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What Is a Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance?
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Charlene Rhinehart is a CPA , CFE, chair of an Illinois CPA Society committee, and has a degree in accounting and finance from DePaul University.
A collateral assignment of life insurance is a conditional assignment appointing a lender as an assignee of a policy. Essentially, the lender has a claim to some or all of the death benefit until the loan is repaid. The death benefit is used as collateral for a loan.
The advantage to using a collateral assignee over naming the lender as a beneficiary is that you can specify that the lender is only entitled to a certain amount, namely the amount of the outstanding loan. That would allow your beneficiaries still be entitled to any remaining death benefit.
Lenders commonly require that life insurance serve as collateral for a business loan to guarantee repayment if the borrower dies or defaults. They may even require you to get a life insurance policy to be approved for a business loan.
- The borrower of a business loan using life insurance as collateral must be the policy owner, who may or may not be the insured.
- The collateral assignment helps you avoid naming a lender as a beneficiary.
- The collateral assignment may be against all or part of the policy's value.
- If any amount of the death benefit remains after the lender is paid, it is distributed to beneficiaries.
- Once the loan is fully repaid, the life insurance policy is no longer used as collateral.
How a Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance Works
Collateral assignments make sure the lender gets paid only what they are due. The borrower must be the owner of the policy, but they do not have to be the insured person. And the policy must remain current for the life of the loan, with the policy owner continuing to pay all premiums . You can use either term or whole life insurance policy as collateral, but the death benefit must meet the lender's terms.
A permanent life insurance policy with a cash value allows the lender access to the cash value to use as loan payment if the borrower defaults. Many lenders don't accept term life insurance policies as collateral because they do not accumulate cash value.
Alternately, the policy owner's access to the cash value is restricted to protect the collateral. If the loan is repaid before the borrower's death, the assignment is removed, and the lender is no longer the beneficiary of the death benefit.
Insurance companies must be notified of the collateral assignment of a policy. However, other than their obligation to meet the terms of the contract, they are not involved in the agreement.
Example of Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance
For example, say you have a business plan for a floral shop and need a $50,000 loan to get started. When you apply for the loan, the bank says you must have collateral in the form of a life insurance policy to back it up. You have a whole life insurance policy with a cash value of $65,000 and a death benefit of $300,000, which the bank accepts as collateral.
So, you then designate the bank as the policy's assignee until you repay the $50,000 loan. That way, the bank can ensure it will be repaid the funds it lent you, even if you died. In this case, because the cash value and death benefit is more than what you owe the lender, your beneficiaries would still inherit money.
Alternatives to Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance
Using a collateral assignment to secure a business loan can help you access the funds you need to start or grow your business. However, you would be at risk of losing your life insurance policy if you defaulted on the loan, meaning your beneficiaries may not receive the money you'd planned for them to inherit.
Consult with a financial advisor to discuss whether a collateral assignment or one of these alternatives may be most appropriate for your financial situation.
Life insurance loan (policy loan) : If you already have a life insurance policy with a cash value, you can likely borrow against it. Policy loans are not taxed and have less stringent requirements such as no credit or income checks. However, this option would not work if you do not already have a permanent life insurance policy because the cash value component takes time to build.
Surrendering your policy : You can also surrender your policy to access any cash value you've built up. However, your beneficiaries would no longer receive a death benefit.
Other loan types : Finally, you can apply for other loans, such as a personal loan, that do not require life insurance as collateral. You could use loans that rely on other types of collateral, such as a home equity loan that uses your home equity.
What Are the Benefits of Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance?
A collateral assignment of a life insurance policy may be required if you need a business loan. Lenders typically require life insurance as collateral for business loans because they guarantee repayment if the borrower dies. A policy with cash value can guarantee repayment if the borrower defaults.
What Kind of Life Insurance Can Be Used for Collateral?
You can typically use any type of life insurance policy as collateral for a business loan, depending on the lender's requirements. A permanent life insurance policy with a cash value allows the lender a source of funds to use if the borrower defaults. Some lenders may not accept term life insurance policies, which have no cash value. The lender will typically require the death benefit be a certain amount, depending on your loan size.
Is Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance Irrevocable?
A collateral assignment of life insurance is irrevocable. So, the policyholder may not use the cash value of a life insurance policy dedicated toward collateral for a loan until that loan has been repaid.
