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Life Settlements: Selling Your Life Insurance Policy

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Have you ever considered selling your life insurance policy for a lump sum of cash? If you’re struggling with the high premiums or no longer need the coverage, a life settlement could be the financial relief you’ve been looking for.

However, there are important considerations to consider before pursuing this option, such as determining eligibility and understanding the value of your policy. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of life insurance settlements so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you.

Keypoints to Life Insurance Settlements

Understanding Life Settlements

A life settlement involves selling your life insurance policy for a lump sum payment from a third-party buyer in exchange for your policy and its death benefit. For many people, selling their life insurance policy may be more valuable than simply lapsing the coverage or surrendering it to the insurer, especially when it is no longer needed or can no longer afford the payments.

Life settlements encompass a wide range of insurance policies, from term life to whole life, and can provide a significantly higher payout than surrendering a policy for its cash value. The value of a life settlement is determined by factors such as the policyholder’s health, life expectancy, type of coverage, and the policy’s death benefit.

The benefits of this option include immediate cash payouts and the ability to use the funds however you wish, but eligibility criteria may vary depending on factors like age and health status.

With the life settlement industry continually evolving and expanding, it’s crucial for policyholders to educate themselves on the process, its potential benefits, and any associated risks.

Definition and Basics

The concept of life settlements traces back to a 1911 U.S. Supreme Court case, Grigsby v. Russell, which established that life insurance policies are legally recognized as private property and can be sold by the policy owner.

A life settlement provider is typically a third-party investor or organization. They facilitate the purchase of a life insurance policy. In 43 states, life settlements are legally recognized and regulated, providing a legitimate way for policyholders to sell their policies and receive a cash payment.

This option is available for individuals who no longer need or want their policy but are still paying premiums.

Here are some basic facts about life settlements that you should know:

  • The amount you receive from selling your policy will be less than its death benefit.
  • The buyer becomes responsible for paying the premiums on the policy.
  • You must be at least 60 and have a medical condition to qualify for a settlement.
  • State laws regulate life settlements, so research and understand your state’s regulations before proceeding.

Benefits for Policyholders

One of the primary advantages of a life settlement for individuals who can no longer afford their insurance premiums is the ability to recoup value from their policy instead of letting it lapse or surrendering it.

The payout of a life settlement can be influenced by factors such as the policyholder’s health and age, the policy type, and what current and future premiums will look like. Additionally, a life settlement allows the policyholder to stop paying insurance premiums, freeing up more cash for other expenses or investments.

To ensure the highest possible payout for a policy, it’s essential to work with life settlement brokers who can present the policy to their network of buyers and negotiate the best offer on the policyholder’s behalf.

This increases the chances of getting a favorable deal and provides the policyholder with a better understanding of the life settlement market and its players.

Eligibility Criteria

Qualifying for a life settlement will vary depending on the buyer. However, guidelines will often require the policyholder to be at least 60 and currently are being treated for a medical condition. They must also have a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more. Additionally, the policy must be active and in force for at least two years.

It should also be noted that there are certain circumstances under which a life settlement company may decline to purchase a policy, such as an insufficient death benefit, the policyholder not being of advanced age, the policy not having been in force for at least two years, or the policy has high premiums.

In some cases, such as when a policyholder is younger and has a chronic or terminal illness, a viatical settlement may be available as an alternative to a traditional life settlement. The value of a viatical settlement is typically higher than that of a traditional life settlement due to the shorter life expectancy of the policyholder.

Settlement providers may also assess your medical records to determine if pre-existing conditions or illnesses could impact your life expectancy. It’s crucial to note that only specific policies may be eligible for sale through a life settlement broker, including whole and universal policies. Term policies typically do not qualify because they expire after a fixed period and have no cash value.

Types of Life Settlement Options

As you explore the possibility of selling your life insurance policy, it’s important to understand the different types of life settlement options available.

Three key options are traditional life settlements, viatical settlements, and retained death benefit settlements.

