Assignment and Transfer of Insurance Policies

25/04/2021 0 By indiafreenotes

Assignment means a complete transfer of the ownership of the policy to some other person. Usually, assignment is done for the purpose of raising a loan from a bank or a financial institution.

Assignment is governed by Section 38 of the Insurance Act 1938 in India. Assignment can also be done in favour of a close relative when the policyholder wishes to give a gift to that relative. Such an assignment is done for “natural love and affection”. An example, a policyholder may assign his policy to his sister who is handicapped.

A policyholder who has policy on his own life can assign the policy to another person. However, a person to whom a policy has been assigned can reassign the policy to the policyholder or assign it to any other person. A nominee cannot make an assignment of the policy. Similarly, an assignee cannot make a nomination on the policy which is assigned to him.

When a policyholder assigns a policy, he loses all control on the policy. It is no longer his property. It is now the assignee’s property whether the policyholder is alive or dead, the assignee alone will get the policy money from the insurance company.

If the assignee dies, then his (assignee’s) legal heirs will be entitled to the policy money.

An assignment cannot be changed or cancelled. The assignee can of course, reassign the policy to the policyholder who assigned it to him. He can also assign the policy to any other person because it is now his property. We can think of a bank reassigning the policy to the policyholder when their loan is repaid.

If the assignee dies, the assignment does not get cancelled. The legal heirs of the assignee become entitled to the policy money. Assignment is a legal transfer of all the interests the policyholder has in the policy to the assignee.

Assignment can be made only after issue of the policy bond. The policyholder can either write out the wording on the policy bond (endorsement) or write it on a separate paper and get it stamped. (Stamp value is the same, as the stamp required for the policy Twenty paise per one thousand sum assured). When assignment is made by an endorsement on the policy bond, there is no need for stamp because the policy is already stamped.

Assignment can be made in favour of a minor person. But it would be advisable to appoint a guardian to receive the policy money if it becomes due during the minority of the assignee.


P agrees to sell his car to Q for Rs. 100. P assigns the right to receive the Rs. 100 to S. This may be done without the consent of Q. This is because Q is receiving his car, and it does not particularly matter to him, to whom the Rs. 100 is being handed as long as he is being absolved of his liability under the contract. However, notice may still be required to be given. Without such notice, Q would pay P, in spite of the fact that such right has been assigned to S. S would be a sufferer in such case.

In this case, that condition is being fulfilled since P has assigned his right to S. However, P may not assign S to be the seller. P cannot just transfer his duties under the contract to another. This is because Q has no guarantee as to the condition of S’s car. P entered into the contract with Q on the basis of the merits of P’s car, or any other personal qualifications of P. Such assignment may be done with the consent of all three parties P, Q, S, and by doing this, P is absolved of his liabilities under the contract.

Effect of Assignment

Immediately on the execution of an assignment of an insurance policy, the assignor forgoes all his rights, title and interest in the policy to the assignee. The premium or loan interest notices etc. in such cases will be sent to the assignee. However, the existence of obligations must not be assumed, when it comes to the assignment. It must be accompanied by evidence of the same. The party asserting such a personal obligation must prove the existence of an express assumption by clear and unequivocal proof.

Assignment of a contract to a third party destroys the privity of contract between the initial contracting parties. New privity is created between the assignee and the original contracting party. In the illustration mentioned above, the original contracting parties were P and Q. After the assignment, the new contracting parties are Q and S.

Revocation of Assignment

Assignment, once validly executed, can neither be revoked nor canceled at the option of the assignor. To do so, the insurance policy will have to be reassigned to the original assignor (the insured).

Exceptions to Assignment

There are some instances where the contract cannot be assigned to another.

  • Express provisions in the contract as to its non-assignability: Some contracts may include a specific clause prohibiting assignment. If that is so, then such a contract cannot be assigned. Assignability is the rule and the contrary is an exception.
  • Contracts which are of a personal nature Rights under a contract are assignable unless the contract is personal in its nature or the rights are incapable of assignment.
  • Pensions, PFs, military benefits etc.

Types of assignment

Assignment may take two forms:

  1. Conditional Assignment

It would be useful where the policyholder desires the benefit of the policy to go to a near relative in the event of his earlier death. It is usually effected for consideration of natural love and affection. It generally provides for the right to revert the policyholder in the event of the assignee predeceasing the policyholder or the policyholder surviving to the date of maturity.

  1. Absolute Assignment

This assignment is generally made for valuable consideration. It has the effect of passing the title in the policy absolutely to the assignee and the policyholder in no way retains any interest in the policy. The absolute assignee can deal with the policy in any manner he likes and may assign or transfer his interest to another person.

Assignment under various laws in India

There is no separate law in India which deals with the concept of assignment. Instead, several laws have codified it under different laws. Some of them have been discussed as follows:

Under the Indian Contract Act

There is no express provision for the assignment of contracts under the Indian Contract Act. Section 37 of the Act provides for the duty of parties of a contract to honour such contract (unless the need for the same has been done away with). This is how the Act attempts to introduce the concept of assignment into Indian commercial law. It lays down a general responsibility on the “representatives” of any parties to a contract that may have expired before the completion of the contract.

An exception to this may be found from the contract, e.g. contracts of a personal nature. Representatives of a deceased party to a contract cannot claim privity to that contract while refusing to honour such contract. Under this Section, “representatives” would also include within its ambit, transferees and assignees.

Section 41 of the Indian Contract Act applies to cases where a contract is performed by a third party and not the original parties to the contract. It applies to cases of assignment. A promisee accepting performance of the promise from a third person cannot afterwards enforce it against the promisor. He cannot attain double satisfaction of its claim, i.e., from the promisor as well as the third party which performed the contract. An essential condition for the invocation of this Section is that there must be actual performance of the contract and not of a substituted promise.

Under the Insurance Act

The creation of assignment of life insurance policies is provided for, under Section 38 of the Insurance Act, 1938.

Endorsement has to be made on the policy or on a separate document, signed by assignor (or agent authorized by him), attested by at least one witness specifying the fact of the assignment. The assignment is complete and effectual with the execution of such a document. However, it will not be operative against the insurer (no assignee has the right to sue for any policy amount from the insurer) unless the above-mentioned endorsement or separate policy has been delivered to the insurer.

When the insurer receives the endorsement or notice, the fact of assignment shall be recorded with all details (date of receipt of notice also used to prioritise simultaneous claims, the name of assignee etc). Upon request, and for a fee of an amount not exceeding Re. 1, the insurer shall grant a written acknowledgment of the receipt of such assignment, thereby conclusively proving the fact of his receipt of the notice or endorsement. Now, the insurer shall recognize only the assignee as the legally valid party entitled to the insurance policy.

Under the Transfer of Property Act

Indian law as to assignment of life policies before the Insurance Act, 1938 was governed by Sections 130, 131, 132 and 135 of the Transfer of Property Act 1882 under Chapter VIII of the Act – Of Transfers of Actionable Claims. Section 130 of the Transfer of Property Act states that nothing contained in that Section is to affect Section 38 of the Insurance Act.

Section 130 of the Transfer of Property Act

An actionable claim may be transferred only by fulfilling the following steps:

  • Execution of an instrument
  • In writing
  • Signed by a transferor (or his authorized agent)