What is the Difference Between an Assignment and a Collateral Assignment?
With an absolute assignment , the entire ownership of the policy would be transferred to the assignee, or the lender. Then, the lender would be entitled to the full death benefit. With a collateral assignment, the lender is only entitled to the balance of the outstanding loan.
The Bottom Line
If you are applying for life insurance to secure your own business loan, remember you do not need to make the lender the beneficiary. Instead you can use a collateral assignment. Consult a financial advisor or insurance broker who can walk you through the process and explain its pros and cons as they apply to your situation.
Progressive. " Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance ."
Fidelity Life. " What Is a Collateral Assignment of a Life Insurance Policy? "
Kansas Legislative Research Department. " Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance Proceeds ."
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What is collateral assignment of life insurance?
Collateral assignment lets you use your life insurance as loan collateral. When you die, your death benefit is paid to your lender first and any remaining funds go to your beneficiaries.
Updated November 3, 2021 | 3 min read
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When you apply for a loan, particularly a small business loan or Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, you can use your life insurance coverage as collateral. This is called collateral assignment, and it ensures that your lender will be paid any outstanding loan amount if you don’t have a good credit rating or other collateral.
Collateral assignment is different from naming the bank as the sole beneficiary of your policy, like with credit life insurance . Instead, collateral assignment ensures that if you die before repaying your loan, the insurance company will use your death benefit to settle up. After that, any remaining funds go to your named beneficiaries.
If you already have a policy with a death benefit greater than your loan amount, you may be able to collaterally assign that policy. However, some lenders may require you to buy a new policy specifically for collateral assignment. If you don’t have a life insurance policy or need additional coverage, you will need to apply for a separate policy. Once you have a policy in place, you can request collateral assignment paperwork from your insurer.
Collateral assignment makes your life insurance death benefit collateral for a loan
If you die before repaying your debt, your insurer pays back what you owe to the lender before disbursing funds to your beneficiaries
You complete collateral assignment forms after your policy is active
The agreement ends only after you’ve satisfied the terms of your loan
How collateral assignment works
Applying for life insurance for collateral assignment is the same as applying for a personal life insurance policy — you need to have an active personal policy before you can assign it as collateral. You’ll go through the application review and underwriting process , and wait to receive your offer.
→ Learn more about how to buy life insurance
Who to name as your beneficiary
When buying life insurance for the purpose of collateral assignment, you name the beneficiaries as you would for a personal policy. So, if your personal policy would list your spouse, you list your spouse. The lender is not your beneficiary; they are the assignee on the collateral assignment paperwork after your policy is active. On the form, you are the assignor .
When you fill out a collateral assignment form, that assignment supersedes your beneficiaries’ rights to the death benefit. If you die, the life insurance company pays the lender, or assignee, the loan balance. The remainder of your death benefit — if there is one — goes to your beneficiaries.
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Who owns the life insurance policy
You are the policy owner and responsible for the premium payments. Some lenders may require an escrow account for the life insurance premiums, others may require proof of payment or prepayment. If you use a whole life policy for collateral assignment, the lender has access to the cash value of the policy if you default on the loan.
When to fill out collateral assignment paperwork
After you pay your first premium, sign your policy papers, and the insurer confirms that your policy is active, then you can ask for a collateral assignment form from the life insurance company or your insurance broker.
You’ll need your loan officer’s name and number for the form, as well as your policy number, Social Security number, and other personal information.
When collateral assignment ends
Collateral assignment ends only if you pay off your loan before you pass away. Your lender must agree that the terms of your loan have been met and send a release to your insurer in order to terminate the agreement.
If your policy lapses or you choose to cancel it, the lender could consider that a violation of your loan contract. They may even pay your premiums on your behalf to prevent a policy lapse. In that scenario, the lender adds the cost of any premiums they paid for your policy to your loan total.
Alternatives to collateral assignment
If your lender doesn’t require a collateral assignment agreement but you want to leverage your life insurance for debt repayment, there are a few other options.
Life insurance loan: A life insurance loan allows you to borrow directly from your permanent policy’s cash value. You need to accumulate enough cash value to cover a loan, which can take several years. Any unpaid amount, plus interest, is deducted from your death benefit.
