How Much Is My Life Insurance Policy Worth?

How Much Is My Life Insurance Policy Worth?

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Life Settlements Explained

What Is A Life Settlement?

A life settlement involves selling a life insurance policy to a third-party buyer for an immediate cash payment. The buyer becomes the new owner of the life insurance policy, pays premiums to maintain it, and collects the death benefit when the original policyholder dies. In exchange, the person selling their life insurance policy gets a cash payment that’s more than the cash surrender value, but less than the death benefit of the policy. In fact, selling a policy can pay up to 60% of the death benefit and a value that’s five times higher than the surrender value according to LISA’s 2022 Annual Market Data Collection Survey.

How Life Settlements Work

The life settlement process starts with a policyholder presenting their policy to a provider, broker, or life settlement company to determine their eligibility. During this time, the third party will review medical records and policy information to see if the person qualifies for a life settlement. If the person is eligible for a life settlement, they may be presented with an estimate of their policy’s value. The individual can then choose to proceed with that partner to sell their policy, or seek offers from others to try to get a higher value. Once the policyholder gets an offer they deem satisfactory, the third party will create a closing package of documents to sign that finalizes the agreement. The insurance carrier is then notified of the change in ownership for the policy, and an escrow agent releases a lump-sum cash payment to the person who sold the policy.

In total, the life settlement transaction process consists of eight steps and the time it takes varies from case-to-case. Typically, you can expect the process to take anywhere from 2-4 months. Here’s a more detailed explanation of each step in the life settlement process:

1. Application

The life settlement process starts by filling out applications to life settlement providers, which involves submitting insurance information and medical records or authorizing the provider to obtain that information on their own. You can also authorize a life settlement broker to request this information so they can fill out applications on your behalf.

2. Documentation

Once the provider has the necessary documentation, they’ll begin the underwriting process. During this stage, the provider will check that all submitted information is accurate, and they’ll determine if you meet the requirements to qualify for a life settlement. Typically, you need to be at least 70 years old and have a policy with a death benefit of at least $100,000 to qualify.

3. Offer

After analyzing the value of your life insurance policy and determining it to be a good investment, a life settlement provider will make an offer. You then have the right to either accept or decline the offer.

4. Negotiation

If you decline the offer, you may be able to negotiate with the provider to see if they’ll raise the amount they’re willing to give you. These negotiations can go back and forth until you eventually agree on a value or decide to work with another life settlement provider.

5. Exchange

When you accept an offer, the buyer will send you a closing package with documents to sign. Upon completion, the life insurance carrier receives written notice that the life settlement provider is now the owner and beneficiary of the policy. At this point, you’ll also receive a one-time cash payment for the agreed upon sale value.

What Makes Harbor Life Settlements Different From Other Companies?

If you’re exploring the possibility of selling your life insurance policy, consider the advantages of choosing Harbor Life as your life settlement company.

  • Harbor Life will provide you with a free estimate of your policy’s value.
  • Harbor Life offers up to 60% of your policy value in cash, with no hidden fees and payouts, within weeks of approval.
  • Harbor life will buy your policy in as little as 10 days, while other life settlement companies can take as long as six to nine months. 

Life Settlement Definitions to Know

Face value

The face value is the stated dollar value of the life insurance policy, an amount that equals the policy’s death benefit.

Death benefit

A death benefit is the payment the beneficiary of a life insurance policy receives upon the death of the insured person.

Cash surrender value

The cash surrender value is the amount the insurance company pays a policy owner who voluntarily cancels, or surrenders, the policy. The cash surrender value is usually determined by subtracting a fee for the insurance company’s administrative costs from the policy’s current cash value, a figure that equals the policyholder’s accumulated premium payments plus any investment growth.

Viatical settlement

A viatical settlement is a type of financial arrangement available exclusively to life insurance policyholders with a chronic or terminal illness. It allows the policy owner to exchange an asset that is no longer useful for needed cash. The seller of the policy receives a cash amount that is less than the policy’s face value, while the buyer will receive the full death benefit when the insured person dies.

Life Settlement Provider

In a life settlement, a provider is a third-party investor or organization that purchases a life insurance policy.

