Can Life Insurance Be Used While You’re Alive?

Life insurance is typically seen as a safety net for loved ones after the policyholder’s death, providing financial support and peace of mind. However, many people may not be aware that there are ways to access and utilize life insurance benefits while they’re still alive. Depending on the type of life insurance policy and its features, policyholders can tap into some of the funds to benefit their own lives before their passing.

Term life insurance, as its name suggests, is issued for a specified term, such as 10, 20, or 30 years, and provides a death benefit to beneficiaries if the policyholder dies during that timeframe. On the other hand, permanent life insurance, which includes policies like whole life and universal life, provides a death benefit for the entirety of the policyholder’s life and builds a cash value component over time. This cash value can be accessed by the policyholder to address various financial needs while they’re still alive.

Although using life insurance while alive may sound appealing, it’s not without its drawbacks, such as tax implications and potential costs. It is essential for policyholders to understand the different aspects of their life insurance policy, weigh the benefits and risks, and consider other financial options before making the decision to tap into their policy benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Life insurance can offer benefits to policyholders while they’re still alive, primarily through permanent policies with a cash value component.
  • Accessing life insurance benefits during one’s lifetime may have financial implications, both positive and negative.
  • Policyholders should carefully assess their options and understand the terms of their policy before tapping into its living benefits.

Types of Life Insurance

There are several types of life insurance policies available, each designed to suit different needs and preferences. The main two categories of life insurance policies are term life and permanent life. In this section, we will discuss term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specified period, usually 10, 20, or 30 years. If the policyholder passes away during the term, the beneficiaries receive the death benefit. However, if the policyholder outlives the term, no benefits are paid out. Term life insurance is often the most affordable option, as it only provides coverage for a limited time and doesn’t include any cash value component.

  • Coverage: Typically comes with level premiums and a fixed death benefit.
  • Policy Duration: 10, 20, or 30 years.
  • Cost: Generally lower than permanent life insurance policies.

Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that provides lifelong coverage. It includes both a death benefit and a cash value component, which grows over time. Policyholders can borrow against the cash value or even use it to pay premiums. Whole life insurance policies have fixed premiums, and the cash value grows at a guaranteed rate set by the insurance company.

  • Coverage: Lifelong coverage with a guaranteed death benefit and cash value growth.
  • Policy Duration: Lifetime, as long as premiums are paid.
  • Cost: Higher than term life insurance due to the cash value component.

Universal Life Insurance

Universal life insurance is another form of permanent life insurance that offers more flexibility than whole life insurance. It provides lifelong coverage, a death benefit, and a cash value component. However, the policyholder can adjust the premium payments and death benefit to better suit their changing needs. The cash value grows based on a minimum guaranteed interest rate, but it can also earn higher returns depending on market conditions.

  • Coverage: Lifelong coverage with adjustable death benefit and flexible premium payments.
  • Policy Duration: Lifetime, with adjustable coverage options.
  • Cost: Generally higher than term life insurance but may be lower than whole life insurance.

These three types of life insurance policies cater to the diverse needs of individuals regarding coverage, duration, and costs. Understanding the differences between term life, whole life, and universal life insurance can help policyholders make informed decisions about the most suitable coverage for their needs.

Living Benefits

Life insurance policies can offer living benefits, which are funds you can access while you’re still alive. These benefits can provide financial support if you experience a terminal illness, chronic illness, or critical illness. There are different types of living benefits, such as accelerated death benefits, long-term care riders, and critical illness riders.

Accelerated Death Benefits

Accelerated death benefits (ADB) allow policyholders to access a portion of their life insurance death benefit while still alive. This is particularly helpful if the insured experiences a terminal illness with a life expectancy of 12 months or less. ADBs can be used to cover medical expenses, hospice care, and other financial needs during the illness.

Long-Term Care Riders

Long-term care riders are available within certain life insurance policies. These riders offer coverage for long-term care services, such as assistance with daily activities or nursing home care. Policyholders can access a portion of their death benefit to help cover these expenses. It’s essential to understand the specific terms of the long-term care rider as different policies may have varying coverages and limitations.

