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Retained coverage insurance settlements: The life settlement industry's newest product

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Retained coverage insurance settlements (RCIS) are gaining in popularity among owners of life insurance policies as a way to offload premium payments without losing the full death benefit of an insurance policy.

The life settlement market was born out of two stated reasons for the sale of policies. The policies had to be 1) unwanted and/or 2) unneeded. The recent recession and stock market volatility have added a third reason why insureds are bringing their policies to market: they are unaffordable.

The market has responded with retained coverage insurance settlements (RCIS) to address the type of seller who wants to retain the policy but cannot afford the premiums. This type of transaction has created a win/win for sellers and buyers, with great advantages for both.

In RCIS, the life settlement provider makes an offer of a small amount of upfront cash and allows the seller to retain a percentage of the death benefit. Usually, the majority (if not all) of the upfront cash is used to pay life settlement broker and producer commissions. During the closing process, 100 percent of the ownership of the policy is changed to the investor, while the seller is made an irrevocable beneficiary for its pro-rata portion of the death benefit. The investor is also responsible for paying 100 percent of the premium obligation moving forward.

Typically, there is a reversion clause as well, whereby the seller takes the policy back if the investor fails to pay premiums, thus protecting the seller from a lapse situation.

The benefits of the RCIS to the seller who wishes to retain the life insurance are substantial. The RCIS option allows the seller to keep a portion of the coverage while completely doing away with any future premium obligation. Thus, the seller retains wanted insurance coverage without the ongoing burden of premium obligations.

This transaction is also great for the return to investors. The minimal upfront cash allocation usually causes an RCIS to generate higher yields than the typical life settlement transaction. The investor is also able to purchase more of these transactions compared to traditional life settlements. With an increase in the number of policies purchased, the investor is able to generate a higher level of diversification in his or her portfolio. This diversification gives the investor a higher probability of achieving a favorable actual-to-expected in relation to maturity events. Finally, the RCIS dilutes the collection risk that an investor usually has in a life settlement portfolio by giving the seller an incentive to cooperate with collection procedures.

See also: Plenty of life settlement opportunities, post fiscal cliff

Of course, there are complexities to any life settlement transaction, and RCIS may not be right for every situation. For the insureds inclined to sell a policy for purely financial reasons, however, an RCIS allows the seller to feel good knowing that a retained portion of the death benefit will still benefit loved ones. For the investor inclined to make a smaller outlay of upfront cash, an RCIS allows for a higher potential return, as well as greater diversification and less risk in collection of death benefits. This type of transaction can therefore truly constitute a win/win for both seller and investor.


For more on life settlements, see:

How to spot a life settlement opportunity

Top two takeaways from the LISA Fall Conference

Conning: Life settlements face supply and demand disparity