more than 138 million individual life insurance policies insuring U.S. citizens, with a total face value of over $12.12 Trillion. Additionally, group life insurance accounts for another 114 million policies valued at more than $7.36 Trillion.

Considering those statistics, it is fair to say that the importance of owning a life insurance policy to provide financial security for our loved ones is embedded in the financial plans of Americans. However, there is a little known fact about lapse rates that life insurance companies do not want to publicize. According to the Life Insurance Settlement Association "an estimated 90% of all life insurance policies issued lapse before paying a claim."

While many of these life insurance consumers lapse or surrender a policy that holds little to no present-day economic value, some Americans may have walked away from a valuable asset worth a significant sum of cash. Unfortunately, these consumers were unaware that fair market value may have been available for their life insurance policy through a state-regulated secondary market called life settlements. This secondary market for life insurance policies provides qualified policyholders with an alternative option other than those offered by the life insurance company. Life Settlements are about CHOICE - and that choice is now in the hands of the American consumer instead of the life insurance company.

Life Settlements

A life settlement enables qualified life insurance policyholders to convert their life insurance coverage into cash by selling it to a state-licensed financial institution. The sale of the policy is similar to the sale of a home or car, all rights, title, and future interest in the asset are legally transferred from the seller to the buyer. The buyer is then responsible for all future premium payments and owns the rights to the future death benefit. These buyers are part of a secondary market for life insurance policies that developed due to the limited options offered by life insurance companies for those consumers who have had changing life circumstances or who could no longer afford their premiums.

Life settlements give consumers a choice, when previously only limited options existed, which were dictated by the life insurance company. Now, thanks to the life settlement industry, policyholders have the choice to sell their asset for a fair market value, instead of lapsing a policy with no value received or surrendering it for an amount below fair market value. The life settlement option allows the seller of the life insurance policy to use the proceeds to help pay for long-term care needs, living expenses, or anything else they desire.

Click here to learn more about life settlements and how Welcome Funds can help you!

A viatical settlement is a financial transaction in which a lump sum cash payment is made to the owner of a life insurance policy in exchange for the sale of ownership and beneficiary rights to the life insurance policy. Typically, this term is used for transactions involving only terminally ill insureds who have a life expectancy of less than 24 months.

Are Viatical Settlements Taxable?

For those insured, the viatical settlement proceeds may be considered tax-free. The viatical settlement option allows policy owners to use the proceeds of the sale to help pay for medical bills, living expenses, or anything else they choose.

Click here to learn more about Viatical Settlement Regulations and more.

The life settlement transaction itself is simple. The policy owner and insured must complete an application, which includes important transactional disclosures and authorizations. A copy of the policy under consideration for sale as well as a premium illustration and the insured's medical records must be obtained. These documents can be requested by Welcome Funds and are required in order to evaluate the policy and begin the official life settlement offer negotiation process. There are no out-of-pocket fees to receive an offer and there is absolutely no obligation to sell the policy. Here is a quick summary of the step-by-step life settlement process:

  1. Complete our FREE Life Settlement Qualifier to determine eligibility, then speak with a Client Care Advocate to receive a Free Appraisal
  2. Review important disclosures to ensure you understand the process and requirements
  3. Complete our formal application
  4. Our life settlement experts will then expedite the requests for the necessary documents required to prepare your case for market submission
  5. Your life settlement case is then submitted to our National Buyer Network
  6. Offers and declines are received from buyers and negotiations are conducted to maximize the offers
  7. A final bid is secured when the highest bidder is identified
  8. Policyholder accepts or declines the bid. If acceptable, the closing process begins
  9. Closing documents are prepared by the buyer and sent to the policyholder and insured for signatures
  10. Policy title, values and other pertinent information is verified
  11. Official transfer of ownership and beneficiary rights are completed with the life insurance company
  12. Funds are released from escrow to the policyholder

