Happy 100th Birthday – There Goes Your Life Insurance

-by Michael “Woody” Wodchis, FLMI, ACS

Burning birthday candles number 100

The July 20, 2017 Wall Street Journal article, “Happy 100th Birthday!  There Goes Your Life Insurance,” points out a major hidden flaw in older life insurance contracts: the risk of living too long. In the mid-20th century, the life insurance industry, along with government regulators and actuaries, did not expect or anticipate that more than a handful of policyholders would reach age 100.  But today, some insureds fortunate enough to approach these “golden” ages are surprised to learn that their policies will “endow”– that is, coverage will end and any cash values will be paid to the policy owner. The Journal describes how one of those age 99+ policy owners, faced with losing all or part of what he originally intended to purchase – income tax-free death benefit for life – is taking his case to court.

For over a decade, “the industry has used age 121 as the standard maturity date in new contracts,” the newspaper reported. “But an unknown number of older contracts with the 100-year-old limit remain in consumers’ hands.” Many carriers subsequently added an Extended Maturity Rider (EMR) to their in force block to protect their policyholders against outliving their coverage, or provided other assurances that policies would stay in force indefinitely at the request of the policy owner, subject to some limitations (on loans or withdrawals of cash, for example).  Joseph Belth’s recent blog (The Age 100 Problem – The Achilles Heel of Life Insurance – Lands in Court) outlines the problem, and explains both the ways in which many carriers responded to this dilemma, and how others  simply chose to ignore the problem and let the original contract language prevail.  This recent press reinforces an absolute truth, as obvious as it may be, about life insurance death benefits: the policy must be in force upon the death of the insured for an income-tax-free death benefit to be paid. If a policy is 471267101cancelled, or endows as mentioned previously, any gain over the investment in the policy – premiums paid – is taxable to the policy owner.

 

 

 

The underlying problem, and opportunity, we have in the life insurance industry is to be aware of, and offer solutions for, longevity risk.  As mortality continues to improve, more of our clients will live into their 80s, 90s and even beyond 100. Even though carriers offer continued protection beyond this point, these improved product features won’t help if the policy is not in force.  Obviously, this is very important when the product is purchased for death benefit protection rather than other needs, such as supplemental retirement income.

We ask our clients to trust in our advice as well as in the suitability of the products and carriers we recommend. Where protection is the primary objective, what can we do to meet and exceed client and beneficiary expectations?

 Funding

Presenting the lowest premium product may help win a case but may not be best for the client in the long term. Whether an existing policy or a new sale, all products need to be appropriately funded so that they have a realistic chance to last to life expectancy (at a minimum) and well beyond. With hopes of AG 49 leveling the playing field, we have actually seen indexed universal life illustrations become increasingly complex as many carriers project guaranteed or non-guaranteed bonuses. Unfortunately, “illustration games” do little to help instill a sense of certainty and predictability down the road.

Monitoring

Beyond your own servicing systems to ensure that clients are regularly communicated with and understand how their policies are performing, work with carriers with effective and proactive processes in place that clearly track how policies are doing, be it behind, on, or ahead of schedule. Just as important, these communications have to provide easy to understand guidance relative to adjusting premium payments on an annual basis.

Guarantees

To avoid unexpected and unpleasant surprises down the road, take advantage of low cost guarantees available today. This is particularly appropriate for risk-averse clients who would pay “a little more” to lock in future certainty. Once the exclusive province of no lapse guarantee universal life and whole life products, there are now very competitive variable and indexed universal life products available today with extended guarantees, ranging from beyond life expectancy all the way to lifetime. By using these low cost guarantees, we take can take a lever out of the hands of the insurance company and help clients sleep at night.

Living Benefits

As clients live longer, their chance of living with extended and debilitating illnesses also increases in direct proportion. The various living benefit riders now available on life insurance products can provide much-needed funds to help offset the cost of care. In addition, there are riders that allow the policy owner to “convert” death benefit into a stream of retirement income…a powerful feature for clients who have lived longer than they might have expected.

Historically, the insurance industry has addressed longevity risk with its annuity products – products designed to provide an income that clients could not outlive.  Today, our professional recommendations must also consider a client’s potential longevity risk as it relates to life insurance products. As Joseph Belth explains:

“It is an understatement to say the age 100 problem is serious. Indeed, I think the problem is the Achilles heel of life insurance. The bedrock principles of life insurance marketing are the income-tax-deferred inside interest and the income-tax-exempt death benefit. The problem is so serious that . . . the companies do not want to discuss the matter. I further believe that neither the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) nor the income-tax-writing committees of Congress want to discuss the matter.”

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Despite what the companies, the IRS or the Congressional committees might want, your clients need you to review their life insurance and examine the contracts for the kind of longevity risk that Belth and the Journal describe. If you find that you’re not sure how to start or what to look for, call us at Windsor.  We’ll be glad to help.

 

 

 

$522 Billion

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A 2014 study by the RAND Corporation estimated the cost of informal caregiving in the US at $522 billion:  “Across America, people spend an estimated 30 billion hours every year providing care to elderly relatives and friends. The cost is measured by valuing the times caregivers have given up in order to be able to provide care.”  Those numbers continue to grow in 2017, as the baby boomer generation ages and creates greater demand for long-term care services.

Numbers like this get everyone’s attention, and long-term care (LTC) is a concern that is at once personal, cultural and political.  Those of us in the insurance business know there is a solution – one that’s been around for several decades:  Long-term Care insurance (LTCI).  But what’s happening to sales of LTCI amid these growing concerns and exponentially increasing numbers?

Six leading LTCI companies recorded increased policy sales in 2015 compared to their sales during the prior year according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. “This is a positive sign as is the fact that one new insurer began selling policies in 2016,” declares Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI).  However, according to Slome, overall sales of traditional LTCI continued to decline compared to the prior year.  “The number of new policies (lives) sold in 2015 was down around 20 percent.”

The problem, according to Slome, is that, “Consumers we speak with perceive that LTCI protection is expensive, that insurers seek continual rate increases, and they express concern after reading online reports about denied claims.”  Though that perception may be mistaken in some ways (the industry paid over $8 billion in claims in 2015, a 4% increase over 2014), the reality is that sales of stand-alone LTC policies have been steadily declining for 15 years.  But ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

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“Here’s a stunner,” writes Richard Eisenberg for Forbes, “the average American underestimates the cost of in-home long term care by almost 50%,” according to findings in a 2016 Genworth Cost of Care study.  Still, in the midst of this growing disconnect between perception and reality there is a bright spot:  sales of combination and hybrid products with LTC benefits are on the upswing.

In May 2016 The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) teamed with The Center for Insurance Policy and Research to create an exhaustive report:  The State of Long-Term Care Insurance: The Market, Challenges and Future Innovations.  In their section on LTCI products, they explain the appeal of hybrids in today’s marketplace:

“The hybrid product market has experienced substantial growth at the same time that standalone LTCI sales have collapsed and stagnated. . . . Hybrid products are appealing to customers, with particularly good alignment with consumer attitudes of the baby-boom generation, which now entirely comprises the target market for LTCI products. The products are fairly simple and can be easily explained to consumers. Generally, the customer has already made a decision to purchase life insurance or an annuity contract, and the step of making it a hybrid product is as simple as a choice to add a rider with LTC features. The customer is simply being advised of an optional feature which allows the ability to access his/her death benefit or account value in the event LTC is needed.”

 

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Hybrids continue to evolve into new and better options for consumers, offering an array of innovative features and benefits, including

  • Residual Death Benefits
  • Inflation Protection
  • Return of premium features
  • Coverage for permanent and/or temporary conditions
  • International Benefits
  • Life policy lapse protection while on claim
  • Non-forfeiture options which preserve some benefits even if premiums are unpaid
  • Skilled nursing home care; adult day care; assisted care; home health care; intermediate care; hospice care
  • Family care (see “$522 billion,” above)
  • Guaranteed Issue contracts (call us for details on this)
  • Payment of benefits in full, through long-term care benefits and/or life insurance death proceeds

Additionally, insureds maintain control of the amount of the payment and enjoy a high degree of flexibility:

  • Insureds choose how much of the monthly benefit is received, up to the benefit maximum
  • As long as the insured is receiving care from a licensed care facility or service, excess benefit payments that are not needed to pay for care can be used for any other purpose
  • Insureds may choose to receive less of the LTC benefit than they are eligible for to preserve their policy benefits, effectively “stretching” the LTC coverage period

 

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With all this flexibility comes a perplexing amount of information and choices.  Which means offering your client sound, informed advice about suitable products becomes vitally important.

