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Estate Planning Newsletter

  • Wills that Must be Witnessed
    A witnessed will is only one of several different types of wills. It is also referred to as a “formal” or “attested” will, and involves the eyewitness participation of other... Read more.
  • Fraudulently Transferred Property & Constructive Trusts
    A constructive trust is a remedy imposed by a court when a person has wrongfully attained property in an inappropriate way. The court will undo the transaction and order that title to the property go to the rightful... Read more.
  • Custodial Accounts Held for Minors
    Minors have no legal capacity to manage property. Thus, transferring property and other assets to minors can be problematic. For example, parents or other adults may wish to convey a small amount of property to a minor without investing... Read more.
  • Application of a Gift Tax
    A gift tax is a tax on the privilege of making gifts to others while the taxpayer is still living. The gift tax supplements the estate tax, which taxes gifts made upon death. The gift tax was created to frustrate the attempts of those... Read more.
Estate Planning News Links

Life Insurance Policies and Marital Settlement Agreements

Many marital settlement agreements require one party to maintain a life insurance policy on his or her life naming the former spouse as the primary beneficiary. While this provides some financial security for the former spouse, it may also result in an adverse unintended tax consequence for the insured spouse’s estate.

For example, if the ex-husband is required to maintain a $1 million life insurance policy on his life, naming his ex-wife as beneficiary, on the ex-husband’s death his ex-wife will receive the $1 million face amount of the policy directly from the life insurance company. If the ex-husband was the owner of the life insurance policy and paid the premiums on the policy, the IRS will include the $1 million face amount of the policy in the ex-husband’s estate for the purposes of calculating the amount of estate tax owed by the ex-husband’s estate. If the ex-husband died in 2013 with a taxable estate of $5.25 million plus the $1 million in life insurance, the inclusion of the life insurance proceeds would result in a $400,000 increase in the estate tax owed.

The foregoing result may be avoided through the use of a tax-sensitive marital settlement agreement and an irrevocable life insurance trust. The ex-husband may still be required to maintain a $1 million life insurance policy with his ex-wife as beneficiary, but the life insurance policy would be owned by the trustee of the irrevocable life insurance trust. The ex-husband may transfer money to the trust for the payment of the premiums. Since the payments are required pursuant to a court order, the payments are not considered taxable gifts. Since the irrevocable life insurance trust, not the ex-husband, is the owner of the policy, the $1 million life insurance policy will not be included in the ex-husband’s estate for the purpose of calculating the estate tax owed.

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