Technically speaking, a viatical settlement occurs when the holder of a life insurance policy sells the policy to a third party before the original owner dies.
Most viatical settlements involve terminally ill people with life expectancies of less than two years who choose to sell their life insurance policies to raise money for their medical care.
In a viatical settlement, the third party pays the former policy owner an amount that is typically more than the surrender value of the policy, but less than the death benefit. When the insured person dies, the new policy owner collects the death benefit and makes a profit on the difference between the amount paid to the insured and the amount paid on the claim.
Some businesses specialize in viatical settlements, and may resell them as investments, arrangements that are regulated by the state in which the policies are sold.
Because viaticals are controversial, more complex than they seem, and have been aggressively and sometimes misleadingly marketed, both people considering selling viaticals and people considering investing in them are advised to proceed with caution.
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