Traditional Life Settlements

A traditional life settlement is a financial transaction where a life insurance policyholder, often in their senior years, sells their policy to a third-party buyer, who takes over the premium payments and receives the death benefit when the policyholder passes away.

The settlement is typically done when the policyholder no longer needs or wants the coverage or needs cash. The buyer pays the policyholder a lump sum of money, which is generally a percentage of the policy’s face value.

The buyer then becomes the new beneficiary of the policy and is responsible for making the premium payments until the policyholder passes away. Once the policyholder dies, the buyer receives the death benefit, typically higher than the amount they paid for the policy.

Case Study Example – Traditional Life Settlement

Mrs. Johnson, an 80-year-old woman with a $1 million life insurance policy, was struggling to keep up with her premium payments and was considering surrendering the policy. She had no beneficiaries left, and her children were financially stable.

Mrs. Johnson’s financial advisor suggested she explore a traditional life settlement instead of surrendering the policy for its cash value. The advisor connected her with a life settlement provider who offered her $400,000 for the policy.

After reviewing the offer and consulting her family, Mrs. Johnson accepted the offer and sold her policy. She received a lump sum payment of $400,000 and was no longer responsible for paying the premiums.

The life settlement provider assumed ownership of the life insurance policy, took on the responsibility of paying the premiums and would collect the death benefit when Mrs. Johnson passed away. The provider would receive a return on their investment by collecting the full death benefit when Mrs. Johnson passed away.

In this case study, Mrs. Johnson received a significant amount of money for a policy she no longer needed or could afford. The life settlement provider made a profit by purchasing the policy and assuming the responsibility of paying the premiums.

Viatical Settlements

A viatical settlement is an arrangement where a person diagnosed with a terminal illness sells their life insurance policy to a third party for immediate cash. As with a traditional settlement, the third-party buyer becomes the policy owner and beneficiary and receives the death benefit upon the insured’s passing.

This type of settlement can provide much-needed relief to individuals struggling with medical bills, daily living expenses, or other financial obligations.

Viatical settlements are not without their risks, however. The buyer assumes responsibility for future premium payments and must wait for the insured’s passing to receive the death benefit payout. Additionally, tax implications may depend on how the settlement is structured.

It is important to thoroughly research potential buyers and consult a financial advisor before entering a settlement agreement. Nonetheless, viatical settlements can offer a lifeline for those needing financial relief during difficult times.

Case Study Example – Viatical Settlement

A man in his late 60s who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $100,000, but he needed money to pay for medical bills and other expenses. He decided to sell his policy to a viatical settlement provider for $65,000.

The viatical settlement provider paid the man a lump sum payment of $35,000 and took over ownership and the premium payments on the policy. When the man passed away a few months later, the viatical settlement provider received the full death benefit of $100,000.

In this case, the man received immediate access to the money needed to cover his living expenses. At the same time, the viatical settlement provider made a profit by purchasing the policy at a discount and receiving the full death benefit upon the man’s passing.

Retained Death Benefit Settlements

A retained death benefit settlement is designed for policyholders who are not terminally ill but generally have a pre-existing health condition that would impact their life expectancy.

In this arrangement, the settlement provider agrees to pay any additional premiums necessary to maintain the policy for as long as the policyholder lives. Upon the policyholder’s death, the settlement provider will receive the death benefit, while the original beneficiaries will receive a guaranteed percentage of the death benefit payout.

Retained death benefit settlements provide an alternative for policy owners who wish to sell their life insurance policy but still want to ensure some financial protection for their beneficiaries. This option allows policyholders to eliminate premium payments while retaining a portion of the death benefit for their loved ones.

Case Study Example – Retained Death Benefit Settlement

Mrs. Smith is an 80-year-old woman with a universal life insurance policy with a death benefit of $1,000,000. She has been paying premiums on the policy for the past 30 years, but it has become expensive due to increasing premium costs and an outstanding loan on the cash value.

