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How Does Private Placement Life Insurance Work?

An individual with a higher income and net worth can face unique financial challenges, such as preserving capital, maximizing tax efficiency, and complex estate planning. As a result, many seek unique financial tools for these situations, such as private placement life insurance.

This type of policy is designed for investors with more complicated financial situations, offering death benefit protection alongside wealth-building potential and tax benefits. Let’s dive deeper into how private placement life insurance works, its features, and some alternatives to help you select the best policy that suits your needs.

What is a private placement life insurance policy?

Private placement life insurance is a form of variable universal life insurance sold privately to applicants with high net worth and more complex financial situations. As a universal life insurance policy, it helps offer lifelong death benefit protection and cash value that grows with each payment, earning tax-deferred interest and gains and eventually becoming an additional wealth source.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations require you to be an accredited investor to purchase these policies. That involves meeting one of the following criteria:1

  • Have a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding your primary residence
  • Income of at least $200,000 for each of the prior two years (if single) or $300,000 (for married couples)

Private placement life insurance features

Here is how each private placement life insurance feature works:1

Flexible premiums

Unlike traditional life insurance policies, private placement life insurance offers flexible premiums. This helps you adjust your premium payments based on your financial circumstances and strategy. For example, if the economy experiences a downturn, you can reduce premium payments and invest the savings in assets that may perform better. On the other hand, you could increase premiums to have more cash value available for investments you believe are priced at a discount.

Cash value

Private placement life insurance offers a cash value growth component. Part of each premium payment funds this component, where your earnings can grow tax-deferred.

Once it grows, you can borrow from it with no credit check at reasonable rates or withdraw from it. As a result, the cash value turns into an additional liquidity source for high net worth individuals (HNWIs) seeking to diversify their investment account options.

Investment options

Like traditional variable universal life insurance, private placement policies helps you invest cash value in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. However, you can also invest in unique and alternative assets only available to accredited investors. Some investment options these policies may offer include hedge funds, private equity, and real estate.1 These often come with more risk but may offer high potential returns and diversification.

Tax advantages

Private placement life insurance’s previous features come with several tax advantages that suit HNWIs well. First, the death benefit is not taxed as income for beneficiaries. Additionally, if structured properly in an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT), it may not count toward your estate tax threshold.2

The cash value provides tax benefits as well. It grows tax-deferred, helping you enjoy more growth and faster potential wealth-building. That means if you sell investments for gains in the account, you won’t owe taxes immediately. You can then reinvest more capital in other assets as a result. Loans are not taxed as income as long as the policy remains in force. Withdrawals may also avoid taxes if you withdraw less than your total premiums paid.

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Private placement life insurance vs. traditional life insurance

Private placement life insurance shares features with other permanent life insurance policies, but also contains some unique features and differences. Here are some differences between traditional and private placement life insurance:

  • Complexity: These policies are more complex due to the broader investment selection and target market of HNWIs.

  • Eligibility: These are typically only available to accredited investors per the SEC’s definition. Traditional life insurance is available to the general public.

  • Investment selection: Unlike traditional policies, these policies help you invest in more than a few funds. You can pick traditional assets as well as alternative investments, like real estate and hedge funds.

Is private placement life insurance right for me?

Private placement life insurance tends to suit those with more assets and complex financial situations. Here are some potential policyholders who could benefit from private placement life insurance:

  • High net worth individuals: HNWIs often focus on preserving capital and maximizing tax efficiency. These policies can suit both purposes. They can diversify further and take advantage of tax benefits.

  • Sophisticated investors: Sophisticated investors with significant assets often have the expertise and connections to understand complex financial instruments, like alternative assets. Private placement life insurance helps give them a tax-efficient avenue to invest in these while helping to protect their loved ones.

  • Individuals seeking asset protection: Life insurance death benefits are protected from creditors if you name beneficiaries. The cash value’s assets are also not available to creditors. This can help serve wealthy investors who face higher litigation risk, such as medical professionals, business owners, or public figures.

  • Individuals who need estate planning solutions: Wealthy individuals are likely to exceed federal and state estate tax thresholds. The life insurance death benefit may be counted toward this unless placed in an ILIT. Additionally, you may be able to help provide more wealth to your heirs tax-free while living by tapping into cash value.

Alternatives to private placement life insurance

Private placement life insurance generally suits policyholders with a higher net worth and complex financial plans. If it’s not right for you or you don’t qualify, here are several alternative policies to consider:

Term life insurance

Term life insurance offers cost-effective, fixed premiums but has no cash value and lasts for a fixed period of 10 to 30 years. This makes term life insurance a good option for prospective policyholders who don’t need an investment component and want the most cost-effective solution.

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance is a permanent life insurance policy, covering you for life in exchange for higher premiums. Premiums are fixed, unlike private placement life insurance. Its cash value growth component earns tax-deferred interest at a cost-effective, guaranteed rate. This may offer a smaller potential reward but minimal risk. As a result, whole life insurance can suit policyholders at various wealth levels who need lifelong coverage and prefer capital preservation over aggressive potential growth.

Universal life insurance

Universal life insurance also offers lifelong coverage and cash value. However, you can adjust premiums and death benefits as needed. Reducing premiums lowers your death benefit and slows cash value growth. Raising premiums increases your death benefit and can accelerate cash value growth. The cash value grows tax-deferred at a fixed, guaranteed rate, like whole life insurance.

Learn more about life insurance

Private placement life insurance serves a specific portion of the population — high net worth individuals who need advanced financial tools to help fit their complex financial circumstances. If you aren’t in this segment of the population or prefer a simpler policy, Aflac’s selection of life insurance policies could provide options that suit you better. Speak with an agent today to learn more and get a quote.

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