What is a life settlement?
What is a life settlement?
A life settlement is the sale of a life insurance policy to an institutional investor for a cash payment that is greater than the policy’s cash surrender value. Before the secondary life insurance market emerged in the late 1990s, exiting entrepreneurs faced limited disposition options when their changing needs rendered their business life policies unnecessary: allowing the policy to lapse, thereby forfeiting the value of all premiums paid or surrendering the policy to the original insurance carrier for its cash surrender value, an amount which doesn’t reflect its true value.
With a life settlement, when your obsolete qualified business life policies are sold for the highest quality institutional offer, you receive a cash windfall which can be used for any purpose, including expediting the sale of your company for your desired price and on favorable terms.
Yes. The platform for the life settlement industry was created in 1911 by virtue of Grigsby v. Russell¹. In this seminal case, the United States Supreme Court declared insurance policies to be personal property and freely assignable, thereby granting a policyholder the right to transfer ownership to others.
Although life settlement viability is determined on a case-by-case basis, with all transactions subject to relevant legal requirements and underwriting authorization, the general purchasing parameters are:
• The insured is 65 or older.
No. Securing a complementary, confidential and non-binding appraisal of your unnecessary business life policies is easy. Unlike applying for life insurance, no medical exams or extensive interviews are required. The simple underwriting process involves only paperwork, such as your life insurance policy and in-force ledger as well as your medical records, which are necessary to verify the specifics of your insurance and health.
No. There are never any appraisal, application or processing fees as well as no hidden costs or surprise charges.
Yes. Legal Life Settlements takes extensive precautions to protect your confidential information. We have comprehensive internal privacy procedures, including physical and electronic safeguards, which comply with or exceed state and federal privacy laws.
Your medical, financial and personal data will never be disclosed to or shared with third-parties not involved in the settling of your life insurance policy without your written consent, except when required under law or litigation. In order for us to provide services on your behalf, your confidential information may be forwarded to high-quality life settlement industry participants, such as brokers and providers, who are committed to protecting your privacy. These reputable affiliates are required to keep all of our clients’ information strictly confidential. See Due Diligence.
Be assured that Legal Life Settlements never associates with brokers or providers who would use private money (from individuals rather than institutional investors) to purchase your life policy. This ensures that your policy becomes a part of a large portfolio of policies owned by a credible financial company, rather than a single policy owned by an unscrupulous individual. Only institutional capital offers maximum protection from privacy and fraud risks, and it’s the only kind of funding with which we work.
Providers typically purchase hundreds of policies and package them in bundles for their institutional money manager clients. These sophisticated corporate investors are not concerned about the lifespan of any one particular insured. Instead, they are solely interested in the average life expectancy of an entire portfolio of policies, which is actuarially assessed based on the mortality rates of the general population.
The life settlement industry has rapidly expanded in the last few years due to billions of dollars of investment funds pouring in from institutional investors, such as pension funds, hedge funds, closed-end funds, private equity groups, multi-national insurance companies and global investment banks. In 2006, these money managers invested $10-$15 billion in life settlements²--which was more money than in the previous seven years combined--because they are increasingly interested in purchasing pools of life policies to diversify their portfolios into alternative investments.
A non-correlated asset class, life settlements are insulated from market, interest rate, political and global risks, thereby making them very attractive to financial institutions. Merrill Lynch, American International Group, Lloyds of London, HVB Fonds Finance, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are just some of the corporations that have purchased policies in the secondary life insurance market for portfolio diversification purposes.
Yes. Emerging in the late 1990’s, the life settlement marketplace has experienced phenomenal growth, from $200 million in face value of life insurance purchased in 1999 to $11.8 billion in 2009. Futhermore, the market is projected to grow to over $160 billion over the next few years³. This extraordinary growth is a testament to the benefits of this new financial technology to both the seniors who sell their unneeded life policies and the institutional investors who purchase them.
