In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 5, 2006 / 9 Tamuz, 5766

Living Benefits

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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How can the terminally ill tap into their life insurance?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Some terminally ill patients are in desperate need of cash despite having life insurance policies worth a fortune. Shouldn't they be able to tap into these assets?

A: A fascinating letter from a reader brought this subject to my attention. There are many people who due to age or disease seem to be nearing the end of their lives, and are in desperate need of money to make their lives a bit longer or more comfortable. Some of these people own life insurance policies which pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars at their death, which is expected in only a few years. Various ways have been discussed to help them realize their life insurance policies.

I don't believe that Jewish law dictates any specific position on this issue, but I do believe some remarkable precedents from Jewish law can help provide some valuable perspective.

One obvious way for people to benefit from their life insurance policies is merely to sell them. In many places it is permissible for people to sell their policies to companies who specialize in this business, which are known as "viaticals". Yet in some jurisdictions these sales are restricted, out of the fear of various abuses.

The concern for abuse is understandable. A basic principle of insurance is that the beneficiary needs an "insurable interest," basically meaning that he is insuring against a personal loss and not merely betting that disaster will strike. Among other things, this lessens the chance that a person has an actual interest in disaster. As I explain to my economics students, how secure would you feel knowing that some stranger just took out a million dollar policy on your life?

However, this doesn't have to mean a total ban on viaticals. Jewish law has an ancient and hallowed form of life insurance known as a kesubah, which grants the wife a substantial sum of money whenever her husband dies. However, the kesubah can be sold, and few restrictions are placed on the sale. (1) In Jewish law, I have found the concern for "betting on disaster" on death benefits only in the case of children being cared for by beneficiaries who are not members of the immediate family. (2)

There has also been concern that some companies use their position to extract overly generous terms from the policy owners. I can't really evaluate this claim, but it does seem to me that it could be resolved by some kind of regulation short of banning the sales altogether.

Another proposal for helping these needy individuals is to enable them to turn directly to the insurer to borrow against their policy or obtain an advance. A few insurers have policies enabling this kind of flexibility, while others are resistant.

Jewish law has a precedent for encouraging this kind of flexibility. The usual rule is that a person cannot sell anything that is not in his possession, even if he has every expectation that it will enter his possession. For this reason, a person can not sell his inheritance while the parent is alive. However, the Sages made a special regulation allowing selling part of the estate when the parent is already dying, "because of the dignity of the parent", in order to ensure that essential burial and funeral expenses will be available. (3) Encouraging an arrangement which would enable the policy holder to take advantage of part of the insurance (which is like an inheritance as it becomes available only after his death) in order to promote his dignity and comfort in his final days seems to me a logical parallel.

This topic seems a bit arcane, but I thought it was worthy of treatment for a number of reasons. Some people may have these options already available, due to lenient laws or insurer policies, but not be aware of them. Perhaps this article will enable them to avail themselves of an additional option to lighten the burden of age or illness. In other places, it may be that the obstacles to enabling some of these options (viaticals or insurer advances) are minor, but there is a need for a bit of political will which perhaps more coverage will bring. Not least, I discuss the topic because it shows some of the remarkable precedents we find for modern-day issues in the wellsprings of our tradition.

SOURCES: (1) Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 105. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Kesubos 102b. (3) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 16a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics