Viatical settlements are the sale of life insurance policies by the policy owners, before the policies mature.
Viatical settlements grew in popularity in the United States in the late 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic first hit. The early victims of AIDS in the U.S. were largely gay men, many of whom were not particularly old. They often had no wives or children (the traditional dependents in a life insurance policy), but they had life insurance policies through employment or due to other investment activity. The dependents on the policies were often their parents who did not need the money. Viatical settlements offered a way to extract value from the policy while the policyholder was still alive.