Critical Illness Riders

A critical illness rider is an additional feature that can be added to a life insurance policy. This rider provides a lump-sum payment if the insured is diagnosed with a covered critical illness, such as cancer, stroke, or heart attack. The funds from the critical illness rider can be used to pay medical expenses, living expenses, or other costs associated with the illness.

These living benefit options can provide financial security and peace of mind for policyholders. It’s crucial to thoroughly review your life insurance policy and its available riders to ensure you have the appropriate coverage for your needs.

Accessing Cash Value

Life insurance policies, especially permanent ones, can have a component known as the cash value. This cash value accumulates over time and can be accessed by the policyholder while they’re alive, in various ways, such as loans against their policy and withdrawals from their policy.

Loans against Policy

A policyholder can take out a loan against their policy’s cash value, effectively borrowing from their own insurance policy. The interest rate on these loans is typically lower than traditional loans, providing a more attractive option in some cases1. It is important to note that if the policyholder does not repay the loan, the death benefit amount will be reduced by the outstanding loan amount, potentially impacting the financial security of their beneficiaries.


  • Lower interest rates compared to traditional loans
  • No credit checks or lengthy approval processes


  • Unpaid loans may reduce death benefits
  • Potential tax implications if policy lapses with an outstanding loan

Withdrawals from Policy

Policyholders can also opt for withdrawals from their accumulated cash value as a way to access funds while they’re alive2. This process reduces the cash value and the death benefit accordingly but may be useful in times of financial need or other situations where access to cash is crucial.


  • Provides financial flexibility
  • Withdrawn amount is typically tax-free


  • Reduces cash value and death benefit permanently
  • May impact policy growth and future benefits

In conclusion, accessing cash value from a life insurance policy is possible, although with potential consequences. Policyholders should carefully consider their options before choosing to take out a loan or make withdrawals from their policy’s cash value.




Selling Your Life Insurance Policy

Life Settlements

A life settlement is a transaction in which a policyholder sells their life insurance policy to a third party for an amount greater than the cash surrender value but less than the death benefit. This transaction involves whole life or universal life insurance policies and is often pursued by individuals who no longer need the coverage or find the premium payments burdensome.

The life settlement process usually involves:

  • Contacting a life settlement broker or provider
  • Providing policy and medical information
  • Receiving and evaluating offers from potential buyers
  • Completing the sale by transferring ownership and beneficiaries

There are various factors that can influence the amount a policyholder receives, like their age, health, life expectancy, and the specifics of the policy. Sellers should also consider any fees or commissions involved in the transaction, which can vary from broker to broker.

Viatical Settlements

Viatical settlements are similar to life settlements but specifically designed for policyholders with a terminal illness or significantly shortened life expectancy. Viatical settlements allow policyholders to access a larger percentage of their death benefit while they’re still alive to cover medical expenses, living costs, or other financial needs.

The process for viatical settlements follows similar steps as life settlements, with key differences in eligibility and payout amounts:

  • The policyholder must have a terminal illness or diminished life expectancy (typically 24 months or less)
  • Payouts are generally higher compared to life settlements, usually 60% to 80% of the death benefit

When entering a viatical settlement, policyholders should be aware of possible tax implications. In some cases, the proceeds from the sale may be tax-free, but it’s essential to consult with a tax professional for specific advice.

In conclusion, selling your life insurance policy through life or viatical settlements can be a viable strategy to access funds while still alive. Policyholders should carefully consider their options and consult with financial and tax professionals to make an informed decision.

Tax Implications and Financial Considerations

Taxability of Living Benefits and Withdrawals

In some cases, life insurance policies can provide living benefits to policyholders. For example, permanent life insurance policies often accumulate a cash value that can be accessed during the policyholder’s lifetime. This cash value may be withdrawn or borrowed, but there can be tax implications associated with these transactions.

Withdrawing funds from the cash value of a life insurance policy may have tax consequences if the amount withdrawn exceeds the premiums paid into the policy. In this case, the amount in excess of the premiums paid will likely be considered taxable income1. Additionally, if a policyholder takes out a loan against the cash value of their policy, the interest paid on this loan could be subject to taxes2.