The sale of a life insurance policy to a third party was established as a legal right for consumers in 1911 based on the Supreme Court ruling in Grigsby v. Russell, 222 U.S. 149 (1911). Mr. Justice Holmes said it best, "To deny the right to sell except to persons having such an (insurable) interest is to diminish appreciably the value of the contract in the owner's hands." This opinion placed the ownership rights in a life insurance policy on the same legal footing as more traditional investment property such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

As with these other types of property, a life insurance policy can be transferred to another person at the discretion of the policy owner. This decision established a life insurance policy as transferable property that contains specific legal rights, including the right to:

  • Name the life insurance policy beneficiary
  • Change the beneficiary designation (unless subject to restrictions)
  • Assign the life insurance policy as collateral for a loan
  • Borrow against the life insurance policy
  • Sell the life insurance policy to another party

Although this ruling established the right for life insurance consumers to sell or trade their life insurance policies, the practice did not become common until the late 1980's with the start of the viatical settlement industry, which was the precursor to the life settlement market.

Yes, life settlements are a regulated market that operates under strict rules and regulations. Life settlement brokers and providers (buyers) must be licensed in each state where they conduct life settlement business. However, each state has its licensing requirements, and market participants must adhere to them.

Consumer protection is a top priority in the life settlement market, and laws have been enacted in over 45 states to safeguard the interests of policyholders. These laws are typically enforced by the State Department of Insurance, which ensures that brokers and providers comply with applicable regulations.

To learn more about the regulatory landscape of life settlements in your state, please consult our state-by-state regulatory map by clicking here. With this information, you can better understand the laws and regulations that govern the life settlement market in your area and make informed decisions about selling your life insurance policy.

Typically, life insurance policies are issued when the insured is in good health. As years go by, many people have a change in health, and in some cases, serious health conditions may develop. Older Americans or others who have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases are seldom informed that this health change may have created a significant secondary market value for their life insurance policy.

While this life insurance equity sits unknown to the policy owner, maintaining the life insurance coverage may no longer be as important as it once was due to changing circumstances in life; children have grown older, assets were disbursed or have diminished, living expenses have increased and health care costs have skyrocketed. In the past, because most people were unaware of this hidden value in their life insurance policy, the life insurance coverage may have lapsed or been surrendered for a low cash surrender value. Unfortunately, the surrender value does not account for a change in health because life insurance companies are not required to, and have no incentive to, pay a policyholder for this built-up equity. That is precisely why the life settlement industry exists - to provide consumers with a better financial option.

The companies that purchase life insurance policies in the secondary market are called life settlement providers. These companies must be licensed by the Department of Insurance in your home state. Non-licensed investors may not have the proper consumer privacy and confidentiality protections in place.

Providers represent institutional investors such as investment banks, multi-national banks, international corporations, pension funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, and other major financial institutions - including life insurance companies and reinsurers - who are investing in life insurance policies through life settlement funds. Some well-known market participants have included Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, Bear Stearns, Lloyds of London, TransAmerica, Apollo Group, Fortress, Oaktree Capital, Fifth Third Bank, and many others.

According to the Life Insurance Settlement Association,, approximately 90% of all life insurance coverage lapses, with no death benefit ever paid to the policy owner. Awareness of life settlements needs to increase and nationwide marketing campaigns are beginning to become more mainstream. Fortunately, some state regulators are requiring life insurance carriers to notify consumers that there are alternatives to lapsing or surrendering a life insurance policy, including the life settlement option. These consumer disclosure laws, in various forms, now exist in more than five states.

In addition to requiring life insurance companies to disclose the life settlement option, some state governments have recognized the secondary market value of life insurance as an important tool for long-term care. In May 2013, the state of Texas officially passed legislation requiring Medicaid applicants to assign their life insurance policies to the state if the face value is above $10,000 or sell the policy to the life settlement market for a fair value. Many other states are considering similar laws.

General guidelines for life settlement qualification include insureds over the age of 65 with chronic health conditions or those younger with severe or end-stage health issues. Any type of policy can qualify for a settlement, such as universal life, variable life, whole life, convertible term life, or even group life.