At Windsor, we work with these products every day.  We understand the complexities and provisions of hybrid products including Hybrid Life/LTC (Lincoln’s MoneyGuard), life insurance with true 7702(b) Long Term Care (Nationwide, John Hancock, AXA), pre-underwritten/paid chronic illness riders (Prudential, American General), and embedded (free) discounted chronic/critical illness riders (American National, North American, Symetra).

 

We’ve found the money.  The market is worth $522 billion. We can help.

 

 

An Interview with DuWayne Kilbo and Marc Schwartz: Why You Need to Review Your Clients’ Policies Now.

In our previous two blogs, Marc Schwartz talked about how pricing adjustments among a few life insurers had created an “out-of-control” environment for some of our clients.  In part two of “Putting Clients Back in Control,” Marc explored several product solutions that can help put your clients back in control – but for you, what’s most important is knowing first what your clients want out of their life insurance policies.  Here, Marc and DuWayne Kilbo discuss why you need to review your clients’ policies now.

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The idea and process of Policy Review has been around forever. Why is it so important now?

Marc:  There has been a lot of negative press around life insurer pricing adjustments, and that has created an environment where your clients need the reassurance that you’re aware of the issues and you’re looking out for their best interests. With the recent reductions in dividend rates from the mutual companies, the various COI issues in 2016 and spread compression because of the overall interest rate environment, the need to reach out to your policy owners and your centers of influence is more important than ever.  This should basically be a business development activity for all life insurance professionals and advisors in 2017.

Related: New York Times: Why Some Life Insurance Premiums are Skyrocketing

You mentioned recent reductions in dividend rates. It seemed for a while that dividends were floating above the interest rate drops.  What’s changed?

DuWayne:  It took longer for the sustained low interest rates to significantly affect dividend rates, but recently we’ve seen a cascade of dividend rate reductions from most if not all of the major carriers.  One carrier has experienced a 33% drop in dividend rate over the past nine years, which corresponds to comparable seasoned triple-A bond rates over the same period.  Additionally, the policy expense component in participating policies is adjusted independently of the dividend rate, and many carriers are, or will be, increasing those rates as well.

Chart: Historical Life Dividends: 1988 to 2017

So what should be the next step for an agent or advisor?

DuWayne:  First and most importantly, to confirm with their clients that they’re in sync as to the purpose and goals of their insurance.  Clients often have older policies, or have acquired policies from other sources, and reviewing the entire life insurance and annuity portfolio, with the client’s goals in mind, is priority one.

Marc:  For participating plans where dividends play such a big part, agents should review the initial projections that were used in making the sale – chances are that the policy’s performance has fallen short in some ways, especially for policies issued 10-20 years ago.  Paying particular attention to the distribution side, if that was a high priority for your client, means looking closely not just at the numbers, but at the contractual loan provisions as well.

Article: “Under Control: Five experts discuss how annual reviews can realign clients’ insurance portfolios . . . and calm their nerves”

So policy reviews are critical in determining if policies are performing as needed – and will alert stakeholders if adjustments are required to get “back on track.” Are there other reasons to review a client’s life insurance portfolio?

DuWayne: Yes, absolutely! Besides underlying product performance, policy reviews provide an opportunity to audit “structural integrity” of the life insurance portfolio. In other words, think of this as a planning review in addition to policy review. Is the amount of coverage still relevant?  Are ownership and beneficiary designation properly set up? Have key documents (trusts, split-dollar, buy-sell agreements, etc.) been executed and are they still current? Has the client’s health improved and should the existing underwriting class be reviewed?

Marc:  Raising awareness and identifying areas of potential vulnerability will win trust and credibility with professional advisors and other centers of influence. Also, CPAs, attorneys and bankers are much more comfortable having this kind of service-oriented discussion with clients rather than one which might sound like a sales pitch. At the end of the day, it will all come back to whether the existing policy is doing the job or not.

And if a review indicates a need for a change, what options are available?