Fees and Costs Associated with Accessing Benefits

Accessing living benefits from a life insurance policy may come with fees and costs. For example, there may be surrender charges associated with withdrawing cash value or canceling a policy. In some cases, these charges can be significant, and policyholders should consult a financial advisor before making any decisions about accessing their policy’s living benefits.

When it comes to taxes and life insurance premiums, they are generally not tax-deductible. However, if an employer pays life insurance premiums on an employee’s behalf, any payments for coverage of more than $50,000 are taxed as income3.

Overall, policyholders should carefully weigh the tax implications and associated fees when considering accessing living benefits from their life insurance. It’s important to have a comprehensive financial plan in place, and working with a financial advisor can help individuals make informed decisions about their life insurance policy and ensure adequate financial protection.


  1. Understanding Taxes on Life Insurance Premiums – Investopedia

  2. How to Use Life Insurance While You’re Alive – Market Realist

  3. Is Life Insurance Taxable? – Forbes Advisor

Risks and Limitations

Reduced Death Benefits for Beneficiaries

Taking advantage of a life insurance policy while you’re alive can impact the death benefits your loved ones receive. For example, withdrawing the cash value or taking a loan from your policy may reduce the amount paid out to your beneficiaries when you pass away. It’s essential to consider the potential consequences for your beneficiaries before accessing your policy’s living benefits.

Insurance Company Restrictions and Qualifications

Insurance companies often impose restrictions and qualifications on accessing life insurance benefits while you’re alive. These can include:

  • Waiting Periods: Some policies may require you to wait for a certain number of years before you can access living benefits. During this time, you may not be able to use any of the policy’s features, such as taking a loan or withdrawing cash value.

  • Credit Checks: If you choose to take a loan from your policy, the insurance company may perform a credit check to determine your eligibility. A poor credit score could affect your ability to access the loan.

  • Limited Access to Cash Value: Depending on your policy, you may have limited access to the cash value that has accrued. Some policies only allow you to withdraw a specific percentage, leaving the remaining portion for your beneficiaries.

  • Claim Requirements: In order to access living benefits such as a long-term care rider or accelerated death benefit, you may need to meet specific claim requirements. These can include providing proof of a qualifying medical condition or reaching a specific age. Without meeting these requirements, you may not be able to use your policy’s living benefits.

Before using life insurance while you’re alive, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks and limitations that may arise. Make sure to review your specific policy and speak with your insurance provider to fully comprehend the implications of accessing your life insurance benefits while you’re alive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to build wealth with life insurance?

With a permanent life insurance policy, you can accumulate cash value over time while ensuring protection for your loved ones. This cash value can be accessed while you’re alive, enabling you to build wealth by investing, supplementing income, or funding other opportunities.

Using life insurance for home purchase?

It’s possible to use the cash value accrued in a permanent life insurance policy towards your home purchase. By borrowing from your policy or withdrawing the cash value, this can serve as your down payment or help towards your mortgage payments.

Accessing life insurance before death?

There are several ways to access life insurance before death, such as:

  • Withdrawing the cash value accumulated in a permanent policy
  • Taking a loan against the policy’s cash value
  • Utilizing living benefits through a policy rider
  • Selling your policy in a life settlement

Borrowing from a life insurance policy?

Policyholders can borrow from the cash value of their permanent life insurance policy, essentially taking a loan against it. The borrowed amount can be used for numerous purposes, such as supplementing income or financing major expenses. Interest may be charged on the loan, but repayments are typically flexible.

What are living benefits in insurance?

Living benefits in insurance refer to benefits provided by a life insurance policy which are accessible to the policyholder while they’re still alive. These benefits can include accessing the cash value of the policy, borrowing against the policy, or making use of a living benefit rider to cover medical expenses or provide income in case of a critical illness or disability.

Living benefits in universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance, a type of permanent coverage, also offers living benefits to policyholders. Some potential living benefits in a universal life insurance policy may include:

  • Access to the policy’s cash value through withdrawals or loans
  • An accelerated death benefit option for terminal illnesses
  • Critical illness and disability riders to provide income or cover medical expenses

Remember to consult with a financial advisor or insurance professional to ensure you’re making the best decision for your financial situation.

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