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The Role of Life Insurance in Estate Planning: Strategies for Financial Planners

At Cook Tillman, we’re eager to help financial planners learn estate planning strategies they can implement when serving clients. In addition to charitable giving and trusts, life insurance can also provide security for beneficiaries should a family provider pass away. Here are five strategies for using life insurance to protect a family’s finances after the loss of a loved one. 


Life Insurance Strategies


Financial planners can utilize life insurance to protect assets that a family produces in their lifetime through these methods: 


1. Income Replacement: One of the main ways that life insurance is used is income replacement. If a working spouse passes away prematurely and the family has young children, life insurance can be used to secure the financial future of the remaining family members. 


2. Estate Tax Payment: Life insurance can also be used to offset estate tax liability. The current tax exemptions are at $13.6 million per spouse. If one spouse dies, the surviving spouse can add the exemption to their own to total a $27.2 million combined exemption, in which case, the estate tax only has to be dealt with upon the second spouse’s death. If an estate is subject to estate taxes after the surviving spouse dies, the proceeds from a life insurance policy can cover these taxes, preventing the need to sell off assets at an inopportune time to pay the tax bill. In short, life insurance can become a pool of liquidity to protect assets from being depleted to cover debts, taxes, or other financial obligations after the first or second spouse’s death.


3. Equalizing Inheritances: Life insurance payouts can provide an equal monetary inheritance to all beneficiaries, even if some assets are not easily divisible, such as a family business or real estate. In the case of a second marriage, life insurance can also be used to ensure the adult children of the deceased spouse receive immediate inheritance while the surviving spouse continues to enjoy other marital assets, such as their personal residence.


4. Creating a Legacy: Life insurance can also be used in charitable giving or to provide for heirs of a deceased family member or couple.


5. Liquidity for Business Owners: If a client owns a business, life insurance policies will allow their company and business partners to have sufficient liquidity to purchase their business interest from their estate so that family members receive its value. 


Further Life Insurance Considerations


1. Using Life Insurance To Pay Taxes: When paying taxes with an insurance policy, financial planners should ensure that the policy is equal to or exceeds the tax need while considering other liquid assets. 


2. Policy Longevity: The second consideration is the policy has to last the combined lives of the married couple. This situation usually comes in the form of a permanent life insurance policy that ensures the lives of both spouses. Such policies are often called “survivor life” or “second to die” policies. Permanent life insurance policies are usually more expensive, so the client's cash flow and ability to fund the policy should be evaluated thoroughly.


3. Estate Tax: Life insurance death benefits are assets included in a client's overall estate when determining an estate tax liability. One concern is that a significant death benefit paid to the survivor's estate only compounds the estate tax problem. The solution is to purchase a life insurance policy in an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). An ILIT is an irrevocable trust created by one or both spouses, held by a third-party trustee to benefit the client’s children or other beneficiaries. The trust owns the life insurance policy. The death benefit is then paid to the trust upon the death of the surviving spouse and will be excluded from the client’s estate when determining federal estate tax liability, making it available to pay any taxes due instead. 


Cook Tillman Law Group is a law firm committed to aiding financial planners and families with thoughtful direction and aid in estate planning and administration, informing them on various financial and legal tools that can help construct a pathway to financial well-being. Our team can be reached by phone at (615) 370-2444 or via our website.

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