In the past few years, we have had clients approach RIC with questions regarding “maturity date” and “maturity extension provisions” and their significance on life insurance policies. Historically an unseen risk, due to enhancements in medical care and good health habits, insureds are living longer and the odds of surviving to policy maturity are increasing. The risk of the insured living to maturity is especially true for policies issued prior to 2009, which utilized older mortality tables developed in 1980 or even back as far as 1952. It is not unusual for these contracts to have policy maturity at insured age 90, 95 or 100.
The scope of this issue is significant. Surrendering a policy while still alive or being forced to surrender it, due to outliving the maturity date with no maturity date extension available, can create a taxable event causing the owner to lose one of the most tax favored benefits provided by life insurance, following a lifetime of faithfully paying premiums. Most policies issued post-2009 are priced using the 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary (CSO) tables with updated trending. The current tables calculate mortality probabilities to the insured’s age of 121. Death benefit coverage or “policy maturity” normally extends to this age, guaranteeing the contract will carry to the death of the insured.
Typically for whole life plans, the policy is designed to endow at maturity of the contract, which means the cash value equals the death benefit. If the insured lives to the “Maturity Date,” the policy will pay the cash value amount in a lump sum to the owner. Still, without a maturity extension available in the contract, a taxable event will occur. Policy maturity can become even more problematic for universal life plans, as the benefit by contract varies and these plans are usually funded with the intent of minimizing cash value. Thus, trustees need to further understand what “maturity extension provisions” may be provided in the contract. The maturity extension clause will specify final resolution of the contract, once death occurs. Below is a list of different “maturity extension provisions” available on universal life policies, ranging from most desirable to least desirable.
To better understand each of the options listed above, we will review a sample of how policy proceeds are paid upon death following the Maturity Extension.
There are remediation options for policies experiencing a significant decrease in death benefit after policy maturity. For example, if the insured is younger than 85 years old and in good health, it may be prudent to replace the current policy with a policy that ensures coverage at death. If the insured is over the age of 85 or no longer insurable, it is important to know the health status of the insured. If they are not healthy, perhaps living to the maturity date is not a concern. If they are healthy, it is important that the trustee understands the risks of outliving the coverage and potentially forfeiting the death benefit and all premiums paid into the policy if there is little to no cash value at maturity.
In conclusion, it is important that the trustee perform the following when evaluating the risk of surviving to policy maturity:
Determine the policy’s maturity date.
Review the insurance policy and illustrations to determine the maturity extension provision.
If no provision exists in the contract, it is advisable to contact the carrier to provide written correspondence of the post-maturity benefit provision.
If the maturity extension does not equal at least the total death benefit, the following information should be determined:
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