DuWayne:  In situations where premium cost and cash value performance have become more questionable, there are several options that can create face amount stability as well as upside cash value opportunity.  These include 1035 exchanges to newer products with baseline guarantees and potential market-indexed cash value growth, 1035 exchanges to policies that can accept sizeable outstanding policy loans and minimize adverse tax consequences, along with many other creative alternatives.

Where can agents and advisors get some help on this?

DuWayne:  That’s what we do.  Windsor is dedicated to help agents eliminate the hassle and uncertainty that can upset a client’s plans, and determine their best course of action going forward.  We have experienced and knowledgeable industry resources who can analyze the situation at hand and develop suitable alternatives.  We are expert in case design, carrier/product access and underwriting to drive the best case offer.

Marc:  And we have an outstanding service platform to help steer your applications through the roadblocks that sometimes get in the way of issuing a policy.  There’s no problem we haven’t seen and solved in Windsor’s 40 years serving life insurance agents and their clients – which means that agents can be confident that we’ll handle the back room, and they can focus on what they do best.  For starters, we’ve provided this link to a basic policy review fact finder that agents can complete and email or fax to our Policy Review team.  With all the changes swirling around the life insurance industry, now is the time to go back to your clients and reconfirm your commitment to their financial future.

What Can We Do to Put Clients Back in Control – Part Two

-by Marc Schwartz

In my previous blog I explained how many of our clients feel as though what they want and expect from their life insurance policy is no longer in their control.  Because some life companies have taken actions that create additional uncertainty and expense for their customers, it’s up to us, as experienced professionals, to find a way to put our clients back in control.  The key is to know what’s important to your clients and then find the products and features that deliver the predictability and value they expect.

Golden key and puzzle

No Lapse Guarantees (NLG)

No question that we’ve seen a dramatic retraction of the “perfect product” in the wealth transfer market. Many of the carriers that have remained have raised prices and/or capped face amounts, and that trend continues. But there are a handful of high quality carriers that are committed to the NLG space. One shining star that is a consistent leader in the benchmarks is wholly owned by a leading Japanese insurer. This same carrier is a relatively recent entrant to the high-end life insurance field and, with no significant historical block of NLG business, isn’t subject to the drag created by its in force legacy. NLG has not gone away…and major, well-rated players provide cost effective solutions which are guaranteed to meet client expectations.

No Lapse Guarantees – with Exit Strategies!

Ever have a client who acknowledges a current need for life insurance today but who balks at buying? Perhaps they’re not comfortable cutting big premium checks for a future obligation that may morph into something unrecognizable, increase costs, reduce benefits or even vanish completely? Or maybe they’re concerned that new and different problems could arise down the road — such as living too long or getting seriously sick along the way. Is the product you recommend nimble enough to address these kinds of concerns? What if clients could buy an option to “take the money and run” at certain points in the policy’s future? This is a compelling way to provide ironclad guarantees with optionality — helping clients overcome the perception of NLG as being inflexible. And by using a “split policy” approach (splitting the face amount into two policies), you can give the client three guaranteed options down the road:

  • Keep the coverage as is and continue paying premiums
  • Cancel both policies and receive all premiums paid back
  • Keep policy 1, cancel policy 2, and use a portion of the premium refund to fully pay up policy 1 while maintaining a guaranteed death benefit for life

Extended Guarantees – VUL and IUL

And, of course, you have clients that want the best of both worlds: a secure death benefit along with the potential to build cash value greater than what could be generated in a fixed NLG contract. There are multiple options for this hybrid solution including both Index UL and Variable UL flavors. Among these options, we have extended guarantees (typically to or around life expectancy) and true lifetime guarantees. One life insurer that we’ve had tremendous success with uses a VUL chassis with less restrictive AG37 reserving requirements, offering an inexpensive guaranteed death benefit with all the upside associated with true VUL. The same design is available as Survivorship VUL.  These products are exceptionally competitive in single and short pay scenarios and are the 1035 solution in the marketplace when NLG is a consideration. So, if you kept your FINRA registration…then you need to be thinking about Variable again!

Guaranteed Income Streams – For Life!

