How To Cash Out A Life Insurance Policy (2024)

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Life insurance can provide much-needed cash for loved ones you leave behind when you die. That financial safety net for those who depend on you for support is the primary reason to buy a policy.

But life insurance also can provide cash for you while you’re living—that is, if you have a cash value life insurance policy. This is one of the perks of a permanent policy and a key reason it costs more than a term life insurance policy (along with lasting your entire life).

You can access the cash in a variety of ways. That’s right: It’s yours for the taking. Before you do this, though, understand your options and the pros and cons of each.

Can You Cash Out a Life Insurance Policy?

With a cash value life insurance policy, like whole life or universal life insurance, you can access the cash value. One of the ways to do that is to cash out or surrender the policy. If you choose to cash out your policy, you’ll receive the cash value minus any surrender fees. Surrendering the policy will end the policy.

If you don’t want to cancel your policy entirely, you can withdraw or take out a loan from your cash value.

How Do I Cash Out My Life Insurance Policy?

If you want to cash out a policy by removing all the cash value and stopping all premium payments (and coverage), you can surrender the life insurance policy. But before you cash out, consider your overall financial plan and if you have enough assets to leave behind for your dependents if you die.

Here are ways to access some or all of the cash in a permanent life insurance policy:

  • Make a withdrawal. You can simply take money out of the cash value with a withdrawal. You can withdraw up to the amount you’ve paid in premiums without paying taxes on the funds. Withdrawals will reduce the death benefit.
  • Take out a loan. A life insurance policy loan allows you to borrow money from your life insurance policy. You can either pay it back with interest or have the amount deducted from the death benefit your life insurance beneficiaries receive if you die without paying the loan back.
  • Surrender the policy. This cancels the coverage and allows you to remove all cash value minus any surrender fee.
  • Sell the policy. This involves selling your life insurance policy to a third party for a lump sum that is greater than the cash value. The transaction is often called a life settlement. Although you’ll continue making premium payments on the policy, if you die, the death benefit will go to the third party.

Withdrawing the Cash You Need

Because the cash in a permanent life insurance policy is yours, you can withdraw it when you want. Simply call your insurance company to let it know how much you want to withdraw, and it will wire the cash to you or deposit it into your bank account, says Josh Hargrove, a Certified Financial Planner with Insight Wealth Partners in Plano, Texas.

Withdrawing cash from a life insurance policy will reduce the death benefit.

Withdrawals are taken first from your “basis”—the amount you’ve paid into cash value through premiums. That money comes out tax-free because it’s considered a return of your basis. For example, if you have $50,000 in cash value and $30,000 of that is your basis, you could withdraw $30,000 tax-free. If you tap the earnings portion, though, you’ll have to pay taxes on the gains at your regular income tax rate, Hargrove says.

Withdrawing cash from a life insurance policy also will reduce the death benefit. That means your beneficiaries will get less when you die—which is something to consider before withdrawing cash from a policy.

Cash Withdrawal Pros and Cons

  • Pros: No interest is paid on a withdrawal.
  • Cons: A withdrawal reduces your policy cash value and death benefit. It may be taxable if the withdrawal exceeds the amount of premiums paid.

Borrowing the Cash You Need

Rather than withdraw cash from your policy, you can borrow it.

Borrowing from your life insurance policy can be a fast and easy way to get cash for a purchase such as a car, for retirement income or to help cover costs temporarily if you lose a job.

“Loans are the most common way policy owners access cash in a policy as they are completely tax-free,” says Chris Abrams, founder of Abrams Insurance Solutions in San Diego (as long as you’re not borrowing from a modified endowment contract).

Plus, you don’t have to pay back the amount you borrow. But if you don’t pay it back, the loan amount and interest will be deducted from the death benefit that is paid to beneficiaries.

Like any loan, though, there’s a charge to borrow. So, the amount owed will grow over time due to interest charges.

When borrowing from cash value, be careful not to borrow too much and cause the policy to lapse in the future.

The benefit of a policy loan is that you can continue to earn interest on the outstanding loan amount. For example, if the interest rate on the loan is, say, 5% and the return on your cash value is 7%, you’d still earn 2% on the amount you’ve borrowed, Abrams says. On the flip side, if the rate of return dropped to 0% in a down market, you’d have to pay the full 5% interest rate on the loan.

