Money In Motion June 2014

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It’s Time to Review Your Life Insurance


Are you underinsured, or not insured at all?

When was the last time you looked at your life insurance coverage?Why not do it now? Life insurance can be a remarkable utility as an estate planning and tax-saving tool. Whether you have no life insurance, or you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, it is always a good idea to be aware of your options and be prepared.

About 40% of Americans have no life insurance. LIMRA, an insurance industry group analyzing insurance trends in the U.S., recently found that among men and women, ownership of life insurance policies has hit its lowest level since 2004. LIMRA’s study shows 39% of men without even term life coverage, and 43% of women in the same boat.1

Alarmingly, the population of married men aged 35-54 who had life insurance dropped more than 10% from 2004-10. Men who fall into this age bracket are usually in or near their peak earning years, and about half of them are fathers.1

Another alarming finding from the survey: a third of new parents admit they have insufficient life insurance coverage, yet only about 40% try to rectify that problem within two years of the birth of their first child.1

Watch a life insurance commercial, and you’re likely to see a young or maturing family.However, this is hardly the only context in which life insurance matters.

  • It can be a vital part of a financial strategy for empty-nesters who want to retire to a comfortable lifestyle.
  • A buy-sell agreement funded with life insurance can allow a surviving business owner to buy the company interest of a deceased owner at a previously established price. Key-person insurance can aid a business if a core employee passes away. (It is possible for a business to fund a buy-sell agreement and key-person insurance with pre-tax dollars, making these moves truly tax-efficient.)

There are numerous options when it comes to life insurance:whole life, term, and variable to name a few. But what are the differences? How do you choose? The differences between policy types can be significant. So, which is right for you? There are many factors to contemplate when deciding what type of life insurance will best suit your needs. If you haven’t reviewed your insurance lately, or don’t think you need life insurance, consider the following potential life factors:

1) You are married and your spouse depends on your income
2) You have children
3) You have an aging parent or disabled relative who depends on you for support
4) Your retirement savings and pension won’t be enough for your spouse to live on
5) You have a large estate and expect your heirs will owe estate taxes
6) You own a business, especially if you have a partner
7) You have a substantial joint financial obligation such as a personal loan for which another person would be legally responsible after your death.

If your circumstances match with any of the items above, or you anticipate a change, you may have a need for life insurance, or to update your current coverage.

Life insurance is a way to protect your loved ones financially after you die. In each of these cases, the proceeds from a life insurance policy can help them manage financially as they adjust to life without your income. The proceeds can also be used to meet funeral and other final expenses, which can run into thousands of dollars.

Permanent life insurance offers a death benefit plus the opportunity to build cash value over time. There are even tax perks in such coverage: not only are the death benefits from the policy received tax-free, but the cash value has the opportunity to grow tax-deferred during your lifetime. Furthermore, and any loans taken against the policy’s cash value aren’t subject to federal income tax as they aren’t considered cash distributions.2

Underinsured? Uninsured? If certain life events have caused you to think about insuring yourself, Dumont & Blake can help you explore your options and make the right choice. Insuring yourself is the right thing to do for you, your spouse and your family.

It’s a way to help you as you plan to build wealth. There are cash-rich life insurance policies with tax-advantaged savings features that offer you the potential to earn interest based on the gains of an equity index. Others permit you to direct a percentage of your premiums to investment sub-accounts which may generate tax-free earnings. These policies can be useful when it comes to business continuation and employee benefits, retirement planning, education planning and estate planning.

Are you adequately insured? Are you using life insurance smartly?Life insurance is like the Swiss Army knife of estate planning: there are so many ways you can use it as you plan to pursue your goals. Whether you simply need to insure yourself or need to protect your estate through sophisticated planning, it’s time to think about life insurance – and all the ways it can potentially help you financially. We are here to help you, please call Dumont & Blake with any questions or concerns you may have about life insurance.

Citations
1-limra.com/Posts/PR/Industry_Trends_Blog/LIMRA__Life_Insurance_Findings_and_Father%E2%80%99s_Day.aspx [4/14]
2-newyorklife.com/products/tax-advantages-permanent-life-insurance [4/14]

The Importance of TOD & JTWROS Designations

TOD, JTWROS…what do these obscure acronyms signify? They are shorthand for transfer on death and joint tenancy with right of ownership – two designations that permit automatic transfer of bank or investment accounts from a deceased spouse to a surviving spouse.