Over the last few years, many of us have pivoted to cash accumulation sales with IUL being the product of choice. Although these products allow upside participation and downside protection, they still are vulnerable to market influences and, to some extent, the ability of carriers to press buttons and pull levers. Even though some of these products offer extended guarantees, projecting future cash values and distributions is a bet heavily reliant on forces outside of your control.  As a way to address client concerns regarding future income, there are a handful of life insurers offering a Life Income Benefit Rider (LIBR). When the client is ready for income distribution, they can elect to exercise this rider and receive a level guaranteed income stream for life (calculated based on cash value at the time of election). In addition, a minimum death benefit is guaranteed for life regardless of total distributions made. And distributions are all loans, taking care of any tax issues. Think of it as a life policy morphing into a “life only annuity” but with no adverse tax consequences under current tax law. IUL is a product with many moving parts and LIBR allows client to “lock in” potentially tax-free income for life — which probably was their motivation to buy in the first place.

That’s just a sampling of how you can tailor the life insurance products and features available today to fit your client’s need for assurance, security and predictability.  As a trusted advisor and, in many cases, a friend of your client, one of the most valuable and lasting services you can provide is to have the tools, resources and knowledge to help put your client back in control.

 

 

What Can We Do to Put Clients Back in Control?

-by Marc Schwartz

You’ve probably noticed that life insurance has been making headlines recently – which is rarely a good thing.

When both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times sound off on how life insurance companies today are facing lawsuits from some of their customers, it’s clearly cause for concern.  The legal actions have mostly been prompted by increased premium requirements on universal life and long term care contracts.  According to the companies, there are many reasons for the actions that result in the increases, including slow growth, a shrinking sales force, increased compliance requirements, greater reinsurance oversight, but most importantly a sustained historically low interest rate environment.  As the Times put it:

“It adds up to a vexing math problem: how to back a promise of 4 percent in a 2-percent-or-less world. For life insurers — where more than three-quarters of the industry’s $6.4 trillion in invested assets are parked in bonds — low rates like these can be calamitous.”

Solution and Strategy Path

And how are companies reacting?  In various ways – some with increased COIs, others with more limited product selection, price increases, restricted term conversions, layoffs and expense reductions, sales and service pullbacks, and non-traditional (read ‘cheaper’) product distribution.

What makes this scenario even more alarming, and confusing, for our clients is the scattershot nature of the actions that companies have taken to mitigate the threat to their viability in the business.  Public relations disasters abound and company actions appear arbitrary to the general public.  One company pays an extraordinary dividend to its overseas parent of $785 million, and soon after informs certain customers that the premiums required to continue their policies will be significantly higher.  Another company discovers that its universal life insureds over 70 with face amounts of $1 million or more are experiencing higher than expected mortality, and their COI rates will be adjusted to reflect the additional claims expense.

Both the Journal and the Times articles imply that companies like these have resorted to pressing buttons and pulling levers that in effect transfer an increasing proportion of policy risk to their customers. The companies respond that the changes they require have been reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory agencies, and are allowed by contract.  But the transfer of risk is real:  the risk of higher costs and policy failure due to higher fees and expenses, higher than expected mortality, or lower than expected earnings and growth on policy equity.

This does not bode well for an industry built on trust, predictability and meeting client expectations.  Right now, some of our clients feel as if the industry has not lived up to that trust, and by companies using contractual provisions that had rarely, if ever, been used before.  Some clients feel as if their life insurance, and by extension their sense of security and peace of mind, is out of their control.    Which leaves us with an important question:  Are there ways that we, experienced and expert in our profession, can put our clients back in control?

The answer is yes. There are products and riders that you can recommend today that give clients the control they want and need.  Products with contractual guarantees and exit options that reduce uncertainty in just the right places:  death benefit guarantees, cash value floors, contractual flexibility, or guaranteed maximum premiums.  The key is knowing what’s important to your clients, and matching them with the right companies and products.  We’ll explore those options and opportunities in our next Windsor blog.

 

Minimum Wage Retirement Planning

-by Marc Schwartz

Selling is a creative and dynamic process, at times requiring fresh thinking and a different approach to engage customers.

In the case of business owners, substantial monies are spent to attract and retain talented employees who can get the job done. However, often overlooked by business owners may be one of their better employees–the minimum wage employee. This is the lowest paid employee in the company who, if given the opportunity, has the ability to contribute significantly to a business owner’s success and well-being.