Yes. In the Fall of 2003, the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal published a 2002 study conducted by the Wharton School of Business entitled, “The Benefits of a Secondary Market for Life Insurance Policies.” Extolling the consumer benefits of the burgeoning life settlement industry, the researchers found that in 2002 alone, life settlement transactions enabled consumers to receive $336 million, which was $242 million above the total cash surrender value they would have received had they surrendered their policies back to the issuing insurance company. By allowing investors to bid for unneeded policies, “the secondary market has created greater consumer choice and favorable valuations for consumers.” The study concluded that, “the secondary market for life insurance is both pro-competitive and pro-consumer.”
And, over the past five years, the financial benefits to consumers have accelerated with life insurance policy owners having received more than $3 billion over cash surrender value for policies they sold in life settlement transactions⁴.
The reason why many seniors decide to sell a life policy is because their life changes in some way, thereby obviating the need to maintain the coverage. In fact, change is why a remarkable 93% of all life policies do not mature into a death claim⁵. Instead, they are either cash surrendered back to the originating insurers or simply lapsed. A 2006 Bernstein & Company research report confirmed that 19.8 million policies (worth $1.1 trillion) did not mature into death claims in 2005.
Every year, retiring entrepreneurs potentially forfeit millions of fair market value dollars because they (as well as their legal, financial and business advisors) are unaware of the life settlement option for liberating cash from a valuable hidden business asset. And, this is why Legal Life Settlements was created—to help retiring business owners extract maximum value when selling their companies by optimizing the economical use of their no longer needed business life policies.
Throughout the business cycle, companies purchase numerous business life insurance policies for risk management, employee benefit and investment purposes. When a company is up for sale, some of these life contracts may become obsolete because the reasons for their purchase are no longer relevant. And after a company is sold, additional business life policies may outlive their usefulness.
Many types of business policies may qualify for a life settlement, such as, universal life, whole life, survivorship and term. Business owners are usually (pleasantly) surprised to discover that an expendable business term policy may actually have a life settlement value, even though the policy has no cash redemption value. Many entrepreneurs (as well as their legal, financial and business advisors) mistakenly believe that the only disposition option for a superfluous business term policy is simply to allow it to lapse and then write off all of those years of premium expenditures as an essential yet unrecoverable business expense.
Furthermore, with cash value business life policies (universal, variable, variable universal and whole life), the uniform belief has been that the only way to recover a portion of the investment in these life contracts is to cash surrender the policy back to the originating insurance company. Unfortunately, this typically yields only 4% of the face value⁶.
Because the average life settlement payout is 13% of the face value⁷, selling your obsolete qualified business life contracts in the secondary life insurance market can provide a much higher return on your investment. See How much will I be offered for my policy?.
Upon deciding to sell your company, the following business life policies may become unnecessary and a life settlement can be an effective asset optimization technique for converting these illiquid capital assets into significant immediate cash, which can then expedite your company’s sale for the desired price and on favorable terms.
1. Key-person policies protect a firm from financial loss due to the death of key executives. The need for these policies may end when a company is put up for sale, and, unfortunately, retiring business owners typically do not recognize the enormous hidden value that may exist within these business assets. Instead, these policies are usually lapsed, cash surrendered or summarily transferred in a company asset or stock sale to whomever purchases the company. If a seller is unaware of the life settlement disposition option, a savvy buyer may be able to acquire these valuable assets, and then sell them for their true market value.
2. Split-dollar policies are used as a life insurance financing technique between an employer and employee. A life settlement may be a lucrative exit strategy from these complex contracts by offering both the retiring owner and the insured-employee considerable funds in excess of the cash surrender value, which may better satisfy changing financial priorities.
3. Using policies to fund a qualified pension or non-qualified retirement plan, such as, a 412(i) plan or a deferred compensation plan, is a common business planning technique. An exiting entrepreneur may be able to sell these policies in the life settlement marketplace and wring more money out of these dormant assets than either borrowing against the cash value or cash surrendering them back to the original issuer.
4. Policies funding employee benefit plans, such as, retiree health benefits as well as executive bonus, stay bonus or phantom stock plans, may also hold more life settlement value than cash redemption value for both the employer and the insured-employee (who may also be the employer) when an owner isn’t interested in continuing the premium payments in anticipation of selling the firm and retiring.
