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Life Insurance Made Easy

How Much Can I Sell My Term Life Insurance Policy For?

Term Life Insurance


Term life insurance is one of the most popular insurance products in the market, and for a good reason. It provides pure death protection without any savings or investment component, making it a straightforward and often affordable choice for many individuals. As life situations change, some policyholders might consider selling their policies in what’s known as the secondary market for life insurance. The price of such a sale is influenced by various factors.

I. Understanding Term Life Insurance:

Definition and characteristics:

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specified period, often 10, 20, or 30 years. If the insured passes away within this period, the death benefit is paid out to the beneficiaries. If the insured survives the term, no benefits are paid out, and the policy simply expires.

How term life insurance differs from permanent life insurance:

  • **Term Life Insurance:**
  • Provides coverage for a specific term.
  • No cash value accumulation.
  • Often more affordable initially.
  • Permanent Life Insurance:
  • Lasts the lifetime of the insured.
  • Accumulates cash value.
  • Generally more expensive than term insurance.

Typical scenarios for purchasing term life insurance:

  • Protecting against loss of income during working years.
  • Covering large debts like mortgages.
  • Ensuring educational expenses for children are covered.
  • Business-related needs, such as buy-sell agreements.

II. Viatical & Life Settlements:

Definition and historical perspective:

A viatical or life settlement refers to the sale of an existing life insurance policy to a third party for a one-time cash payment. The buyer becomes the new beneficiary and assumes the premium payments. This concept has been around since the 1911 U.S. Supreme Court decision in *Grigsby v. Russell*, which established life insurance as transferable property.

Who qualifies?

  • Policyholders with a limited life expectancy, often due to a terminal illness (viatical settlements).
  • Seniors who no longer need or can afford their policies (life settlements).

Pros and cons of selling your policy:


  • Immediate cash access.
  • Amount received is generally higher than the cash surrender value.
  • Relief from premium payments.


  • Losing the death benefit for the beneficiaries.
  • Potential tax implications.
  • Privacy concerns, as the buyer will have access to health records.

III. Factors Determining Policy Sale Price:

Some factors influencing the sale price include:

  • **Policy’s face value.** Larger policies often fetch higher sale prices.
  • **Annual premium amounts.** Lower premiums are more attractive to buyers.
  • **Remaining term.** Policies closer to their expiration may be less valuable.
  • **Policy’s convertibility.** Convertible policies are often more desirable.
  • **Age and health of the insured.** Older or less healthy individuals might fetch higher prices due to shorter life expectancies.
  • **Current interest rates.** Affects the investment return for the buyer.
  • **The profitability for the buyer.** The potential return on investment for the buyer.

IV. The Selling Process:

Determining if your policy is sellable:

Not all policies qualify for a sale. Key factors include the policy type, the face value, and the health of the insured.

Getting a life expectancy estimate:

Buyers use medical underwriting to estimate the life expectancy of the insured, which impacts the offer amount.

Finding a broker or provider:

Brokers can help you find potential buyers, while providers directly purchase policies. Ensure you work with reputable professionals, and you can start by checking with organizations like [LISA (Life Insurance Settlement Association)](https://www.lisa.org/).

Evaluating offers:

Offers vary widely based on the buyer’s criteria. Consider multiple offers before making a decision.

Closing the sale: process and considerations:

Once you accept an offer, the buyer will handle the paperwork. It’s essential to understand the fees, the payment process, and any legal considerations.

V. Pros & Cons of Selling a Term Life Policy:

Reasons to consider a sale:

  • Immediate financial needs outweigh the future death benefit.
  • The policy is no longer affordable or needed.
  • Policy conversion to a more suitable product is not an option.
  • Looking for an alternative to letting the policy lapse or surrendering.

Financial implications:

The cash received from a sale could potentially offer immediate relief from financial burdens, but it might also have tax implications.

Impact on beneficiaries:

Selling your policy means the designated beneficiaries will not receive the death benefit, which could alter financial plans or legacies intended for them.

Potential tax implications:

The sale may be subject to taxes depending on the amount received compared to the total premiums paid. Always consult with a tax professional.