Life Settlement Broker

life settlement broker works with several providers to get multiple offers for the policyholder, which raises the sale value.

Life Settlement Companies

Life settlement companies coordinate with brokers and providers to facilitate the life settlement process.

Common Reasons for Wanting A Life Settlement

Maybe you’re a retiree who’s feeling overwhelmed by ongoing healthcare costs or a sudden financial emergency, or perhaps you’d just like some additional funds for retirement living expenses. Financial needs change over time, and this includes your life insurance policy. You may find that the policy you relied on as a security blanket earlier in life is no longer needed, or maybe it’s become too expensive to maintain in retirement. This is more common than you’d think, as studies indicate that up to 80% of life insurance policies are lapsed and never pay out a death benefit. 

Here are the most common reasons people want a life settlement:

The policy is too expensive

If your insurance premiums are too expensive and you can no longer afford to maintain your policy, a life settlement allows you to recoup value as opposed to lapsing and getting nothing or surrendering and receiving a small amount. In addition to the payout you'll get, you'll also save money by not having to pay premiums in the future.

You no longer need life insurance

Life insurance is most commonly used as a means to provide financial security for dependents such as a spouse or children in the unexpected occurrence of your death. However, life insurance may not be needed after children become adults and are independent.

You need funds for an unexpected expense

If you encounter an unexpected expense and urgently need money, a life insurance settlement enables you to cash out your policy early to provide financial relief. Even if you don’t have an urgent expense right now, you can sell your policy and set up an emergency savings account just in case one ever occurs in the future.

You want additional money to fund retirement

The economy is constantly changing and during retirement, many people find that they’ll need more money than they originally saved for. Rather than go back to work, lean on family members for support, or reduce your quality of living — a life settlement enables you to pay for living expenses and make the most of retirement by going on vacation or other activities.

Your term policy will expire soon

If you have a term policy that is expiring soon, you’ll need to decide whether you want to maintain coverage at a higher cost, get a new policy, or if you no longer want any coverage. If you choose the latter, you may be able to convert your term policy into permanent insurance and then sell it through a life settlement to recoup some of your money.

Advantages of Life Settlements

Large Cash Payment

The main draw of the life settlement option is the fact that you get a large cash payment which can be used however you’d like. 

The money you gain from selling your life insurance policy can provide you with more funds for retirement or long-term care, more options when choosing doctors and healthcare facilities, and more opportunities to invest in assets that perform better at generating income. The money you receive for your life settlement can be used for anything you choose and provides many people with peace of mind.

No More Insurance Premiums

In addition to the cash payment you get from a life settlement, you also save money by no longer having to pay insurance premiums. As you get older, premiums may become unaffordable to the point where you can no longer maintain coverage.

If you are considering lapsing or cancelling your policy, a life settlement enables you to recoup money from it as opposed to getting nothing with those options. It also provides a significantly higher cash payout than you would get by surrendering it.

Disadvantages of Life Settlements

No Death Benefit for Beneficiaries

With most types of life settlements, perhaps the biggest drawback is that your life insurance policy’s beneficiaries won’t receive any money from policy after your death. If you are enrolled or planning to enroll in Medicaid, the money you get from the life insurance settlement may put you over the program’s asset limit making you ineligible. Furthermore, those with delinquent debt should note that creditors may claim proceeds from the life settlement transaction.

Taxes and Fees

Finally, the fees and taxes associated with life settlements constitute financial risks that can potentially reduce the rewards you gain from selling your policy. Transaction costs may include a broker’s commission and a provider’s fee. The proceeds from the sale of a life insurance policy are taxable in most cases, so that’s another likely expense that will affect your net gain. The good news is that life settlements are taxed as ordinary income rather than at the higher rate for capital gains.

Who Qualifies for a Life Settlement?

To verify your eligibility for a life settlement, the best approach is to contact a life settlement company like Harbor Life Settlements. However, to get a base idea of whether you qualify you should check these factors:

1. Policyholder Age: In general, you must be at least 70 years old to qualify for a life settlement. Younger policyholders with a chronic or terminal illness may be eligible for a viatical settlement.