The policy owner can be the insured, his/her family, a trust, a corporation, or any other entity that might hold the rights to the policy. Face values on qualified policies can range anywhere from $100,000 to more than $20 million or higher. If you are not sure if you qualify, please feel free to call 877.227.4484 for a free personal consultation with a client care advocate or complete our FREE Life Settlement Qualifier.

When To Sell Your Life Insurance Policy

General guidelines for life settlement qualification include insureds over the age of 65 with chronic health conditions or those younger with severe or end-stage health issues. Any type of policy can qualify for a settlement such as universal life, variable life, whole life, convertible term life, or even group life. The policy owner can be the insured, his/her family, a trust, a corporation, or any other entity that might hold the rights to the life insurance policy. Face values on qualified policies can range anywhere from $100,000 to more than $20 million or higher. If you are not sure if you qualify for a life settlement, please feel free to call for a free personal consultation with a client care advocate or complete our quick Life Settlement Qualifier.

  • The life insurance policy premiums are too costly and have become a financial burden;
  • The original need for the life insurance policy no longer exists, i.e. children are no longer dependents, so lapsing or surrendering the policy is under consideration;
  • The beneficiary of the life insurance policy is deceased and life settlement proceeds would improve the policyholder's financial situation;
  • The policyholder requires additional income to fund long-term care needs;
  • The policyholder wishes to make a cash donation to a charity ;
  • A "key man" policy held is no longer necessary as the employee has left the company; and
  • The insured is required to assign the policy to a state in order to obtain Medicaid coverage.

Your insurance company may offer alternative options, such as accelerated death benefits, loans, or a cash surrender value. Before entering into a life settlement, you should contact your insurance company or agent to see what options are available to you. Welcome Funds may also have access to this information by contacting your life insurance company at your request. Some alternative options may include:

  • Accelerated Death Benefit- some life insurance policies include a rider that provides the policy owner with the option to accelerate a portion of the death benefit payment. This option typically requires the insured to have a certified life expectancy of less than 24 months from their attending physician. Unfortunately, very few life settlement candidates qualify for the accelerated death benefit option; this is the primary reason why the secondary market exists.
  • Disability Waiver of Premium - a feature in some life insurance policies that will allow the policy to remain in force in the event the insured becomes disabled. The carrier will reduce or eliminate the premium required as long as the Insured qualifies for this provision. Some life insurance companies will require an annual qualification form to be completed and approved, while others have set periods for recertification of disability.
  • Discontinuing Premium Payments - cash value policies may allow a policy owner to discontinue paying premiums if there is sufficient account value in the life insurance policy to cover the cost of insurance charged by the insurance company. This is typically only a short-term solution.
  • Reduction in Face Value - a life insurance company may allow the policy owner to lower the death benefit of the policy in order to decrease premium payments.
  • Reduced Paid-Up Policy - if there is a significant amount of cash value in the life insurance policy, the carrier may offer a reduced death benefit and waive future premiums in exchange for the cash value.
  • Policy Loan - if a life insurance policy has accumulated account value, the life insurance company may allow you to borrow against a portion of it. Policy owners may opt for this type of loan because interest rates are generally better than bank rates. The amount borrowed will be deducted from the death benefit until the loan is repaid. Interest will accrue on a monthly/quarterly/semi-annually/annually basis per the life insurance company's contracted process. Review a copy of the policy for specific details.
  • Cash Surrender Value - the sum of money a life insurance company will pay to the life insurance policy owner when the policy is voluntarily terminated before the policy's maturity date or before the death of the insured. The cash surrender value is determined by deducting any applicable cash surrender charges from the Accumulation Value (the savings component of most permanent life insurance policies).
  • Policy Lapse - the termination of a life insurance policy resulting from non-payment of premiums within the specified timeframe. Often times a life insurance policy will enter a grace period prior to lapsing, granting the policy owner the ability to reinstate the policy if all required payments are made.