Mrs. Smith had learned about a settlement option in which she can transfer over ownership, pay no future premiums, and have her beneficiaries receive a death benefit payout through a retained death benefit settlement.

After consulting with a life settlement broker, Mrs. Smith decides to pursue a retained death benefit life settlement. In this settlement, Mrs. Smith would no longer be burdened with paying any future premium payments or the outstanding loan balance in exchange for giving up a portion of her death benefit.

While the life settlement provider in this example would obtain $800,000 of the death benefit upon the death of Mrs. Smith, her beneficiaries would receive the remaining $200,000.

Navigating the Life Settlement Process

Working with brokers and providers is crucial when navigating the life settlement process. They can help you understand your options and guide you through the process.

Evaluating offers is also important to ensure you get the best deal possible. Once you’ve found a suitable offer, closing the deal involves signing legal documents and transferring ownership of your policy.

Working with Brokers and Providers

By partnering with experienced brokers and reputable settlement providers, you can confidently navigate the world of life settlements and unlock financial relief for yourself or a loved one. These professionals have the necessary knowledge and expertise to guide you through the complex process of selling your life insurance policy. They will work with you every step of the way, from assessing the value of your policy to finding potential buyers and negotiating the best possible price.

To ensure you are working with trustworthy brokers and providers, research beforehand. Look for those licensed by state regulatory agencies and affiliated with reputable organizations such as the Life Insurance Settlement Association (LISA). Additionally, ask for references and read online reviews to gauge their reputation in the industry. With their help, you can take advantage of this alternative financial option and reap its benefits without any added stress or confusion.

Evaluating Offers

Once partnered with a reputable provider, it’s important to carefully evaluate any offers you receive for your life insurance policy. Typically, if you have chosen to work with a life settlement broker, they can present multiple offers from potential buyers interested in purchasing your policy. These offers will vary in detail and may include different amounts of money or other benefits.

On the other hand, working with a life settlement provider means that you will only be presented with one offer instead of multiple offers that may be available when working with a life settlement broker.

Before accepting any offer, take the time to review each one thoroughly and consider all of the factors involved. Pay attention to the amount offered, any fees associated with the transaction, and any other applicable terms or conditions.

It’s also a good idea to consult with an independent financial advisor or attorney who can help you understand the implications of selling your life insurance policy and ensure that you’re making an informed decision that’s right for you.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that you protect your interests and get the best possible deal on your policy.

Closing the Deal

To finalize the transaction, it is crucial to carefully review and consider all offers presented by potential buyers of your life insurance policy. Once you have chosen a buyer, the next step is to sign an agreement outlining the sale terms. This contract will include details such as the purchase price, any fees associated with the sale, and how funds will be transferred to you.

Before signing any agreement, ensure you fully understand all terms and conditions. Make sure that there are no hidden fees or clauses that could negatively impact you in the future. If necessary, seek professional advice from a lawyer or financial advisor to ensure everything is in order before closing the deal.

Tax Implications and Legal Considerations

As you consider a life settlement, it’s important to understand the tax implications of the proceeds you may receive. Depending on your specific situation and the policy details, some or all funds may be subject to taxation.

Additionally, it would be best if you familiarized yourself with state regulations and consumer protections that govern life settlements in your area. By doing so, you can ensure that you make informed decisions and protect your financial interests throughout the process.

Taxation of Life Settlement Proceeds

The taxation of life settlement proceeds can significantly impact the amount a policy owner receives, so understanding the tax implications is crucial.

Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • Life settlement proceeds may be subject to federal income tax if the sale price exceeds the policy’s cost basis.
  • State taxes may also apply, depending on where you live and where the policy was issued.
  • The type of policy sold (e.g., term vs. whole life) and how it was owned (e.g., individually or by a trust) can affect the tax treatment.
  • If you sell your policy while still alive, any outstanding loans against the policy will need to be repaid before proceeds are distributed, and this could have tax consequences.
  • It’s always a good idea to consult a financial advisor or tax professional before proceeding with a life settlement transaction.

