Life Insurance Retained Asset Accounts Explained

 Retained Asset Accounts, also known as RAAs, are tools created by life insurance companies as an alternative to paying out a lump sum.  You can think of an RAA as a pseudo bank account: the proceeds that would have normally been paid out are deposited in the insurance company’s corporate account, and you can access their funds via writing a check.

The Dangers of RAAs

Many policyholders have experienced difficulties with RAAs.  When they attempted to draft money from their account, they suffered significant delays.  

An RAA is not like a traditional bank account because the account actually belongs to the insurance company.  They are earning interest from your insurance proceeds that are deposited in their corporate account.

What Your Insurance Company Gains From RAAs

Some insurance companies make the RAA option seem more attractive by offering the policy holder a percentage of the interest that they earn.  While this is indeed an attractive benefit, there is significant concern surrounding which vendors do not accept RAA checks, as well as the general safety of the money that is deposited.  

Traditional banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC. Your bank account is insured up to $250,000.

RAAs, on the other hand, are not insured by the FDIC. If the insurance company issuing the policy is not in good financial health and do not have the funds to distribute later on, there is no entity to pay you the money you are owed.

Recent Developments on RAAs

In a recent case, Huffman, individually and on behalf of a class, v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, 2017 WL 6055225 (E.D. Pa. 2017), the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided that The Prudential Insurance Company of America violated ERISA, a body of federal law, by depositing life insurance proceeds into RAAs.  This means that Prudential, along with other insurance companies that operate in Pennsylvania, will no longer be able to use them as the default method of paying out benefits.

States Differ In Treatment of RAAs

Because the insurance industry is regulated on a state level, the treatment of RAAs after the Huffman case will still have variations.

For example, while Florida allows the use of RAAs though Fla. Stat. Ann. § 627.473[1], Indiana has no explicit statutes or regulations that allows or disallows for RAAs.  Florida’s statute reads as follows:

“Any life insurer shall have the power to hold under agreement the proceeds of any policy issued by it, upon such terms and restrictions as to revocation by the policyholder and control by the beneficiaries and with such exemptions from the claims of creditors of beneficiaries other than the policyholder as set forth in the policy or as agreed to in writing by the insurer and the policyholder. Upon maturity of a policy, in the event the policyholder has made no such agreement, the insurer shall have the power to hold the proceeds of the policy under an agreement with the beneficiaries. The insurer shall not be required to segregate the funds so held but may hold them as part of its general assets.”

It is likely that Huffman will influence more states to address the validity and legality of various aspects of RAAs.