When borrowing from your cash value, you have to be careful not to borrow too much. If the amount of the loan plus interest owed reaches the total cash value of the policy, the policy can lapse.

Policy Loan Pros and Cons

  • Pros: No loan application or credit check. You can repay the loan on your own schedule, and the money goes back into your policy instead of to a lender. You may earn a positive arbitrage on the money you borrow.
  • Cons: The interest rate may be higher than other options. The loan will be subtracted from the death benefit if you don’t pay it back.

Surrendering the Policy for Cash

You can surrender your life insurance policy entirely to get the full cash value, minus any surrender charge. And you’ll have to pay taxes on any gains earned on the cash value portion of the policy. Plus, you’ll be giving up your life insurance coverage because surrendering a policy terminates it.

“Surrendering a policy is always the absolute last resort,” Abrams says. If you’re considering ditching your policy because you’re having trouble paying the premiums, you do have other options if you can’t pay your life insurance bill.

For example, you could reduce the policy’s face value to lower your premium, or use the cash value to convert the policy to paid-up status to keep some amount of coverage in place. You also can tap the cash value in your policy to pay your life insurance premiums temporarily if you’ve fallen on hard times. If you do this, be cautious not to deplete so much cash value that your policy lapses.

Policy Surrender Pros and Cons

  • Pros: If the policy has a surrender or cash value above the surrender charge, that is money in your pocket.
  • Cons: Possible surrender charges might wipe out any cash value. You might have to pay taxes. Your heirs will not receive a death benefit.

Sell Your Policy for Cash

You can get more than the cash value of your policy by selling it to a third party through a process called a life settlement. The third party will pay you a lump sum that’s less than the death benefit on the policy—but more than the cash value. The buyer will then pay the policy premiums. When you die, the investor collects the death benefit.

You could consider a life settlement if you have an immediate need for cash that trumps the need for life insurance.

You must be a certain age—typically 65—or have a certain level of health impairments in order to qualify for a life settlement. You’ll have better chances of selling your policy the older you are, says Lucas Siegel, CEO of Harbor Life Settlements.

You could consider a life settlement if you have an immediate need for cash that trumps the need for life insurance.

You can be younger than age 65 to sell a life insurance policy through a life settlement, but you generally must be very ill. “Life settlements are calculated by understanding your life expectancy, and most third-party buyers prefer to purchase policies with a life expectancy of 10 years or less,” he says.

Being highly qualified by age and health condition also will help you get a bigger payment. Work with reputable life settlement companies, and get offers from more than one company.

Be aware that there can be fees associated with life settlements, and you’ll pay income taxes on the amount you receive from the sale of the policy.

Life Settlement Pros and Cons

  • Pros: You’ll get more cash than you would by surrendering your policy.
  • Cons: There are restrictions to qualify for a life settlement. The cash offer will be much less than the death benefit of the policy.

Alternatives to Cashing Out Life Insurance

If you bought a life insurance policy to provide a safety net for your loved ones, there may be better ways to get the cash you need rather than cashing out life insurance.

  • Take out a home equity loan. A home equity loan is a second mortgage using equity in your home. Be sure to know what fees and closing costs are involved.
  • Take out a personal loan. A personal loan is usually a quick way to get cash between $1,000 and $50,000.
  • Consider a credit card with a 0% introductory rate. If your cash need is relatively small and you will be able to repay it quickly, a 0% APR or low interest credit card may be an option.
  • Check into borrowing from a retirement account. A 401(k) loan allows you to borrow from your retirement money at a lower interest rate than a personal loan.

Compare Life Insurance Companies

Compare Policies With 8 Leading Insurers

Cash Out Life Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have to pay taxes when cashing out a life insurance policy?

If you cash out or surrender a life insurance policy, you’ll typically owe taxes on the difference between the cash surrender value and what you paid in premiums.

Is there a penalty for cashing out life insurance?

There is no penalty for cashing out a life insurance policy, but there may be a surrender charge depending on the policy and how long you have had it.

Can I borrow from life insurance to pay off debt?

If you have a permanent life insurance policy with cash value, you can generally take out a policy loan. You can use the loan to pay off a debt or for any other purpose. You repay the policy loan, with interest, or the death benefit for your beneficiaries will be reduced to cover the borrowed amount.