5. Policies securing business loans outlive their useful purpose when the debts are settled, and selling them can be a very profitable disposition strategy. To raise the necessary cash to pay off a business loan, a company owner may want to sell no longer needed qualified key-person and split-dollar policies as well as policies funding retirement and employee benefit plans. The cash windfall from selling these superfluous life contracts can be used to pay down business debts, which may better position the company for sale.
After your company is sold, the following business life contracts may no longer be needed, and selling them in the secondary life insurance market can yield significantly more money than cash surrendering or lapsing them, thereby facilitating retirement and legacy goals.
1. Policies funding stock redemption or cross-purchase buy/sell agreements, acquired to ensure a smooth transition of a co-owner’s business interest, may be rendered obsolete upon a company’s sale because the original protection purpose for which the policies were purchased is no longer valid. These policies should never be lapsed or cash surrendered prior to being fair market value appraised by a high-quality, reputable life settlement firm because a qualified life policy may generate substantially more profit than its cash surrender value, especially if a buy/sell life contract is a term policy, which has -0- cash redemption value.
2. Estate liquidity policies, used to protect against a liquidity crisis upon an owner’s death, may become unnecessary due to the cash realized from a firm’s sale. Moreover, the proceeds derived from selling these policies (as well as the money saved from discontinuing expensive premium payments) may further increase liquidity. These funds can be repositioned into more appropriate investment vehicles.
3. Estate equalization policies, purchased for family members not chosen to participate in a company’s continuation, may also no longer be needed once the company is sold. Sophisticated gifting and estate planning techniques may then be employed to equitably distribute the cash created from selling the company as well as life settling these expendable policies.
For years, exiting entrepreneurs have (unknowingly) left too much cash behind when selling their companies. This is why Legal Life Settlements is dedicated to raising awareness of this innovative asset optimization tool among retiring business owners. To help optimize your life, We’re Here For You, 24/7 offering a complementary and confidential analysis of your business life insurance policies to determine their expendability as well as their life settlement viability.
Analyzing the expendability of your business life policies, coordinating the sale of your obsolete policies with the sale of your company, safeguarding your privacy and securing the highest quality institutional offer demand specialized advisory skills in exit planning, business life insurance and life settlements. Working with Legal Life Settlements, an independent specialty M&A advisory firm with expertise in these disciplines, ensures a successful, efficient transaction.
Please be aware that because the particulars of our cases are strictly confidential to safeguard client privacy, these illustrations are solely intended to demonstrate the potential benefits of a life settlement. Because each life settlement transaction is unique, examples are not presented as an indicator of a precise purchase price for a specific life policy.
Three business partners, ages 66, 68 and 70 were the principals of a successful company. To fund a cross-purchase buy/sell agreement, each partner owned two $3,000,000 term policies (no cash surrender value) on the lives of the other partners. Seeking to sell their firm, these entrepreneurs received no offers that they felt were adequate for achieving their retirement and legacy goals. Unfortunately, their legal, financial and business advisors were all unaware of the enormous value hidden within these business term policies, believing that they were worthless due to having -0- cash redemption value. Instead of lapsing the policies and receiving no return on the premiums they paid for many years, these three wise men sold their policies to institutional investors and received unexpected cash windfalls.
By coordinating the sale of their company with the sale of their obsolete buy/sell business life policies in the secondary life insurance market for approximately $600,000 each, these owners were able to quickly sell their company at a reduced all-cash price because the life settlement proceeds provided the extra money needed to fill the gap between the selling price and the buying offer.
A retiring business owner wanted to recover capital from his $500,000 dispensable key-person policy. Instead of cash surrendering this universal life policy back to the originating insurer for only $25,000, this smart entrepreneur was able to sell this capital asset for $100,000 in a life settlement transaction, using the proceeds to supplement his retirement income.