Alternative options to consider:

Before selling, consider other options like borrowing against the policy, converting it, or even using it as collateral for a loan.

VI. Key Players in the Secondary Market:


Act as intermediaries between sellers and buyers, helping policyholders navigate offers and ensuring they get the best deal.


Direct buyers of life insurance policies. They manage the premium payments and eventually collect the death benefit.

Financing entities:

Often back providers by funding the purchase of policies.

Service providers:

Offer ancillary services like medical underwriting, policy valuation, or tracking services.

Escrow agents:

Neutral third parties that manage funds during the sale process, ensuring a fair and smooth transfer.

VII. Legal & Regulatory Considerations:

State-by-state regulations:

Life settlement regulations vary by state, and some states have specific licensing requirements for brokers and providers.

Consumer protections:

Regulations aim to protect consumers by ensuring transparency, fairness, and that they’re adequately informed throughout the process.

Disclosure requirements:

Brokers and providers must disclose pertinent information, including offers, fees, affiliations, and potential conflicts of interest.

Fraud prevention and reporting:

To combat fraud in the industry, states often have measures like regular audits, mandatory reporting of suspicious activities, and stringent licensing criteria.

VIII. Real-life Case Studies:

Successful sales:

John, a 75-year-old male with a $1 million term policy, was considering letting his policy lapse due to rising premiums. Upon exploring the secondary market, he sold his policy for $150,000, which he used to fund his retirement.

Challenges faced:

Sandra faced hurdles when trying to sell her term policy as it lacked a conversion feature, limiting her options and reducing potential offers.

Unsuitable sales:

Martin, diagnosed with a terminal illness, sold his policy for immediate cash. Unfortunately, he wasn’t made aware of the potential tax implications, leaving his family with unexpected financial stress.

IX. Alternatives to Selling Your Term Life Policy:

Converting to a permanent policy:

Some term policies offer a conversion feature, allowing policyholders to switch to a permanent policy without a medical exam.

Borrowing against the policy:

While this option is more common for permanent policies with a cash value, some term policies may allow it under specific conditions.

Letting it lapse:

If the policy is no longer needed or affordable, one can simply stop paying the premiums, resulting in the policy lapsing.

Using it for charitable donations:

Assign the policy to a charity as the beneficiary, which upon the insured’s death will receive the death benefit.

Assigning the policy as collateral for a loan:

Some lenders might accept a life insurance policy as collateral, especially if it has a significant death benefit or cash value.

X. Frequently Asked Questions:

Can any term life policy be sold?

Not all policies qualify. Eligibility often hinges on factors like age, health, policy size, and remaining term.
How long does the process take?

On average, 2 to 4 months, but it can vary based on the specifics of the policy and the efficiency of involved parties.
What are the tax implications?

The sale could be subject to income tax or capital gains tax. Always consult a tax professional.
How to determine the trustworthiness of brokers/providers?

Research their licensing, check customer reviews, and consult industry associations like LISA.
Should I consult with a financial advisor?

Absolutely. Financial advisors can offer insights tailored to your unique situation.

XI. Future Trends in Life Settlement Industry:

Technological advancements:

Tech-driven underwriting, blockchain for transparent transactions, and AI-powered platforms may shape the industry’s future.

Regulatory shifts:

Increased consumer protections and standardized practices could emerge as the market grows.

Market predictions:

With an aging population and increased awareness, the life settlement market might see growth in coming years.

XII. Tips for Maximizing Sale Price:

  • **Keeping health records up to date:** Accurate and recent records can lead to better offers.
  • **Understanding policy terms and conditions:** Know your policy’s perks and limitations.
  • **Negotiating with multiple buyers:** More offers often mean a better final price.
  • **Evaluating the timing of the sale:** Sometimes waiting might fetch a better price, especially if health deteriorates or market conditions change.


Selling a term life insurance policy is a significant decision. Reflect on your personal and financial circumstances, and always prioritize making informed decisions. It’s also vital to seek advice from professionals to ensure you’re making the best choice for you and your family.

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