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Estate Planning Newsletter

  • Durable Powers of Attorney
    If you become incapacitated, who is supposed to make decisions for you about the management of your property or your health care? A durable power of attorney allows someone you designate to act on your behalf. It is usually included as... Read more.
  • Administering the Estate of a Missing Person
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  • Deductibility of Property Donated to a Charitable Organization
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  • Filing a Death Claim When an Insured Person Dies
    The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person entitled to receive the death benefit of the policy when the insured person dies. In order to collect on a death benefit claim, the beneficiary must usually comply with specific... Read more.
Estate Planning News Links

Marital Settlement Agreements and Life Insurance Policies

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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