Cash surrender: You can give up your permanent policy and take its cash surrender value , the amount of cash built up in the policy minus administrative fees. This option involves canceling your policy, so you’ll need to find replacement coverage and could face penalties if you cancel during your policy’s surrender period.
Term life insurance: You should always buy enough insurance to account for your debts . On average, term life is five to 15 times cheaper than whole life, and your beneficiaries can use the death benefit to pay off your debts and keep the remainder, sidestepping collateral assignment paperwork or lender involvement.
For most people, the most affordable and straightforward option is using your term life insurance policy’s death benefit to account for any outstanding loans when you die, with or without a collateral assignment attached. If you need to use your life insurance policy for collateral assignment, the process is as simple as buying a policy and filling out the appropriate paperwork.
Frequently asked questions
A collateral assignment of life insurance directs your insurance provider to use your death benefit to pay off an existing loan if you die while in debt. After the lender is paid, any remaining funds go to your policy’s beneficiaries.
Your lender is the assignee of your collateral assignment agreement. You are the assignor of the agreement and the owner of your life insurance policy.
Collateral assignment can only be revoked if your lender confirms that your debt is paid and sends a release of collateral assignment to your insurer. The assignment cannot be changed if you change your mind or if your life insurance policy lapses.
Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert
Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.
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Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.
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What Is Collateral Assignment (of a Life Insurance Policy)?
Meredith Mangan is a senior editor for The Balance, focusing on insurance product reviews. She brings to the job 15 years of experience in finance, media, and financial markets. Prior to her editing career, Meredith was a licensed financial advisor and a licensed insurance agent in accident and health, variable, and life contracts. Meredith also spent five years as the managing editor for Money Crashers.
Definition and Examples of Collateral Assignment
How collateral assignment works, alternatives to collateral assignment.
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If you assign your life insurance contract as collateral for a loan, you give the lender the right to collect from the policy’s cash value or death benefit in two circumstances. One is if you stop making payments; the other is if you die before the loan is repaid. Securing a loan with life insurance reduces the lender’s risk, which improves your chances of qualifying for the loan.
Before moving forward with a collateral assignment, learn how the process works, how it impacts your policy, and possible alternatives.
Collateral assignment is the practice of using a life insurance policy as collateral for a loan . Collateral is any asset that your lender can take if you default on the loan.
For example, you might apply for a $25,000 loan to start a business. But your lender is unwilling to approve the loan without sufficient collateral. If you have a permanent life insurance policy with a cash value of $40,000 and a death benefit of $300,000, you could use that life insurance policy to collateralize the loan. Via collateral assignment of your policy, you authorize the insurance company to give the lender the amount you owe if you’re unable to keep up with payments (or if you die before repaying the loan).
Lenders have two ways to collect under a collateral assignment arrangement:
- If you die, the lender gets a portion of the death benefit—up to your remaining loan balance.
- With permanent insurance policies, the lender can surrender your life insurance policy in order to access the cash value if you stop making payments.
Lenders are only entitled to the amount you owe, and are not generally named as beneficiaries on the policy. If your cash value or the death benefit exceeds your outstanding loan balance, the remaining money belongs to you or your beneficiaries.
Whenever lenders approve a loan, they can’t be certain that you’ll repay. Your credit history is an indicator, but sometimes lenders want additional security. Plus, surprises happen, and even those with the strongest credit profiles can die unexpectedly.
Assigning a life insurance policy as collateral gives lenders yet another way to secure their interests and can make approval easier for borrowers.
Types of Life Insurance Collateral
Life insurance falls into two broad categories: permanent insurance and term insurance . You can use both types of insurance for a collateral assignment, but lenders may prefer that you use permanent insurance.
- Permanent insurance : Permanent insurance, such as universal and whole life insurance, is lifelong insurance coverage that contains a cash value. If you default on the loan, lenders can surrender your policy and use that cash value to pay down the balance. If you die, the lender has a right to the death benefit, up to the amount you still owe.
- Term insurance : Term insurance provides a death benefit, but coverage is limited to a certain number of years (20 or 30, for example). Since there’s no cash value in these policies, they only protect your lender if you die before the debt is repaid. The duration of a term policy used as collateral needs to be at least as long as your loan term.