How To Cash Out A Life Insurance Policy (2024)


How To Cash Out A Life Insurance Policy? ›

The $10,000 refers to the face value of the policy, otherwise known as the death benefit, and does not represent the cash value of life insurance policy. A $10,000 term life insurance policy has no cash value.

What is the cash value of a $10,000 life insurance policy? ›

The $10,000 refers to the face value of the policy, otherwise known as the death benefit, and does not represent the cash value of life insurance policy. A $10,000 term life insurance policy has no cash value.

How much will I receive if I surrender my life insurance policy? ›

Fortunately, it's easy to calculate your cash surrender value. First, add up the total payments you've made toward your life insurance policy. Then, subtract the surrender fees your insurance company will charge. You'll be left with the actual payout you may receive if you terminate or surrender your life insurance.

What is the cash value of a $25,000 life insurance policy? ›

Examples of Cash Value Life Insurance

An example is a cash value life insurance policy with a $25,000 death benefit. Assuming you don't take out a loan or withdraw, the cash value accumulates to $5,000. After the policyholder's death, the insurance company would pay out the full death benefit, which would be $25,000.

How soon can I borrow from my life insurance policy? ›

No, you cannot immediately borrow against life insurance. You must wait until your policy's cash value exceeds a certain threshold, and it can take several years to reach that point. The minimum cash value required for a policy loan varies by insurer.

How much is a $1 million dollar life insurance policy? ›

The average cost for a million-dollar life insurance policy is anywhere from approximately $50 to more than $1,000 a month, depending on your age, health, annual income, policy type and other factors.

Can you cash out life insurance before death? ›

Permanent life insurance, such as universal and whole life policies, comes with a death benefit and a cash value account that you may can cash out while you're still living.

Is it worth cashing out a life insurance policy? ›

Before surrendering your cash-value life insurance policy, it's important to evaluate what you will lose. Withdrawing or reducing your cash value can lead to a lower death benefit—less money for your beneficiaries—and potentially a policy lapse, leaving you with inadequate coverage.

What life insurance can you borrow from? ›

Life insurance loans are only available on permanent life insurance policies — such as whole life and universal life — that have a cash value component. You likely can't borrow against a term life insurance policy since it probably doesn't have cash value. Learn more about term vs. whole life insurance.

Do I pay taxes if I surrender my life insurance policy? ›

Surrender fees tend to go down over time and often phase out over the life of the policy. Similar to ending a life insurance contract with an outstanding loan balance, there are tax implications on any cash value proceeds above cost basis if you surrender your policy.

What are the tax consequences of cashing in a life insurance policy? ›

Cashing out your policy

You're able to withdraw up to the amount of the total premiums you've paid into the policy without paying taxes. But if you withdraw on any gains, such as dividends, you can expect them to be taxed as ordinary income.

How do I know if my life insurance has cash value? ›

You will typically find it listed separately in your life insurance statements. The net cash value will generally be lower than your total accumulated cash value for the first several years of coverage, as it's reduced by fees and surrender charges.

How long does it take for a whole life insurance policy to gain cash value? ›

How long does it take to build cash value on life insurance? The length of time varies by insurer, but in most cases, cash value does not start to accrue until you have paid premiums for two to five years.

How to use life insurance to build wealth? ›

So, here are a few ways to use life insurance as a wealth building tool.
  1. Cash Value Accumulation. Life insurance policies, such as Farm Bureau Insurance's whole life policy, often come with a cash value component. ...
  2. Tax Advantages. ...
  3. Estate Planning. ...
  4. Business Succession Planning. ...
  5. Charitable Giving.
Aug 22, 2023

Which type of life insurance policy generates immediate cash value? ›

Single premium whole or universal life insurance policies are the types that generate immediate cash value. However, you can also secure immediate life insurance coverage with a no exam term or whole life insurance policy.

How to figure out cash value of life insurance? ›

To find the cash value of your life insurance, calculate your total payments and subtract surrender fees. Remember, the value for a sale will be lower than the death benefit to allow the buyer to profit.

How much cash is a $100 000 life insurance policy worth? ›

That means a $100,000 life insurance policy might sell for $20,000. However, this is only an average. The amount of money you receive will depend on your age, health, premiums and the type of policy you have.

How fast does cash value grow in life insurance? ›

Cash value typically doesn't accrue for the first two to five years of a policy's term. It can take decades for it to accumulate into a significant amount. Exactly how quickly the cash value grows depends on the type of policy.

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