Life settlements are not always the right choice. Keeping your life insurance coverage may be a better decision for your family, under the following circumstances:

  1. if you have a continuing need for life insurance coverage in the future;
  2. if you or a family member can afford to pay the premiums; or
  3. if you or a family member can secure a loan to pay the premiums.

These are just a few reasons to keep your coverage. Individual circumstances vary and Welcome Funds highly recommends seeking consultation from a financial advisor or CPA who can provide personal advice based on your financial status and goals. If you do not have an advisor or CPA, please feel free to contact Welcome Funds who may be able to recommend a non-affiliated advisor in your local area.

Absolutely. All personal information is confidential and only disclosed, per authorization, to parties involved in the life settlement process such as licensed life settlement companies, life expectancy underwriters, and service providers, each of who are obligated to abide by state law pertaining to life settlements and consumer privacy. Please review the life settlement application, disclosure, and medical release authorization for completed details.

Buyers in the life settlement market have different investment parameters, much as mortgage lenders have different guidelines and requirements for their loans. Therefore, life settlement offers vary significantly from buyer to buyer. Welcome Funds has had direct relationships with the most active buyers for over a decade and our life settlement platform provides direct access to the entire secondary market, where our national network of state-licensed financial institutions compete to purchase life insurance policies. Our bidding process generates competition among these buyers and ensures that the highest offer is secured for the sale of a life insurance policy.

Factors that will contribute to the value of a life insurance policy will include:

  • Insured's Health - age and gender, current health status and family medical history; future medical prognosis; and varying opinions from independent life expectancy experts;
  • Life Insurance Policy - face value of the policy; future premium requirements to maintain coverage; life insurance carrier rating; claims risks due to potential application fraud or misstatements;
  • Investment Risks - purchasers or investors of life settlement policies take on the risks of future medical advances promoting longevity; credit risk from declines in life insurance carrier ratings; risk of cost of insurance increases by the life insurance carrier; and other typical investment risks.

A traditional life settlement transaction takes anywhere between 2 to 4 months. This timeframe is highly dependent on outside parties fulfilling our requests in a timely manner, i.e. insured's medical records, policy statements, premium history, and illustrations, etc. Welcome Funds has processed thousands of applications and has dedicated departments that specialize in securing these documents expeditiously.

If you require a faster process due to extenuating circumstances, Welcome Funds may have a simplified application program available if you qualify. Please contact Welcome Funds for specific details.

Just like the sale of other personal assets, the income generated from a life settlement transaction may be taxable. Life settlement transactions typically result in a capital gain. In rare circumstances, a portion of the settlement proceeds may be treated as ordinary income.

This would only occur if the life insurance policy's cash surrender value were greater than the total cost of premiums paid into the policy. However, it is also possible that there are no federal tax consequences if the settlement proceeds are less than or equal to the adjusted basis in the policy.

For further clarification, please refer to the IRS Bulletin located online https://www.irs.gov/irb/2009-21_IRB/ar06.html" style="display: inline;">here.

Additionally, any tax implications for capital gains realized from a life settlement transaction could be offset by tax deductions based on "the entire cost of maintenance in a nursing home or home for the aged" (sec. 1016 U.S. Master Tax Code 2008). In the case of a viatical settlement where the insured has a terminal diagnosis with a certified physician's prognosis of 24 months or less, the proceeds may be tax-free at the federal level (see Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

Welcome Funds is not a tax advisor and strongly recommends that policy owners seek professional tax advice prior to accepting any life settlement offers.

  • There are no restrictions on the use of life settlement proceeds
  • A life settlement is not a loan
  • There are no requirements for re-payment
  • There are no upfront fees and no credit score or income level requirements
  • There is absolutely no obligation to accept a contingent offer
  • Get a copy of your most recent annual statement for your life insurance policy - we'll need to know the death benefit, annual premiums, and any loan values;
  • Be prepared to summarize the current and historical health of the insured;
  • Click Here to complete our FREE Life Settlement Qualifier; or
  • Call 877.227.4484 to speak to a client care advocate for a free personal consultation.
Life Settlement question and answer