A 67 year-old entrepreneur had a $5,000,000 business term life policy that was used as collateral for a business loan. Deciding to use personal funds to settle this debt to better position his company for sale, this policy was no longer needed. After reading an article on how business life settlements can help retiring business owners extract maximum value when selling their companies, this clever business owner had this unnecessary policy appraised rather than simply lapsing it. To his pleasant surprise, he received a $1,050,000 high-quality offer—dramatically more than it’s -0- cash surrender value. The proceeds expedited the company's sale by enabling the owner to reduce his required selling price and still exit with the desired cash amount.
When they decided to sell their business and retire, four business partners wanted to cash surrender their four company-owned $1,000,000 universal key-person life contracts for $200,000. Instead, these intelligent partners liquidated these expendable business assets by life settling them for $600,000, and used the proceeds to resolve a pending lawsuit, thereby enhancing the company’s fundamentals in preparation for a quicker and more profitable sale.
A 72 year-old entrepreneur had secured numerous term and cash value business life contracts, including:
• One $15,000,000 policy for funding a non-qualified retirement plan.
Upon putting her company up for sale, this savvy entrepreneur wanted to raise cash to pay off her business loan, so she sold her no longer needed $15,000,000 non-qualified retirement plan funding policy for $3,070,000 as well as her two $5,000,000 key person policies for $2,100,000. She used the proceeds to settle her business debt. She then sold the superfluous $18,000,000 business loan policy for $3,710,000, contributed this cash to her favorite church, and received a significant charitable income tax deduction. After her company was sold, Ms. Entrepreneur sold her unnecessary $14,000,000 estate liquidity policy in the secondary life insurance market for $2,815,000, which she used to purchase a dream retirement condo in Hawaii.
Using LifeOptimizer™, our proprietary life policy analyzer, we’re able to preliminarily evaluate your policy’s potential life settlement viability. Upon determining that institutional investors may be interested in acquiring the rights and obligations in your policy, Legal Life Settlements exploits every viable life settlement industry resource on your behalf, thereby leveraging all of the exclusive relationships and intellectual assets that a particular broker or provider may have. Having uncompromised access to an ever-changing landscape of brokers and providers uniquely offers you exceptional flexibility to sell policies of every type and face amount across a full range of life expectancies, which facilitates an efficient process for obtaining a maximum payout from a high-quality provider.
After identifying the most appropriate qualified, reputable broker for your specific life policy, your life settlement application as well as your medical and insurance information will be forwarded to this company, wherein your life policy will be exposed to an auction-like environment with only the most appropriate qualified, reputable providers bidding for your policy.
Throughout the bidding process, you will be continually apprised of all offers, rejections and counteroffers. At its conclusion, you will be asked to accept or reject the best offer from the best company (a high-quality provider that offers true fair market value as well as safeguards privacy). Upon your acceptance, you will be sent a closing package containing policy transfer documents (including a purchase and sale agreement and change of policy ownership and beneficiary forms) for your review and signature.
When this signed documentation is returned to the provider, the cash payment for your policy will be deposited in an independent institutional escrow account, which prevents the provider from retaining the sale proceeds while processing the policy’s new ownership. Your payment will be released within three business days after the provider receives written verification from your insurance carrier of a change of policy ownership and beneficiary.
Although each case is unique, the average life settlement processing time is 2-4 months, with delays frequently being caused by doctors and insurance companies who are slow to respond to third-party requests for your medical and policy information. We’re happy to retrieve these documents for you (after we receive your signed authorizations to do so). However, simply calling your insurance carrier and requesting your life policy’s “In-Force Ledger” as well as asking your physicians to release your “Attending Physician Statements” can significantly speed up the processing time, even cutting it in half.
Your business life policy’s life settlement value (selling price) will always be higher than its cash surrender value—sometimes dramatically higher. For instance, even though entrepreneurs typically view their term business policies as valueless once the original protection need ends, these -0- cash surrender value policies may have considerable life settlement value. (See Life Settlement Illustrative Examples.) And, with more institutional capital than ever seeking to purchase portfolios of policies as an alternative investment, this increased competition is resulting in higher offers and more completed transactions.