A Note on Annuities
You may also be able to use an annuity as collateral for a bank loan. The process is similar to using a life insurance policy, but there is one key difference to be aware of. Any amount assigned as collateral in an annuity is treated as a distribution for tax purposes. In other words, the amount assigned will be taxed as income up to the amount of any gain in the contract, and may be subject to an additional 10% tax if you’re under 59 ½.
A collateral assignment is similar to a lien on your home . Somebody else has a financial interest in your property, but you keep ownership of it.
To use life insurance as collateral, the lender must be willing to accept a collateral assignment. When that’s the case, the policy owner, or “assignor,” submits a form to the insurance company to establish the arrangement. That form includes information about the lender, or “assignee,” and details about the lender’s and borrower’s rights.
Policy owners generally have control over policies. They may cancel or surrender coverage, change beneficiaries, or assign the contract as collateral. But if the policy has an irrevocable beneficiary, that beneficiary will need to approve any collateral assignment.
State laws typically require you to notify the insurer that you intend to pledge your insurance policy as collateral, and you must do so in writing. In practice, most insurers have specific forms that detail the terms of your assignment.
Some lenders might require you to get a new policy to secure a loan, but others allow you to add a collateral assignment to an existing policy. After submitting your form, it can take 24 to 48 hours for the assignment to go into effect.
Lenders Get Paid First
If you die and the policy pays a death benefit , the lender receives the amount you owe first. Your beneficiaries get any remaining funds once the lender is paid. In other words, your lender takes priority over your beneficiaries when you use this strategy. Be sure to consider the impact on your beneficiaries before you complete a collateral assignment.
After you repay your loan, your lender does not have any right to your life insurance policy, and you can request that the lender release the assignment. Your life insurance company should have a form for that. However, if a lender pays premiums to keep your policy in force, the lender may add those premium payments (plus interest) to your total debt—and collect that extra money.
There may be several other ways for you to get approved for a loan—with or without life insurance:
- Surrender a policy : If you have a cash value life insurance policy that you no longer need, you could potentially surrender the policy and use the cash value. Doing so might prevent the need to borrow, or you might borrow substantially less. However, surrendering a policy ends your coverage, meaning your beneficiaries will not get a death benefit. Also, you’ll likely owe taxes on any gains.
- Borrow from your policy : You may be able to borrow against the cash value in your permanent life insurance policy to get the funds you need. This approach could eliminate the need to work with a traditional lender, and creditworthiness would not be an issue. But borrowing can be risky, as any unpaid loan balance reduces the amount your beneficiaries receive. Plus, over time, deductions for the cost of insurance and compounding loan interest may negate your cash value and the policy could lapse, so it’s critical to monitor.
- Consider other solutions : You may have other options unrelated to a life insurance policy. For example, you could use the equity in your home as collateral for a loan, but you could lose your home in foreclosure if you can’t make the payments. A co-signer could also help you qualify, although the co-signer takes a significant risk by guaranteeing your loan.
- Life insurance can help you get approved for a loan when you use a collateral assignment.
- If you die, your lender receives the amount you owe, and your beneficiaries get any remaining death benefit.
- With permanent insurance, your lender can cash out your policy to pay down your loan balance.
- An annuity can be used as collateral for a loan but may not be a good idea because of tax consequences.
- Other strategies can help you get approved without putting your life insurance coverage at risk.
NYSBA. " Life Insurance and Annuity Contracts Within and Without Tax Qualified Retirement Plans and Life Insurance Trusts ." Accessed April 12, 2021.
IRS. " Publication 575 (2020), Pension and Annuity Income ." Accessed April 12, 2021.
Practical Law. " Security Interests: Life Insurance Policies ." Accessed April 12, 2021.
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What is collateral assignment of life insurance?
Collateral assignment of life insurance is a method of providing a lender with collateral when you apply for a loan. In this case, the collateral is your life insurance policy's face value, which could be used to pay back the amount you owe in case you die while in debt. Collateral assignment of life insurance is a common requirement for business loans, and lenders may require you to get a life insurance policy to be used for collateral assignment.
How does collateral assignment of life insurance work?
If you die before fully repaying your loan, collateral assignment will allow the lender, or "assignee," to be repaid for the outstanding loan amount using your death benefit. If you pay back your loan fully before passing away, or if only a portion of your death benefit is needed to pay off your loan, your beneficiaries can still file a claim for the policy's death benefit .
What steps are required to apply for collateral assignment of life insurance?
