#4.2: Cryonics-friendly life insurance carriers

by mingyuan4 min read27th Jan 20213 comments

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This is post 6 of 10 in my cryonics signup guide, and the third of five posts on life insurance.


It's more difficult to obtain life insurance for cryonics than to obtain life insurance in general, because there's a very limited number of (well-rated) insurance companies in the US that are okay with approving insurance 'for a cryonics objective.' One reason for this is that in the case of cryonics, your life insurance policy is owned by a third party, which makes things complicated and risky for the insurance company.

According to my insurance broker, there are currently ~four insurance companies in the US that will underwrite for cryonics. These companies – in order of how likely you are to want to use them – are:

  • Kansas City Life
  • Nationwide
  • New York Life
  • Northwestern Mutual

Most people I know have used Kansas City Life (hereafter KCL), but there are situations in which Nationwide might be the right choice. Nonetheless, let's take a brief look at each of the options.

Kansas City Life (KCL)

Basically, I think everyone should go with KCL unless they have a specific reason not to. (If you are young and healthy, you probably have no reason not to.) Here's why:

  • Easy process – While the other carriers require additional legal work before approving a policy for cryonics, KCL will just approve you.
  • Multiple options – KCL offers term, whole life, UL, and IUL policies, so odds are good that they offer the thing that you want. (If you're dead set on GUL, you'll need to look elsewhere.)
  • Joint ownership – KCL is the only one of these companies that allows for joint ownership of your insurance policy. This is great if you're an Alcor patient, because you have to make Alcor an owner, but if Alcor is the sole owner, it's really inconvenient for you because the company can't tell you anything about the policy; all information has to go through Alcor. (It's irrelevant for CI patients).
  • Cryonics friendliness – While all of these companies are willing to underwrite for cryonics, I'm pretty sure KCL has done it more than any of the rest. Cryonics isn't weird or extra complicated for them to deal with.
  • Financial stability – According to Rudi Hoffman, KCL is debt-free, which is unusual for an insurance company. This makes it even more unlikely than average that the company will go under and your death benefit will fail to pay out.

I recognize that I sound like a freaking advertisement, but taking into account all the factors it really does seem like KCL is the best option for most people when signing up for cryonics. The crux for me is the lack of added complexity – something that will become clearer when we look at other carriers below.

Nationwide

Depending on your age and other factors, Nationwide can be a more cost-effective option than KCL. My understanding is that, while Nationwide's premiums are generally cheaper, they require additional steps for cryonics clients that add both cost and complexity.

Offerings

Nationwide offers all the types of insurance relevant to us: UL, GUL, IUL, whole life, and term. 

Additional complexity

If you choose Nationwide for a cryonics objective, you must establish a trust before you can apply for insurance. Establishing a trust which holds your life insurance policy for Alcor is a fairly common thing for Alcor members to do, and you can get help with it from Alcor (they have a whole Trust Department). Alcor must review and accept your trust before you can proceed. (I don't know how this works for CI, sorry.)

In addition (for Alcor members only), you're required to own a personal, non-cryonics life insurance policy before you can get approved for the cryonics policy. This is because insurance companies are wary of life insurance policies owned by a third party, due to the potential for lawsuits. So you'll own two separate life insurance policies, which somehow releases Nationwide from legal liability.

I'd ballpark the cost of this additional legal work at about $1000, but I haven't actually done it so I don't know. If you have experience with taking out a cryonics policy from Nationwide, let me know.

Stricter approval criteria

Nationwide has stricter guidelines than KCL for approvals – they need to see that you're employed and have sufficient income to pay your premiums. 

If Nationwide is cheaper for you, but you're concerned about not being approved and really want cryonics coverage right now (e.g. if you're relatively old), you can take out a policy with KCL for the time being, then reapply through Nationwide. If you're approved, you can surrender your KCL contract and replace it with the new, lower-cost one from Nationwide.

Bottom line

Nationwide requires a substantial amount of additional legal work, but it is significantly more cost-effective for some people. I recommend talking to David Donato to find out whether Nationwide is a better fit for you than KCL.

The other ones

These two companies are willing to underwrite life insurance policies for cryonics, but I haven't seen a good reason to go with either of them over KCL or Nationwide. Both are subject to at least some of the same additional work as Nationwide, and neither allows you to own your policy jointly with Alcor.

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern's core competency is in whole life products, though they also offer UL and term insurance. Northwestern's premiums are more expensive than KCL's, and like with Nationwide, you'll need to take out two separate life insurance policies. Northwestern may or may not approve your cryonics policy without additional legal work.

New York Life (NYL)

Like Nationwide, NYL requires you to set up a trust and take out a personal life insurance policy before you can get approved for a cryonics policy. NYL offers term, whole life, and UL, and also something called Custom Universal Life Guarantee, which sounds a lot like GUL from the description.

Non-USA insurance options

If you live outside of the United States – or if you live in the States but aren't a citizen (and don't have a green card or an H-1B or L-1 visa) – don't worry! You can fund your Alcor or CI preservation with an insurance policy from your home country. For Alcor, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • The insurance provider must be rated A– or better by A.M. Best.
  • Alcor must be named as the beneficiary of the policy. 
    • (Alcor does not need to be the owner, since insurance companies in countries outside the United States often are not willing to name a US organization as the policy owner.)
  • There should either be no collateral assignees, or Alcor must be named as the assignee.
  • The policy is placed in absolute trust.
  • A minimum of one Alcor representative is named as a Trustee.
  • The Death Benefit (or Sum Assured) is permanently maintained equal to or in excess of the Cryopreservation Minimum, in equivalent United States Dollars.
  • Alcor is to be notified if policy lapses.
  • Premium is paid current.
  • Alcor requires a copy of the policy, Policy Schedule, stamped Trust Request Form (must be Absolute Trust), and stamped Deed (naming Alcor as an additional Trustee).

CI stipulates the following:

  • CI must be named as the beneficiary of the policy.
  • The death benefit amount must satisfy your minimum cryopreservation amount.
  • CI needs proof — updated at least annually — that CI is the beneficiary and that the amount is sufficient.
  • If the policy is written in a language other than English, CI requires that the entire insurance policy be translated into English, and they need a copy of both the original policy and the certified English translation.

So getting a cryonics life insurance policy elsewhere is not very different from doing it in the US, except that you won't have this detailed guide to help you. It's my impression that everywhere has the same basic types of insurance (e.g. term vs permanent), though they may go by different names; I might be wrong about this. 

And of course there will be as many different regulatory environments as there are countries, which can introduce some roadblocks. For example, from CI's website

In the United Kingdom there is a law that prevents a non-profit corporation, such as the Cryonics Institute, from being listed as a direct beneficiary on a British person's life insurance policy.

But people all over the world (including the UK) are signed up with Alcor and CI, so it's really just a matter of overcoming those roadblocks; they're rarely dealbreakers. As I mentioned in the first post in this sequence, if you're doing anything cryonics-related outside of the US, try to get in contact with cryonicists in your country; they're eager to help and they definitely know more than I do about what your options are.

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It's my impression that most, if not all, insurance carriers can be made compatible with CI at least. They have a number of acceptable options, one of which all 3 of the carriers I investigated were happy to abide by.

Does the fact that Alcor is co-owner create difficulties if you want to change cryonics provider at some point? Example: new tech (e.g. aldehyde stabilized cryopreservation) gets offered somewhere else but not at Alcor, so you want to change.

It shouldn't be a problem due to Alcor's buy-back agreement (essentially Alcor agrees to relinquish control of any insurance policy within a month of your written request).