A provider relies upon a complex net present value calculation to determine a bidding price for your life policy. Factors that go into this calculation include: your age; current health and life expectancy; your policy’s type, face amount, cash surrender value and premium structure (premiums required to maintain the contract until maturity); investment capital required rate of return; interest rates; and the presence of a competitive bidding environment.
The importance that a provider gives to each evaluation criterion will result in the prevalence of a specific underwriting and pricing model. For example, when pooling policies for their institutional investors, providers usually diversify policies to minimize the portfolio’s life expectancy risk. Therefore, at any given time, one provider may be more interested in policies with longer life expectancies while another may prefer shorter life expectancies.
There is also an invisible distinction as to why bids can vary widely. Because providers receive money from institutional investors to purchase and aggregate large numbers of policies into investment portfolios within particular parameters, a provider’s progress in completing policy acquisitions can cause an offer to quickly jump or drop. This is why continuous insider knowledge of a provider’s requirements is integral to acquiring the highest quality offer, and why timeliness is critical when evaluating a purchase offer because an offer will expire if a policyholder doesn’t promptly respond.
Although each life settlement case is unique due to the insured’s heath and policy particulars, the average life settlement price being paid for a qualified policy is 13% of the policy’s face value⁸. Because the average cash surrender value is just 4% of a policy’s face amount⁹, settling rather than surrendering your expendable business life policies can be a considerably more profitable disposition option.
To ensure optimum asset recapture when selling your company and retiring, Legal Life Settlements offers you a complementary and confidential analysis of your business life insurance policies to determine their expendability as well as their life settlement viability. The last thing any exiting entrepreneur wants to do is leave money behind.
It’s important to recognize that although the price offered for your unneeded business life policy is a primary competitive factor, it isn’t the only factor. There are other, equally important, aspects of the life settlement transaction that also need to be carefully considered. You may be surprised to learn that the highest offer may actually not be best because it is a poor-quality offer that will not ultimately benefit you.
Fully understanding the source behind each offer is critical to protecting your private information as well as your life settlement transaction. To preserve your confidentiality, a provider that takes any kind of procedural shortcut to maintain competitive pricing should always be avoided. In addition, only bids from providers that place your settlement funds in an independent institutional escrow account should be considered because this ensures that your money will be available before your policy is transferred.
To safeguard your privacy and the integrity of the life settlement process, Legal Life Settlements expends significant resources and time to conduct continuing due diligence when selecting high-quality brokers (which field qualified life policies to multiple providers) and providers (which purchase qualified life policies on behalf of institutional investors) with whom to work. This exploratory process assures that your confidential information is available only to qualified, reputable brokers and providers who are committed to protecting your privacy.
Be assured that Legal Life Settlements never associates with brokers or providers who would use private money (from individuals rather than institutional investors) to purchase your business life policy. This ensures that your policy becomes a part of a large portfolio of policies owned by a credible financial company, rather than a single policy owned by an unscrupulous individual. Only institutional capital offers maximum protection from privacy and fraud risks, and it’s the only kind of funding with which we work.
Full disclosure as to broker compensation is also demanded to ensure that there are no provider side deals involving suppressing bids in exchange for payments of any kind, including, holdbacks, bonuses, overrides, incentives and/or other fees over and above commissions. As your advisor, we have a fiduciary duty to solely represent your interests throughout the entire life settlement process, and we expect nothing less of the brokers with whom we work.
To secure trustworthy and superior brokers and providers, Legal Life Settlements exploits every viable life settlement industry resource on your behalf, thereby leveraging all of the exclusive relationships and intellectual assets that a particular broker or provider may have. Having uncompromised access to an ever-changing marketplace of brokers and providers uniquely offers you exceptional flexibility to sell policies of every type and face amount across a full range of life expectancies, which facilitates an efficient process for obtaining a maximum payout from a high-quality provider.