2. Policy Value: The face value of your life insurance policy must be at least $50,000 or more to qualify for a life settlement.

3. Policy Type: Not all types of life insurance policies are eligible for a life settlement. To qualify, you must hold a whole, universalvariable, or convertible term policy.

4. Policy Age: You must own a life insurance policy for anywhere from 2-5 years before selling it. The amount of time you need to wait depends on the state you live in, as each state has its own waiting period.

History of Life Settlements

Three historical events played pivotal roles in the creation and growth of the life settlements industry:

1. Grigsby v. Russel This 1911 U.S. Supreme Court decision established the legal precedent for life settlements by ruling that life insurance policies are like any other type of personal property in which the owner has the right to sell it should they choose to do so. The court’s decision set the legal foundation for the later development of the life settlements industry.

2. Birth of Viatical Settlements It was the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the 1980s that really provided the push for the life settlements industry to emerge through the creation of viatical settlements. Terminally ill people diagnosed with AIDS sold their life insurance policies to pay for their treatment. As viatical settlements gained popularity, so did awareness regarding the life settlement option.

3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996 and then-President Bill Clinton signed it into law. HIPAA gave insurance policyholders and beneficiaries the right to transfer ownership and/or beneficial interest to a third party which made the legal standing of life settlements even stronger than before.

What Do Life Settlement Brokers and Providers Do?

Pursuing the life settlement option requires a lot of work and expert knowledge of the industry which is why most people choose to work with a third-party expert rather than doing it themselves. When doing so, you can choose to work with a life settlement broker or life settlement provider.

Life settlement brokers are third-party companies or individuals who present your policy to their network of buyers to get several offers resulting in the highest possible value for your case. They represent you and get paid a commission (up to 30% of the sale value) based on how much your policy is sold for, so it’s in their best interest to negotiate a higher price.

Life settlement providers are investors or companies that purchase life insurance policies and provide a payment to the policyholder. The ultimate goal of a life settlement provider is to buy your policy for the lowest possible amount so they can increase their own profits from collecting the death benefit upon your passing.

Life Settlement FAQs

What's the Difference Between a Life and Viatical Settlement?

Life and viatical settlements are basically the same transaction, but with a few differences. Unlike life settlements, a viatical settlement is only available for someone with a chronic or terminal illness, but there are no minimum age requirements. Viatical settlements also sell for more than a life settlement because of the shorter life expectancy, and most are not subject to federal income tax.

Are There Laws on Life Settlements?

In 2024, there are 42 U.S. states, along with the territory of Puerto Rico, that have regulations for life settlements. State departments of insurance are typically in charge of enforcing those rules. In each state where regulations exist, there is a waiting period of two to five years before it can be sold (some exceptions apply). The laws also require transparency throughout the life settlement process so the policyowner understands the potential benefits, risks, fees, and alternatives to life settlements.


Who Buys Life Insurance Settlements?

Life settlement providers purchase the policies to add to their investment portfolio, or on behalf of institutional investors. Policyholders may sell their policy to a provider directly, or through a life settlement company or broker who works with several providers and negotiates offers.


Is a Life Insurance Settlement Taxable?

Yes, life settlements are taxable in the United States. If you sell your life insurance policy in a life settlement, you will owe taxes on the difference between the payment you received from the buyer and the total amount you’ve paid in insurance premiums during the entire life of the policy. Any additional value to the policy that is not accounted for by your monthly premiums will also be taxed. The money you receive for a life settlement will be taxed as ordinary income, not as capital gains.


Get Started With the Life Settlement Process

If you are interested in pursuing a life settlement, Harbor Life Settlements is one of the best life settlement companies and can guide you through the entire process and help you maximize the value for your policy. We’ll start by answering any questions you have about life settlements, then verify your eligibility and provide a free estimate on the cash value of your policy. You have the option to back out at any point, but should you choose to continue with the life settlement — we’ll take care of all the work and help you get the highest amount for your policy. To get started with the life settlement process, contact us today and discover how much your policy is worth or use our life settlement calculator for an instant estimate.

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