The “minimum wage employee” conversation is a creative and fresh way for you to make more sales with business owners.  Let’s walk through an example of how to put this employee to work for you and your business owner clients.

Your friend, Dave, is a 44-year old small business owner.  You’ve known Dave since college – he’s a hard worker, independent, creative, with a young family.   He’s put his time and energies into building the business and helping his spouse provide a good life for their children.  But Dave has never made much of an effort to invest toward his retirement.   Over lunch, Dave shares an odd encounter that he had the other day with a prospective employee.

“So this guy walks in to interview for a sales position that I have open right now.  And here’s what he says:

‘I’m not really here for your sales position, but I think you’ll find I can help with an opportunity you have right now, but that you don’t recognize.

‘First, here’s what I ask of you.  You agree to pay me minimum wage for the next 21 years.  That’s all.  No vacation, no sick leave, no benefits, no 401(k) match, no salary increases.  Just today’s minimum wage for 21 years, until you reach age 65.  That’s $7.25 an hour, $290 a week, about $1,255 a month, a little over $15,000 a year.  With me so far?

‘And here’s what I’ll do in return.  If you die before age 65, which we both hope won’t happen, the business stops paying me and I’ll give your spouse and children at least $300,000, tax-free.  I’ll miss you, but our deal will be done.  But if you live to age 65, I can potentially provide you with over $50,000 a year of supplemental retirement income until you reach age 85.  That’s 20 years of $50,000, or about $1,000,000.  How does that sound to you?’

Dave continues, “Of course I didn’t believe any of it, but he seemed to be serious.  So I asked, ‘How in the world are you going to do this?’ And he said, ‘Here’s how.’”

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[A tip of the Windsor hat to our friends at Lincoln Financial for their inspiration and these supporting materials:]

Minimum Wage Retirement Planner Presentation

Minimum Wage Retirement Flyer

Lincoln WealthAdvantage®Indexed UL Illustration

Contact Windsor for illustrations and more information about the potential advantages of Indexed UL.

The Conversion Quandary

– By Marc Schwartz

Term life insurance sales in the US consistently represent about 70% of the total death benefit bought by consumers every year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  And for many of those buyers, the provision to convert their term insurance into permanent life insurance somewhere down the line represents an important option.  But according to several leading term insurers, less than 5% of term life policyholders ever take advantage of this option, and those who do often are motivated by deteriorating health.  Because these clients have a mortality risk of about five times normal for their age, life insurance companies have dabbled with creating limitations on conversion options (limited time frames to convert, restricted product choices, lower maximum ages) to decrease the impact of anti-selection on pricing and margins.  Understandably, these same insurers need to balance these limitations so as not to impact sales significantly.  So what’s a company to do?

Looking for the solution of the maze

Among efforts to solve this conversion quandary, there are currently three primary camps.  First are the “wait and see” or “no change” carriers.  These carriers continue to offer conversions for the full level term period to any permanent product currently available for sale up to a maximum conversion age.  Second are the “hybrid” carriers, companies that limit the conversion in some additional way.  They might allow conversion to any permanent product currently available for sale, but only for a limited number of years — then require a conversion only product.  They may also offer a buy up option (higher price) allowing the policy owner to convert for the full level term period (up to a maximum conversion age) to any permanent product.  Third are the “conversion product only” carriers.  These carriers restrict  conversions to a specific product.

At present, most carriers continue to allow their full suite of products for conversion throughout the entire level term period.  One carrier even allows conversion beyond the level term period when annual rate adjustments occur.  However, with the spotlight on mortality as a major driver of carrier profitably today and the possibility for significant excess, underpriced mortality, a number of carriers will choose more restrictive conversion practices, such as “hybrid” or “conversion only” options.  Lastly, you might think that current term policy owners are unaffected by this issue, because their conversion provisions are contractually locked in.  But that’s not the case.  Term policy contract language typically allows the insurer to change or modify its current conversion practices even for in force blocks of term policies.

It isn’t easy to sort all this out and explain it to your prospects and clients.  Windsor’s Term Conversion Quick Guide can help you sort through the term conversion practices of various major life insurance companies, to see which best fit your clients and fairly compensate you for your time, effort and professional advice.

To learn more or to discuss specific cases and clients, call Windsor at 800.410.9890.