This automatic transfer of assets reflects a legal tenet called the right of survivorship –the idea that the surviving spouse should be the default beneficiary of the account. In some states, a TOD or JTWROS beneficiary designation is even allowed for real property.1

When an account or asset has a TOD or JTWROS designation, the right of survivorship precedes any beneficiary designations made in a will or trust.1,2

There are advantages to having TOD and JTWROS accounts … and disadvantages as well.

TOD & JTWROS accounts can usually avoid probate. As TOD and JTWROS beneficiary designations define a direct route for account transfer, there is rarely any need for such assets to be probated. The involved financial institution has a contractual requirement (per the TOD or JTWROS designation) to pay the balance of the account funds to the surviving spouse.1

In unusual instances, an exception may apply: if the deceased account owner has actually outlived the designated TOD beneficiary or beneficiaries, then the account faces probate.3

What happens if both owners of a JTWROS account pass away at the same time? In such cases, a TOD designation applies (for any named contingent beneficiary).3

To be technically clear, transfer on death signifies a route of asset transfer while joint tenancy with right of ownership signifies a form of asset ownership. In a variation on JTWROS called tenants by entirety, both spouses are legally deemed as equal owners of the asset or account while living, with the asset or account eventually transferring to the longer-living spouse.3

Does a TOD or JTWROS designation remove an account from your taxable estate? No. A TOD or JTWROS designation makes those assets non-probate assets, and that will save your executor a little money and time – but it doesn’t take them out of your gross taxable estate.

In fact, 100% of the value of an account with a TOD beneficiary designation will be included in your taxable estate. It varies for accounts titled as JTWROS. If you hold title to a JTWROS account with your spouse, 50% of its value will be included in your taxable estate. If it is titled as JTWROS with someone besides your spouse, the entire value of the account will go into your taxable estate unless the other owner has made contributions to the account.4

How about capital gains? JTWROS accounts in common law states typically get a 50% step-up in basis upon the death of one owner. In community property states, the step-up is 100%.5

Could gift tax become a concern? Yes, if the other owner of a JTWROS account is not your spouse. If you change the title on an account to permit JTWROS, you are giving away a percentage of your assets; the non-spouse receives a gift from you. If the amount of the gift exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion, you will need to file a gift tax return for that year. If you retitle the account in the future so that you are again the sole owner, that constitutes a gift to you on behalf of the former co-owner; he or she will need to file a gift tax return if the amount of the gift tops the annual exclusion.5

TOD & JTWROS designations do make account transfer easy. They simplify an element of estate planning. You just want to be careful not to try and make things too simple.  

TOD or JTWROS accounts are not cheap substitutes for wills or trusts. If you have multiple children and name one of them as the TOD beneficiary of an account, that child will get the entire account balance and the other kids will get nothing. The TOD beneficiary can of course divvy up those assets equally among siblings, but in doing so, that TOD beneficiary may run afoul of the yearly gift tax exclusion.2

JTWROS accounts have a potential a drawback while you are alive. As they are jointly owned, you have a second party fully capable of accessing and using the whole account balance.2

As you plan your estate, respect the power of TOD & JTWROS designations. Since they override any beneficiary designations made in wills and trusts, you want to double-check any will and trust(s) you have to make sure that you aren’t sending conflicting messages to your heirs.2

That aside, TOD & JTWROS designations represent convenient ways to arrange the smooth, orderly transfer of account balances when original account owners pass away.

Citations
1-dummies.com/how-to/content/bypassing-probate-with-beneficiary-designations.navId-323700.html [5/5/14]
2-galaw.com/the-dangers-of-pod-and-tod-accounts/ [2/4/14]
3-fidelity.com/estate-planning-inheritance/estate-planning/asset-strategies/brokerage [5/13/14]
4-theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/167700/what-is-probate.html [5/10/13]
5-newsobserver.com/2013/06/08/2944839/advice-on-joint-tenancy-with-rights.html [6/8/13]

 

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