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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. 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.

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.