Remember that every situation is unique, so what applies to one person might not apply to another. With that said, having a basic understanding of how taxes might come into play when selling your life insurance policy can help you make informed decisions about whether or not it makes sense for your financial situation.

State Regulations and Consumer Protections

Regulations and protections vary by state when selling a life insurance policy for its cash value. Some states have specific laws requiring certain disclosures, mandatory waiting periods, or licensing requirements for life settlement providers. These regulations protect consumers from potential scams or unfair practices in the industry.

For example, California has a comprehensive set of regulations governing life settlements that require providers to be licensed and disclose all fees and commissions upfront. Meanwhile, other states like Alabama, South Carolina, and a few others have virtually no regulation for this industry.

It is important for anyone considering a life settlement transaction to research their state’s regulations and consult with a trusted financial advisor before making any decisions.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

If you’re considering a life settlement, there are several reasons to do so. For instance, it can provide financial relief when you need it the most. However, there are also potential risks and disadvantages that you should be aware of before making a decision. It’s important to weigh these pros and cons carefully to determine if a life settlement is the best option for you.

Reasons to Consider a Life Settlement

Imagine unlocking financial relief by selling your life insurance policy through a life settlement, allowing you to enjoy retirement without financial stress.

If you are facing a financial crisis or want to improve your current situation, you should consider this option for several reasons. Firstly, a life settlement can provide you with much-needed cash that you can use to pay off debts, invest in real estate or stocks, or even travel the world.

Another reason to consider a life settlement is that it allows you to avoid letting your policy lapse due to high premiums or changing needs. Instead of losing out on all the premiums paid over the years, selling your policy can help recoup some of those costs and provide immediate financial relief.

Plus, once sold through a reputable provider, the new owner will be responsible for paying any remaining premiums and managing the policy. Overall, a life settlement could be an excellent choice if you seek ways to improve your finances and reduce stress in retirement.

Potential Risks and Disadvantages

Now that you know why a life settlement could benefit you, it’s important to consider the potential risks and disadvantages. Firstly, selling your life insurance policy means forfeiting the death benefit to your beneficiaries.

This could be a significant loss if they relied on this payout after your passing. Additionally, there may be tax implications when receiving a lump sum payment from a life settlement company.

Another consideration is that the amount you receive in exchange for your policy may not be as much as anticipated or what you would receive if you continued paying premiums and held onto the policy until death.

This is because life settlement companies consider factors such as your age, health status, and life expectancy when determining the value of your policy. It’s crucial to carefully weigh these potential downsides against the benefits before deciding to sell your life insurance policy via a life settlement.

Preparing for a Life Settlement

To prepare for a life settlement, you need to gather necessary documentation such as medical records, policy information, and proof of ownership. Seeking professional guidance is also crucial in understanding the value of your policy and navigating the complex process of selling it. A financial advisor or life settlement broker can help you assess your options, negotiate with buyers, and ensure that you receive a fair market value for your policy.

Gathering Necessary Documentation

Much of this process involves gathering important documents that will be used to determine your eligibility for a life settlement. Here are three items that are often needed to help provide an offer for your life insurance policy:

  • Proof of ownership: You will need to provide proof that you are the owner of the life insurance policy being sold. This can be done by providing a copy of the policy itself or any other relevant documents.
  • Medical records: Potential buyers will want to review your medical history and current health status to determine your eligibility for a life settlement. You may need to provide consent for the settlement provider to obtain copies of all medical records from your doctors and healthcare providers.
  • Policy information: It is important to have all relevant information about your policy available when applying for a life settlement. This includes details such as the face value of the policy, any outstanding loans or premiums due, and the name of the insurance company holding the policy.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Getting help from experts can make the process of selling your life insurance policy smoother and less stressful. Life settlements involve complex legal and financial procedures that are difficult to navigate without professional guidance. That’s why it’s important to consult with a team of specialists who can provide you with advice and support throughout the transaction.