To receive the highest quality offer, our affiliate brokers package and market your policy in accordance with the nuances of each suitable provider. Then, a competitive auction-like market is created to accelerate the negotiation and bidding process. Hopefully, your policy will receive multiple offers, and then we can help you make an informed decision as to the best price from the best company (a high-quality provider that offers true fair market value as well as safeguards privacy).
A policy may receive a low bid (or no bid at all) if the policy is inconsistent with an institutional investor’s purchasing profile, such as, the face amount is too small or large, an insured’s life expectancy is too short or long, the loans against the policy are sizable, the cash value is large or the premiums are high. These are only general purchasing parameters because each life settlement case is unique, as is each provider's underwriting and evaluation process.
In addition, complex life policies may need to be broken down and its components restructured in order to fetch the highest quality offer. That’s why continual insider knowledge of a provider’s pricing model as well as a broker’s policy packaging, structuring and negotiating skills are integral to an effective life settlement transaction.
If a policyholder solicits a bid directly from a provider, he or she may (unknowingly) receive a low-ball offer that an industry-savvy insider would know doesn’t represent true fair market value. Because a provider's allegiance is to its institutional investors, the company is obligated to purchase policies at the lowest possible price. Therefore, working directly with a provider or with only one provider may be inconsistent with receiving the highest quality offer, which demands a competitive market of different providers.
Having more than one broker shop your policy may also yield a lower price because it creates a confused marketplace wherein providers labor to effectively negotiate with multiple brokers at once. Reputable providers prefer working with one credible broker because it is a more efficient policy purchasing process. Moreover, the auction-like market created by a singular broker provokes spirited competition amongst providers, which motivates a provider to tender a best first bid. In contrast, when several brokers offer the same policy for sale to the same provider, this potential purchaser has less impetus to proffer its best price in anticipation of possibly buying the policy for less at a later date from yet another broker. This inefficient strategy hinders the life settlement process because the provider, who should be competing with other providers, begins competing with brokers, which only serves to drive down prices.
The proceeds from selling your obsolete business life policies may be subject to taxes. Because Legal Life Settlements is not a tax consultant, we don’t provide tax advice, and we always recommend that our clients seek guidance from a knowledgeable tax professional. Although there are no Internal Revenue Code amendments specifically relating to the taxation of life settlements, the IRS has released a revenue ruling to serve as a general guideline:
1. No tax is due on the amount equal to a policyholder’s adjusted basis (total premium expenditures subtracted by the cost of insurance) because it is considered a return of capital.
2. Ordinary income tax is due on the difference between the total premiums paid and the cash surrender value. By the way, if the policy was tendered back to the originating insurance company for its cash surrender value (rather than sold for more in the secondary life insurance market), the policyholder would owe exactly the same amount.
3. Long-term capital gains tax (15% maximum tax rate) is due on any amount received in excess of the cash surrender value added to the cost of insurance. The life settled business policy qualifies as a capital asset because it has been owned in excess of a year.
1. No tax due on $40,000 (premiums paid - cost of insurance).
No. Receiving an offer doesn’t obligate you to sell your policy—you can always decide to keep the policy. Moreover, many jurisdictions have a statutory 15-day rescission period after receiving payment for your policy. Be assured that you always maintain complete control over your business life contracts throughout the entire purchasing process.
All rights and obligations in your policy are transferred to the new owner, an institutional investor, who continues paying the premiums until the policy matures and eventually receives the death benefit. You’re no longer responsible for paying premiums, and you’re free to use the cash payment in any way you choose.
1. 222 U.S. 149 (1911)
3. The Life Settlements Report, June 2007, Life Insurance Settlement Association, 2009 and Bernstein Research Report, 2006
4. The Life Settlement Institute, 2007
5. Value Life Corporation, 2005
6. “Turn Unneeded Policies Into Cash: A Life Settlement Can Be A Better Alternative Than Surrendering A Policy,” Journal of Accountancy, September 2005, James D. Warring
7. U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2010
8. U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2010
9.“Turn Unneeded Policies Into Cash: A Life Settlement Can Be A Better Alternative Than Surrendering A Policy,” Journal of Accountancy, September 2005, James D. Warring