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Generally, there are several paths you can take with a whole life policy and its cash surrender value.

1) You can cash the policy in - Some tax consequences may well apply on part of the proceeds - The amount that is taxable/subject to taxes essentially amounts to the amount above the cost of coverage (mortality) and the equivalent of DH's principal in the policy's CV. The insurer should be able to tell you the amount that will be subject to taxes.

2) You can borrow against the cash value - If tax laws haven't changed, the proceeds of the loan are not taxable, but some interest is charged for the loan and, in many policies, the cash value can accumulate at a lower rate of growth than it would have w/o the loan. Also, in the event of death, the loan is often deducted from the benefit paid. The interest charged is usually pretty moderate - except that nowadays it's not that great compared to rates you can get many places.

3) You can take a fully paid-up policy for a reduced face amount of coverage.

4) You can take an extended term policy for the same face amount - basically equates to the Non-Forfeiture Provisions TTRoberts mentioned.

There are some variations on these and these are only generalities that you might wish to further consider and research and there may be some additional options... so just some food for futher thought and checking/questions to ask. That said, life insurance is not my forte. Though I have sold a few life insurance policies, I have mostly worked with casualty insurance - TTRoberts is very well and much better acquainted with the ins and outs of it, though, IMHO.
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