A life settlement broker, for example, can help you assess the value of your policy and find potential buyers who will offer you competitive prices. They can also negotiate on your behalf and ensure that all relevant documents are prepared accurately.

Additionally, a financial advisor or accountant can advise you on the tax implications of selling your policy and help you plan how to use the proceeds from the sale.

You can unlock maximum value from your life insurance policy by seeking expert guidance while minimizing potential risks or complications.

Alternatives To Life Settlements

If you have a life insurance policy, there may be alternative options than a life settlement. One is taking out a policy loan or surrendering your policy for its cash value. Another option is to look into accelerated death benefits if you’re terminally ill and need funds for medical expenses.

Policy Loans and Surrenders

You can get cash from your life insurance policy by borrowing against its value or surrendering the policy altogether. Policy loans allow you to borrow money from your policy’s cash value at a relatively low-interest rate.

However, remember that any outstanding loan balance will be deducted from the death benefit if you pass away before repaying it. Additionally, if you do not fully repay the loan and interest, your beneficiaries may receive less than the original death benefit.

On the other hand, surrendering your policy means canceling it and receiving its cash value minus any applicable fees. This option is typically used when a policyholder no longer needs coverage or can no longer afford to pay premiums.

Remember, surrendering a policy means permanently giving up its death benefit protection and may have tax implications. It is important to weigh all options carefully and consult a financial advisor before deciding on your life insurance policy.

Accelerated Death Benefits

Now that you understand policy loans and surrenders, let’s move on to the next subtopic: accelerated death benefits. It’s important to clarify that the availability and terms of accelerated death benefits can vary among policies and insurance companies.

Accelerated death benefits are payments made by the insurance company while the policyholder is still alive, typically to individuals who are terminally ill or facing a critical illness.

In essence, this benefit allows the policyholder to access a portion of their death benefit while they are still alive. This money can be used to pay for medical expenses or any other costs associated with their condition.

However, it’s important to note that taking an accelerated death benefit will reduce the overall amount paid out upon passing, so it should only be considered if absolutely necessary. It’s also worth mentioning that not all policies offer this option, so make sure to check your contract before assuming you have access to it.

Life Settlements FAQs

How does life settlements work?

Life settlements are transactions in which the owner of a life insurance policy sells it to a third party for a one-time cash payment. The purchaser becomes the beneficiary of the policy and takes responsibility for paying the premiums until the insured dies, at which time they receive the death benefit.

Life settlements can be a great way to access cash when needed, but it’s important to understand the implications of such a transaction. You should always consult a financial advisor before deciding about selling your life.

What type of life insurance policies qualify for a life settlement?

Permanent life insurance policies such as universal and whole life insurance plans are much more likely to qualify for a life settlement versus a term life insurance policy. The primary reason is these plans do not expire. Therefore as long as the purchaser continues paying the premiums, they are guaranteed to receive the death benefit upon the insured’s death, making it a safer investment.

However, the type of permanent life insurance plan makes a difference. For example, older universal life insurance plans are often the preferred type of permanent policy most purchasers look for when it comes to life settlements. Much of the reason is because the plans offer cheaper premium payments than whole life insurance plans. 

Term insurance plans can qualify for a life settlement, but typically only if the policy has the option to convert to permanent coverage. Most term insurance plans offer a conversion option. If your policy has this option available, it’s highly likely that you will have to agree to convert your coverage to a permanent one for the settlement agreement to take place.

It is also important to note that not all life insurance policies will qualify for a settlement and that the eligibility criteria may vary depending on the provider. A significant part of the eligibility criteria will depend on a policyholder’s overall health, policy amount, and the cost of the coverage.

How do life settlements differ from viatical settlements?

Life settlements differ from viatical settlements in a few important ways. While both involve selling a life insurance policy, viatical settlements are typically only available to individuals with terminal illnesses. In contrast, life settlements can be an option for seniors who no longer need or want their policy.

