Hidden Treasures – Vaughn Henry & Associates
Tucked away in dusty lockboxes and file cabinets are old life insurance contracts that have not seen the light of day for years. Why pull them out and review their provisions now? Tax circumstances change; and while life insurance is usually free of income tax, it often creates an estate tax liability. To be safe, eliminate the insurance from the estates inventory of taxable assets. In another classic oversight, too often the policy designates beneficiaries who may no longer be part of the family or who have predeceased the insured or the contracts owner. Take that inventory and use a little proactive planning to avoid costly mistakes.
Once unearthed, make a decision about these policies. Besides updating ownership and beneficiary designations, consider a donation to charity. Does family financial security still require the policy? If so, adding a charity to the beneficiary designation would be an easily modified and revocable way to set aside something as a philanthropic legacy. Even naming a charity to receive just 10% or 20% of the policys proceeds is a great way to create a meaningful gift without adversely affecting the familys interests. After a few more years pass, a donor can reassess needs and later adjust the beneficiary designations or choose to donate the entire policy.
What works? Is there a veterans policy or an old whole or universal life insurance contract in that pile of paperwork? A policy acquired to reduce risk when there was a mortgage on the house and worries about getting kids through college may be an ideal gift now. Classic giving opportunities for insurance exist when the mortgage is paid, the kids are grown, and those risks that the insurance originally covered no longer apply. Even employer sponsored term contracts can work if the donor chooses a charitable beneficiary, and while there may not be an income tax deduction, significant support with a tool that ultimately endows your charity on a limited budget still works for almost anyone. These are painless gifts. Giving an obsolete life insurance contract does not negatively affect the donors cash flow; instead, it offers the charity an opportunity to receive needed funds that bypass delays in probate and family turmoil.
Outright gifts of a cash value type life insurance policy to a tax-exempt organization may generate an income tax deduction. While deduction calculations and rules can be complex, in order to qualify, the donor gives up legal ownership and allows the charity to become the irrevocable beneficiary. However, be careful if the policy has outstanding loans or if the cash value will not sustain the policy after the charity accepts it, as the gift may prematurely collapse. As with the gift of any asset, seek qualified guidance to be sure that it works properly.