Understanding Premium Financed Life Insurance: Opportunities, Risks, and Legal Considerations

Understanding Premium Financed Life Insurance:  Opportunities, Risks, and Legal Considerations


Premium financed life insurance is a strategy often used by high-net-worth individuals to purchase large life insurance policies without liquidating their assets to pay premiums. This approach involves taking out a loan from a lender to cover the cost of the insurance premiums. The life insurance policy itself commonly serves as collateral for the loan. While this can be a beneficial financial planning tool under the right circumstances, it also involves substantial risks and complex legal considerations that must be carefully managed.

What is Premium Financed Life Insurance?

Premium financing involves taking out a loan from a third party (typically a specialized lender) to pay the premiums of a life insurance policy, while you pay the interest on the loan and must maintain collateral sufficient to secure the loan.  The life insurance policy itself often serves as the collateral for the loan.  The insured expects that the investment growth of the life insurance policy will outpace the interest accrued on the loan, making this a potentially cost-effective way to afford large life insurance policies without upfront or ongoing payments.  However, you must be very cautious, because when the interest rate increases on the loan or the investment portion of the life insurance policy decreases or underperforms, additional collateral is required.

How Premium Financing Works?

 The basic structure of a premium financed life insurance policy involves three main parties: (1) the borrower (insured), (2) the premium finance lender, and (3) the insurance company.  The borrower applies for a life insurance policy and simultaneously secures a loan from a premium finance lender to pay the policy’s premiums. The insurance policy’s death benefit is supposed to be sufficient not only to provide for the borrower’s beneficiaries but also to repay the outstanding loan balance.  However, proceed with caution, because if the interest rate increases on the loan (which is often times at a variable rate) or the investment portion of the life insurance policy decreases or underperforms (as they are typically awful investment options), this can end in capital calls for additional funds and/or collateral (sometimes significant amounts) or you are in risk of default of the loan and lapsing of the life insurance policy. This can come at extreme cost and additional expense.

The process typically involves the following steps:

  • Application and Underwriting: The borrower must qualify for the life insurance policy based on health, financial status, and insurability.
  • Financing Arrangement: Simultaneously, the borrower seeks financing from a lender who specializes in premium finance transactions.
  • Collateral Assignment: The life insurance policy is usually assigned to the lender as collateral, securing the repayment of the loan.
  • Payment of Premiums: The lender pays the premiums directly to the insurance company.
  • Repayment: Upon the insured’s death, the death benefit is used to repay the loan, with any surplus going to the beneficiaries. Alternatively, the borrower may repay the loan out of other funds.

Benefits of Premium Financing

  • Liquidity Preservation: Allows policyholders to retain their capital for other investments.
  • Estate Planning: Useful in estate planning, helping in the structuring of assets to minimize estate taxes.
  • Arbitrage Opportunities: If the insurance policy’s returns exceed the cost of borrowing, the policyholder gains an arbitrage profit.