Additionally, viatical settlements may provide more immediate financial relief due to the situation’s urgency, while life settlements may offer larger payouts as they involve policies with higher face values. Ultimately, deciding between a life settlement and a viatical settlement will depend on individual circumstances and priorities.

What is the average payout for life settlement?

Life settlement payouts offer policy owners an average payout of 5-25% of the policy’s face value. Though each sale is unique and the final amount could differ, life settlements can provide a valuable financial benefit for those who qualify.

What happens if the policyholder outlives the life expectancy estimated by the life settlement provider?

If the policyholder outlives the life expectancy estimated by the life settlement provider, there are a few potential outcomes. First, if the policy were sold to a third-party investor through the life settlement, that investor would be responsible for paying premiums until the policyholder’s death.

If no investor purchased the policy and it remains with its original owner, they would continue to pay premiums until their death or decide to surrender or lapse the policy. It’s important to note that every life insurance company has different policies regarding lapsing or surrendering policies before maturity, so it’s crucial to review your specific contract and consult with a financial advisor before making any decisions.

Can a life settlement be done on a policy that has lapsed or is about to lapse?

When a life insurance policy has lapsed, it generally means that the policy owner has stopped making premium payments, and the coverage will terminate if a premium payment is not made within a specific timeframe.

The timeframe is often called the grace period. Usually, it consists of a 30-day window in which a premium payment can be made to the insurance company before the policy lapses and terminates.

A life settlement can often be done on a policy within the grace period. However, if the policy lapses and terminates, the insured would need to have the policy reinstated. Reinstatement could be difficult as most providers require the insured to provide evidence of insurability which means going through medical underwriting.

If the insured has had a significant change in their health since initially purchasing their coverage, it is likely the that the coverage will be reinstated.

Are there any restrictions on how the proceeds from a life settlement can be used?

There are generally no restrictions on how the proceeds from a life settlement can be used. Once you receive the payment, it is your money to use as you see fit. You could use it to pay off debt, cover medical expenses, make home repairs or renovations, invest in a new business venture or retirement plan, or take a vacation.

Are there any circumstances under which a life settlement could negatively impact the policyholder's eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid?

If you are considering a life settlement, it is important to be aware of how it could impact your eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid. In some cases, the proceeds from a life settlement may count as income and could potentially disqualify you from receiving certain government benefits.

Additionally, if the policyholder transfers ownership of the policy to receive a life settlement payout, this could also negatively affect eligibility for Medicaid. It is important to consult with a financial advisor or attorney before pursuing a life settlement to fully understand any potential impacts on government benefits and make an informed decision.

Are life settlements worth it?

Life settlements can be incredibly beneficial for policyholders, particularly those who are 65 or older and have a policy worth $100,000 or more. By exploring a life settlement, you may get significantly more money than you would receive if you surrendered or lapsed the policy back to the insurance company.

Therefore, life settlements are certainly worth considering.


In conclusion, life settlements can offer financial relief for policyholders who no longer need or can afford their life insurance policies. By understanding the basics of life settlements, exploring available options, and navigating the process with the help of professionals, policyholders can make informed decisions that maximize the value of their life insurance policies.

As with any financial decision, they weigh the potential benefits and risks and seeking expert guidance to ensure the best possible outcome is crucial. With the proper knowledge and support, life settlements can be a valuable financial tool for policyholders seeking to improve their financial situation and secure a brighter future.

Picture of Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert
Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola is the founder of No Medical Exam Quotes, an online insurance agency that strongly focuses on helping people shop for the perfect life insurance policy. He is a licensed life insurance expert and content creator for the website.

Before becoming a life insurance agent, he served in the United States Marine Corps, transitioning from serving his country to helping families find affordable life insurance coverage beginning in 2009. Since starting a career as a licensed life insurance agent, Jeffrey has helped thousands of families with their life insurance needs.

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