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Life Insurance Settlements: Regulatory Inconsistencies May Pose a Number of Challenges

GAO-10-775 Published: Jul 09, 2010. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2010.
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Since the late 1990s, life settlements have offered consumers benefits but also exposed them to risks, giving rise to regulatory concerns. A policy owner with unneeded life insurance can surrender the policy to the insurer for its cash surrender value. Or, the owner may receive more by selling the policy to a third-party investor through a life settlement. These transactions have involved high-dollar-amount policies covering older persons. Despite their potential benefits, life settlements can have unintended consequences for policy owners, such as unexpected tax liabilities. Also, policy owners commonly rely on intermediaries to help them, and some intermediaries may engage in abusive practices. As requested, this report addresses how the life settlement market is organized and regulated, and what challenges policy owners, investors, and others face in connection with life settlements. GAO reviewed and analyzed studies on life settlements and applicable state and federal laws; surveyed insurance regulators and life settlement providers; and interviewed relevant market participants, state and federal regulators, trade associations, and market observers.

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