Modern Times: Renaissance In Life Insurance Trusts
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at: 7:00 AM EDT
An age-old estate planning technique is enjoying a revival of sorts due to recent tax law developments. If you don’t already have an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) in place, you might consider creating one, or you might add a policy to an existing trust. Despite some cracks in the foundation, this remains one of the top tax shelters available to upper-income individuals.
Start with the premise that life insurance proceeds paid from a policy on your life are exempt from estate tax only if you don’t possess any “incidents of ownership” in the policy. Naturally, that applies if you own the policy outright, but that’s not all. For instance, you will be treated as having incidents of ownership in life insurance if you retain the legal right to:
Change or name the beneficiaries of the policy; Borrow against the policy or pledge any cash reserve it has; Surrender, convert, or cancel the policy, or; Choose a payment option for beneficiaries (that is, you determine whether payments will be made in a lump sum or installments).
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