Understanding Life Insurance Assignments: Your Complete Guide

life insurance assignment

A life insurance assignment allows you to transfer the rights of your policy, either temporarily or permanently.

Learn how collateral and absolute assignments can be used for loan collateral, estate planning, and other financial purposes.

What is a Collateral Assignment?

Collateral assignments are used to secure a lender’s financial interest in your policy in exchange for lending you money.

If you die, the collateral assignment allows the lender to collect your policy’s death benefit up to the amount of the outstanding loan balance.

How Do Collateral Assignments Work?

A typical scenario involves taking out a business loan.

The lender may require a life insurance policy as collateral.

The type of life insurance policy used, whether a term, whole life, or universal life doesn’t matter.

The insurance policy will pay off the balance if you die while the loan is outstanding.

One of the most common uses for collateral assignments is with SBA loans, especially if you do not have other assets to post as collateral.

The collateral assignment applies to the entire policy, including any life insurance rider benefits that may be included.

The Collateral Assignment Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

The process is similar whether you are adding the assignment to an existing policy or buying new coverage.

There are two parties to a collateral assignment.

  • Assignor – Is the owner of the life insurance policy
  • Assignee – Is the lender

Life insurance companies have standardized forms used for this purpose.

  1. The owner completes the form and sends it to the lender for review and signature.
  2. Once completed by the lender, the form is sent to the insurance company.
  3. The insurance company records the assignment and confirms to the owner and lender that it is complete.

This may all seem confusing if you haven’t used an assignment before, but the reality is that most life insurers make it pretty easy to complete.

Releasing a Collateral Assignment

When you pay off your loan, you have the right to have the collateral assignment released.

It’s a simple process:

  • The policy owner completes the form and sends it to the lender.
  • The lender signs off on the release. Many companies require a notary as a witness. The lender may return the form to the owner or the insurance company.
  • Once completed and returned to the insurance company, the release is recorded, and all parties are notified.

Companies typically complete this process in about a week, and it’s a good idea to confirm everything with the home office to avoid potential issues.

Your agent can help with this.

What Happens to a Collateral Assignment if You Die?

How do collateral assignments work when you die?

Your beneficiary will file a death claim with the life insurer at some point.

Collateral Assignment Tip # 1

If your beneficiary is a loved one, it’s a good idea to let them know that your policy has a collateral assignment so they are not surprised when they file the claim.

Here’s an example of how a death claim with a collateral assignment works:

  • Policy Face Amount = $5,000,000
  • Beneficiary = Your Spouse
  • Original Bank Loan = $200,000
  • Outstanding Loan Balance at Death = $100,000

What happens next?

  • Your beneficiary will file the death claim with the life insurance company.
  • The life insurance company will review the claim and see a collateral assignment attached to your policy.
  • The life insurer contacts the lender for an updated payoff figure.
  • Payoff amounts are sent directly to the lender.
  • Your beneficiary receives the balance of the policy death benefit.

For the above example, your lender would receive $100,000, and your beneficiary would receive the remaining $4,900,000.

Collateral Assignment Tip # 2

NEVER name your lender directly as a beneficiary. If you do, the lender will receive the entire death benefit, and your intended beneficiary will have to go through the lender to receive their share.

Collateral Assignments and Health Issues

While lenders may want a life insurance policy as collateral, obtaining life insurance can sometimes be difficult if the insured has substantial health issues.

If you have an existing life insurance policy in effect, you can use that for the assignment.

Another option that exists in some states is contingent coverage.

Contingent coverage is a one-year policy that you can renew.

The policy will exclude death from the known health issue but provide coverage for new health issues that develop or from accidental deaths.

Many lenders accept this coverage when it’s the only option available. And we’ve also seen lenders waive the collateral assignment requirement at times.

What is an Absolute Assignment?

An absolute assignment is a change of ownership of the policy.

When you want to permanently relinquish your rights to the life insurance policy, an absolute assignment is used.

Examples where absolute assignments are used include:

  • Life Insurance Settlements
  • 1035 Exchange
  • Gifting Life Insurance to Charities
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT)
  • Business Insurance Planning
  • Medicaid Planning

Life Insurance Settlements

With this transaction, you are selling your life insurance policy to a third party.

If it is a term policy, you would convert a term policy to permanent insurance before it is sold. In some cases, a company will buy the term policy.

Another example may involve admitting seniors to a nursing home, where the nursing home may take over the policy you have.

1035 Exchange

A 1035 exchange is a tax-free transfer of cash value from universal life or whole life policy to another similar policy.

Gifting Life Insurance to Charities

You can use absolute assignments to transfer your policy to your favorite charity.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT)

You use absolute assignments to transfer your policy to an ILIT permanently.

An example would be a survivorship policy you and your spouse own that you are transferring to the trust.

Many other potential issues may arise with transfers to an ILIT that are beyond the scope of this article.

Business Insurance Planning

If you purchase key person life insurance on an employee, absolute assignments transfer ownership to the employee.

Many times, this happens if the employee leaves the company or retires.

Medicaid Planning

You may have a policy permanently assigned to a nursing home or assisted living facility to help with long-term care expenses.

How Do Absolute Assignments Work?

Life insurance companies have forms used for Absolute Assignments.

Absolute assignment forms require:

  • Current owner name, address, and tax ID information.
  • New owner name, address, and tax ID information.
  • Relationship to the proposed insured.
  • Spousal consent in some states and situations.

The completed forms are submitted to the insurance company, recorded, and confirmations are sent to all parties.

Frequently Asked Questions About Life Insurance Assignments

You may have questions about your life insurance assignment and how it works.

The following are general guidelines, as each situation is uniquely different.

Can the collateral assignment change the beneficiary?

No, the collateral assignment does not change the beneficiary.

The life insurance assignment gives the lender the right to receive proceeds equal to their outstanding loan balance.

Can a business be a beneficiary in a collateral assignment of life insurance?

A business can be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy that is collaterally assigned.

Final Words

Life insurance assignments are common for absolute and collateral assignments.

What is most important is that you understand what is involved with this process.

That’s where we’ll help you make the best decision for your life insurance.

There is never any pressure or obligation with our life insurance service.

Please take a few minutes to submit your quote request today. Thank you.

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