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Understanding Surrender Value in Your Insurance Policy

16 Apr 2024 - Tushar
Reading time about 5 minutes

Insurance experts frequently encounter policyholders with questions about surrender value. Simply put, surrender value is the amount an insurance company pays you if you decide to terminate your life insurance policy before it matures. It’s important to understand surrender value before making any decisions, as surrendering your policy can have significant financial implications.

Surrender Value

Why Does Surrender Value Exist?

Insurance companies factor in surrender value to discourage policyholders from prematurely cancelling their policies. Building and maintaining a strong pool of policyholders allows them to manage risk effectively and keep premiums affordable for everyone.

Which Life Insurance Plans Carry Surrender Value?

In India, surrender value is typically associated with life insurance policies that have a savings component, as opposed to pure term insurance plans. Here’s a breakdown of the types of life insurance policies that offer surrender value:

  • Endowment Plans: These plans combine protection with savings. They guarantee a payout upon maturity (end of the policy term) or death of the policyholder. You can also surrender the policy after a minimum period (usually 3 years) and receive a surrender value, though it might be less than the premiums paid initially.

  • Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs): These are market-linked plans where a portion of your premium is invested in funds. They offer life cover and the potential for growth through investment returns. You can surrender ULIPs after a minimum lock-in period (usually 5 years) and receive the market value of your units, which could be higher or lower than the premiums paid depending on the fund performance.

  • Money Back Plans: These plans provide periodic payouts throughout the policy term along with a maturity benefit. You can typically surrender these plans after a minimum period and receive a surrender value, but again, it might be less than the total premiums paid initially.

  • Term Insurance Plan with Return of Premium (TROP) These plans provide return of entire premimum paid if the policy holder survives the policy term. Type of payment for the premium plays important role in deciding surrender value. So typically single premimum policies will have option of receiving surrender value.

Term Insurance: These plans are purely for protection and typically do not offer surrender value. The focus is on providing a payout to the beneficiary in case of the policyholder’s death.

When Can I Access Surrender Value?

The availability and calculation of surrender value typically depends on the specific life insurance policy and the number of years you’ve paid premiums. Most policies won’t offer any surrender value in the initial years, as the insurance company hasn’t had enough time to recoup its acquisition costs associated with issuing the policy.

In India, there are actually two main types of surrender values you might encounter in life insurance policies:

  1. Guaranteed Surrender Value (GSV): This is the minimum amount you’re guaranteed to receive by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) if you surrender your policy early. It acts as a safety net in case you need funds before maturity.

  2. Special Surrender Value (SSV): This is a potentially higher amount than the GSV and depends on the specific terms of your policy. It’s not mandatory but can be offered by some insurers.

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences:

Feature Guaranteed Surrender Value (GSV) Special Surrender Value (SSV)
Nature Minimum guaranteed payout Potentially higher payout based on policy terms
Regulation Mandated by IRDAI Not mandatory, offered by some insurers
Calculation Based on paid premiums (excluding first year and riders) and surrender value factor GSV + Accumulated bonuses (if applicable) + Other factors (may vary by insurer)
Availability Not available in the first 3 years Availability and calculation depend on specific policy terms

Additional Points

  • Surrendering a policy early is generally not recommended as you lose out on the life cover and potential maturity benefit.
  • The GSV might be a small portion of the total premiums paid, especially in the initial years.
  • Always review your policy document to understand the specific calculation methods for both GSV and (if applicable) SSV.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is surrender value tax-free?

No, surrender values are not tax-free. Generally, life insurance funds are considered to be ‘income from other sources’ and do not qualify for tax benefits.

Q: How do I maximise my surrender value and avoid surrender charges imposed by the insurance providers?

The IRDAI does not charge surrender value charges on life insurance policies whose premiums have been consistently paid for five consecutive years. Therefore, surrendering a policy after five years can avoid surrender charges.

Q: What will be the surrender value after 5 years?

According to IRDAI regulations, insurers may not charge surrender value charges if a policy is surrendered after five years.

Important Considerations Before Surrendering

  • Loss of Coverage: Terminating your policy means giving up the valuable death benefit that protects your loved ones financially in case of your passing.
  • Tax Implications: Depending on the type of policy and the amount of surrender value received, there might be tax consequences. Consult a tax advisor for specific guidance.
  • Future Insurability: If you decide to purchase a new policy later, you might face higher premiums due to age or health changes.

Alternatives to Surrendering Your Policy

  • Paid-Up Option: This allows you to keep your policy active with a reduced death benefit without paying future premiums.
  • Loan Option: Some policies offer the option to borrow against your policy’s cash value. This can be a useful tool for short-term needs, but interest accrues on the loan amount.

Consulting an Insurance Professional

If you’re considering surrendering your life insurance policy, it’s crucial to consult with your insurance agent or financial advisor. They can help you understand your specific policy details, calculate your potential surrender value, and explore alternative solutions that meet your financial needs without jeopardizing your long-term security.

Remember: Surrender value is just one aspect of your life insurance policy. A comprehensive review with your insurance professional can ensure you’re making informed decisions aligned with your overall financial goals.

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