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Life Health > Life Insurance

Ameritas Suit Could Shake Up Life Settlement Market

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What You Need to Know

  • A California man bought a term life policy with a permanent life conversion option in 2004.
  • He sold the policy to an investor who wants to exercise the conversion option.
  • Ameritas is asking whether providing a conversion policy would create stranger-originated life insurance.

Ameritas Life has filed a lawsuit that could change how life settlement investors see convertible term life insurance policies.

The life insurer contends that a life settlement investor buying an in-force term life policy may not be able to exchange the term life policy for a permanent life policy, because the new investor owner has no insurable interest in the life of the insured.

If the new investor owner of a term life policy exercises the policy’s conversion option, the investor owner may be creating “stranger-originated life insurance” and violating state anti-STOLI laws, according to Ameritas.

Ameritas makes that argument in a suit, Ameritas Life Insurance Company v. Wilmington Trust, that was filed March 25 in the U.S. District Court for the District of California.

Wilmington Trust declined to comment.

What it means: If the court decides that an investor owner cannot exercise a term life policy’s conversion provision, that could hurt clients’ ability to sell convertible term life policies to investors.

Life settlement investors usually prefer owning permanent life policies, because they get paid when the insured dies. Keeping a permanent life policy in force until the insured dies is often cheaper and easier than keeping a term life policy in force until the insured dies.

The policy: Amir Moghadam, a 47-year-old California resident, bought a renewable term life policy with a $3.7 million death benefit from a company now owned by Ameritas in 2004. The policy had a 20-year level-premium term.

The policy gives Moghadam the privilege to convert to a type of permanent life policy — a flexible-premium, adjustable universal life policy — up until Feb. 15, 2033.

Moghadam later sold his policy. Wilmington Trust appears to be managing the policy for an unknown investor, according to Ameritas.

In January 2024, Ameritas notified Moghadam that, if he renewed his term life policy, the monthly premiums would increase to $6,348.23, from $607.90.

Wilmington Trust and Moghadam then sent Ameritas a change of ownership and beneficiary form. They asked Ameritas to make Wilmington Trust the policy owner and beneficiary.

In February, Wilmington Trust applied to exercise the policy conversion privilege.

Insurable interest: Most states have prohibited investors from buying life insurance policies insuring “strangers’” lives, because of a concern that the investors would be wagering on other people’s deaths.

Ameritas’ arguments: Ameritas says that it provided a permanent life policy for Wilmington Trust, through a subsidiary in Delaware, but that it told Wilmington Trust that it questions whether Wilmington Trust has an insurable interest in Moghadam’s life.

Ameritas is asking the court to decide whether it can legally process Wilmington Trust’s application for the conversion policy or whether providing the policy would create a “void human life wager” under California and Delaware law.

If the court finds that providing a new conversion policy would violate STOLI laws, Ameritas will reinstate the old policy or provide a refund of the premiums paid for the new policy, the company says.

Credit: Shutterstock


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