Although the basic element of a life insurance policy is financial security protection in the event of a premature death, the variety of products available in the marketplace provides you with many financial planning options. A life insurance assignment is a document that allows you to transfer the ownership rights of your policy to a third party, transferring to that third party all rights of ownership under your policy, including the rights to make decisions regarding coverage, beneficiary and investment options. The two kinds of life insurance assignments are conditional and absolute.
With a conditional assignment, although you transfer your life insurance policy’s ownership rights to another party, the assignment stipulates that if a certain specified event occurs, the assignment can be suspended or revoked in whole or in part. The event in question cannot be something that you can cause to happen. If you assigned your life insurance policy to a business partner, for example, with the explicit agreement that on the death of that business partner the assignment is revoked, that assignment is deemed conditional.
When you make an absolute assignment, the rights, title and interest in the life insurance policy pass on to another party without the possibility of reversal. The assignment provides security to the assignee in that you can no longer make decisions regarding the policy that would jeopardize it, such as taking out a policy loan or withdrawing cash values.
If you own a business, and you wish to take out a loan for your business, the lender may require you to purchase life insurance on your own life as security for the loan. Initially you make the request for the insurance. Once the policy is approved and issued, you make an assignment to the bank. The bank now controls the decisions and can make changes to the policy, including naming itself as beneficiary.
If you own a life insurance policy with cash values, you might wish to access those cash values to increase your income flow. Withdrawals from life insurance policy cash values can result in taxes due and might reduce your death benefit. An alternative is to assign the life insurance policy to a lender in exchange for a line of credit or regular loan payments. These loans are generally not taxable, and you can typically borrow up to a stated maximum percentage of the cash value. Since the policy is assigned to the bank, your failure to pay the premiums on the policy will cause the bank to call the loan, cancel the insurance policy and use the cash values as payment of the loan. If you maintain the policy in force until your death, the bank is generally the beneficiary of the tax-free policy proceeds up to and including the outstanding amount of the loan, with any remaining policy proceeds paid tax free to your named beneficiary.
Philippe Lanctot started writing for business trade publications in 1990. He has contributed copy for the "Canadian Insurance Journal" and has been the co-author of text for life insurance company marketing guides. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Montreal with a minor in English.