Moreover, while a death benefit flows to your beneficiaries tax-free, life-settlement proceeds are taxable, to the extent they exceed what you have paid in premiums. And owning or selling the policy could stall or complicate the process of qualifying for Medicaid. Then there’s the question of how much a broker, who submits your information to several life-settlement companies, will take in commission — generally 20 to 30 percent of the price a company offers. You could avoid that by approaching several settlement companies directly, going through interviews, supplying documentation and then comparing offers. But some policyholders will appreciate having someone shepherd them through the process, especially given the industry’s somewhat dodgy past. Sellers found it hard to ascertain whether they were receiving a fair price, for instance, and how much of it a broker was pocketing, the federal Government Accountability Office reported in 2010. In response, 43 states have adopted life-settlement regulations, usually requiring that companies be licensed and make consumer disclosures. “The industry cleaned itself up a lot,” Smetters said. “But caution is appropriate.” State regulations differ, and it still requires legwork and fine-print reading to know how much you’ll walk away with and to determine what’s in your interest. “You have to really understand the contract you’re signing,” Smetters said. “If I were doing this, I’d try to find out who the major companies are and call myself.

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