Legal and Financial Risks

  1. Interest Rate Volatility
    Premium financing involves variable interest rates. If rates increase, so do the costs of the loan, which can make the strategy less economically viable than initially projected. Borrowers need to consider the potential for rising rates and their capacity to meet increased financial obligations.  Be careful, because the additional capital requirement caused by any increase in the variable interest rate can be both significant and unexpected. The projections often presented to the borrower by their insurance agent, financial advisor, financial planner, etc., are usually “best case scenarios” and often do not demonstrate anything less than the “best case.”
  2. Policy Performance
    The strategy heavily relies on the insurance policy’s performance. If the policy underperforms due to lower-than-expected returns on cash value, the insured might need to contribute additional capital to prevent the policy from lapsing and to maintain collateral value, safeguarding the loan.  These types of life insurance policies typically offer investments that are not of the best quality, so do not rely on the investments performing as well as represented.  As with the loan, the requirement of additional capital or collateral is often significant and usually unexpected.  If the borrower does not have sufficient liquidity, the borrower could risk the policy lapsing.
  3. Significant Commissions for the Agents
    While premium-financed life insurance policies can be a viable estate planning strategy for high-net-worth individuals, it is important to be aware that agents have significant incentives to sell certain types of policies. As you might expect, the larger the policy you purchase, the more money they make. Most professionals who sell insurance are paid largely on a commission basis. In fact, most agents are not employees of the life insurance carrier. Instead, they are often independent contractors who are compensated based on how much they sell, with higher commissions for certain types of products. This does not necessarily mean the agents are giving advice that doesn’t fit your financial needs, but you should be aware that agents are significantly incentivized to steer you into the largest policies or specific products that may or may not be suitable for you. Agents typically take more than half of the first year’s premium and are also likely paid commissions each year upon renewal or anniversary.
  4. Regulatory Compliance
    Regulatory requirements are a critical concern in premium financed life insurance policies. These transactions can be scrutinized under state insurance and banking laws, requiring precise compliance to avoid legal complications. Regulatory scrutiny often focuses on the insurable interest at the inception of the policy and the prevention of potential fraud.
  5. Legal Disputes
    Legal disputes can arise concerning the representations of the loan and policy, management and execution of these agreements. Disputes might involve the interpretation of contractual terms, the duties and responsibilities of the involved parties, and the handling of defaults or lapses.

Best Practices and Mitigation Strategies

To mitigate risks associated with premium financed life insurance, parties should consider the following best practices:

  • Robust Documentation: Ensure all agreements are clearly documented, including the terms of the insurance policy and the loan.
  • Legal and Financial Advice: Engage with legal and financial advisors who have expertise in premium financing arrangements to ensure that all aspects of the transaction are sound and compliant with applicable laws.
  • Regular Review and Monitoring: Regularly review the policy and financing arrangement to ensure they remain aligned with the insured’s financial goals and market conditions.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations in Minnesota

The legal landscape in Minnesota for premium financed life insurance is governed by both state and federal regulations, which aim to ensure that these arrangements are conducted fairly and transparently. Understanding these regulations is crucial to avoid legal pitfalls.

  • Insurable Interest Requirement: Minnesota law requires that at the inception of the policy there must be an insurable interest. This means the policy owner must have a substantial interest engendered by love and affection in the case of persons closely related by blood or by law or a lawful and substantial economic interest in the continued life, health, or bodily safety of the person insured (Minn. Stat. § 60A.078). 
  • Disclosure Requirements: The state mandates full disclosure of the terms of the loan used to finance premiums, including interest rates, repayment terms, and the implications of a default on the loan.
  • Consumer Protections Against STOLI: Stranger-Originated Life Insurance (STOLI) transactions, where policies are initiated solely to benefit investors with no insurable interest in the insured, are prohibited. Minnesota has specific regulations designed to combat STOLI practices, which could similarly impact some premium financing arrangements if not properly structured.


Premium financed life insurance is a sophisticated financial strategy that can offer significant benefits but also comes with complex risks and legal challenges. Potential policyholders must approach these arrangements with a clear understanding of the intricacies and a strategy to manage risks effectively. As with any complex financial strategy, consulting with professional advisors who can provide tailored advice and guidance is crucial.

For specific guidance and a detailed analysis tailored to your circumstances, it is advisable to consult with a legal professional specializing in insurance law and premium financing arrangements. This will help ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements and the successful management of potential risks involved in premium financing.

Mr. Kibort practices in business litigation and financial-services litigation, including defending financial advisors, financial planners and investment advisors, financial planning firms, investment firms, fund managers, funds, hedge funds, and brokerage firms, including in SEC and FINRA investigations and lawsuits, FINRA arbitrations and mediations.  This blog entry is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship; it is merely an example to provide some legal education.  It is simply intended to provide general information.  Each case is fact specific and requires its own unique solution.  It is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney to help you with any questions you have.  We can handle your matters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, California, and Washington D.C.

Parker Daniels Kibort is a full-service litigation law firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We have a proven record of success at the highest levels for our clients.  We are organized to attack cases with efficient, responsive representation.

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If you have questions about Premium Financed Life Insurance, business litigation or other financial-services litigation, Parker Daniels Kibort can help. Give us a call at 612.355.4100.