Depending on your lender and the loan type and amount you're applying for, collateral assignment of your existing life insurance or a new life insurance policy may be required. Collateral assignment requirements are particularly common with business loans. Here's how to apply for collateral assignment of life insurance:
Understand the requirements
Find out if your lender will accept collateral assignment of an existing permanent or term life insurance policy . If so, confirm that your current policy's death benefit amount is sufficient collateral for the loan. If the lender requires that you get a new life insurance policy for the collateral assignment, you may need to shop around for life insurance with a death benefit amount that's sufficient loan collateral.
Apply for life insurance
If you're buying a new life insurance policy , you'll apply with the insurer. Once you're approved, double-check with your lender that the policy you've qualified for meets their loan requirements.
Complete the collateral assignment form
Once your first life insurance premium is paid, you can proceed with completing a collateral assignment form via your insurer. On the form, you'll need to provide your lender's contact information so they can be added as the death benefit collateral assignee until your loan is repaid. The form also requires signatures from both the assignor (you) and assignee (your lender).
Proceed with your loan application
Once your bank can confirm they're the collateral assignee for your life insurance policy, you can proceed with your loan application.
Don't cancel your life insurance policy during the course of your loan and make your insurance payments on time to avoid a life insurance policy lapse ; otherwise, you could violate your loan contract. Your lender may then have the right to raise your loan's interest rate or demand full repayment of your outstanding loan balance.
Will collateral assignment affect my beneficiaries?
With collateral assignment, you should still name beneficiaries as usual, but the total death benefit available to them will depend on when you pay off your loan. If you pay it off before you pass away, your death benefit won't be affected. However, if you pass away before paying off your loan, the total death benefit your beneficiaries can file a claim for will be reduced by the amount needed to fully pay back your lender.
Your lender will be an assignee rather than a beneficiary, and the assignee can only claim up to the amount required to settle your loan. Any amount remaining may be claimed by your beneficiaries, so be sure to update your beneficiaries as needed while your policy is active.
Other ways life insurance can help you with a loan
Collateral assignment might not be the only way to qualify for the loan you need. If you have a whole life or universal life policy, consider how much cash value it currently has. Instead of borrowing from a lender, you may be able to borrow from your policy's cash value via a life insurance loan . Note that there will be limits to how much you can borrow without putting your coverage in jeopardy, and any part of the loan not repaid by the time you pass away may be deducted from your death benefit.
You can also choose to cash out your life insurance policy. This would end your coverage, and taxes and fees will apply, but you could use the policy's value to eliminate your need for a loan or reduce the amount you need to borrow. Consult with a financial advisor to understand the implications of your particular situation.
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Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance Policy | Practical Law
Collateral Assignment of Life Insurance Policy
Practical law canada standard document w-020-7658 (approx. 14 pages).
What is an Irrevocable Beneficiary?
Revocable versus irrevocable beneficiaries, how does one become an irrevocable beneficiary an example, irrevocable beneficiary versus primary beneficiary, leave a comment cancel reply.
LESSON 3: LIFE INSURANCE POLICIES, PROVISIONS, OPTIONS AND RIDERS
3.9.9 assignment provision - absolute and collateral.
Since the policyowner actually owns the policy, not the insurer, the owner has every right to give the policy away just like any other owned piece of property; the insurer's permission is not required. The transfer of ownership is referred to as assignment and the new owner is the assignee .
If the policy is transferred under an absolute assignment , the transfer is irrevocable and the assignee receives full control of the policy. As long as the beneficiary was not designated as an irrevocable, the assignee can even change the beneficiary without the beneficiary's permission.
If the policy is transferred as a means of establishing security on a debt, it is considered a collateral assignment . If the insured dies before the debt is repaid, the balance of the debt is paid to the creditor out of the policy proceeds. If there are any funds left once the debt has been satisfied, the rest of the proceeds go to the policy's beneficiary.
A policyowner has assigned a $10,000 policy to cover a $5,000 mortgage. How will the company pay the claim at the insured's death?
If an absolute assignment was made, the company will pay the entire proceeds to the assignee. If a collateral assignment was made, the company will usually make the check payable jointly to the assignee and the beneficiary. If a partial assignment was made, the unpaid mortgage balance will be paid to the assignee and the remainder will be paid to the beneficiary named in the policy.
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