Life Insurance Assignment – What They Are and Why You Need Them

Everything You Need to Know about Absolute vs. Collateral Assignments

Collateral Assignment

What is a collateral assignment?

A collateral assignment of life insurance gives lenders the right to collect your policy’s death benefit up to the amount of the outstanding loan balance.

How is a collateral assignment used?

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.

Life insurance for SBA loans is required when you borrow from the SBA.

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

How to Complete a Collateral Assignment

The process is similar whether you are adding the assignment to an existing policy or are 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 complete, you will send the form to the insurance company.
  3. The insurance company records the assignment and sends a confirmation to the owner and lender that the assignment 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 lender, you have the right to have the collateral assignment removed.

The life insurance companies have collateral release forms as well.

  • The owner completes the form and sends it to the lender.
  • The lender signs off on the release.
  • Once complete, the insurance company records the release and sends the discharge letter to all parties.

Once complete, you should re-check with the home office to ensure that your policy released the assignment.

Your agent can help with this.

Death and Collateral Assignments

How do collateral assignments work when you die?

Check out this example:

  • Policy Face Amount = $1,000,000
  • 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 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 $900,000 as intended.

I would like to remind you that you NEVER want to name your lender as the beneficiary, as they would receive the entire proceeds rather than just what was owed.

Collateral Assignments for the Uninsurable

While lenders may want a life insurance policy as collateral, sometimes it’s difficult to obtain if the insured has substantial health issues.

If you have an existing life insurance policy in effect, it’s possible to 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.

Absolute Assignment

What is an absolute assignment?

You use absolute assignments when you permanently relinquish all ownership rights to your life insurance policy.

Some examples:

Life Insurance Settlements

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

You may convert a term policy to permanent insurance before it is sold.

Another example may involve admitting seniors to a nursing home.

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 permanently transfer your policy to your favorite charity.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT)

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

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 Cases

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


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 we 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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