Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Transferring Insurance Policies to ILITS

Because of the larger estate tax exclusion of $5,000,000 per person (already $5,125,000 because of the cost of living increase), many clients no longer need an Irrevocable Trust to own their life insurance in order to avoid tax on the proceeds at death. However, an Irrevocable Trust is still an important planning tool for those whose estates already exceed the estate tax exclusion or for those whose estates increase in value faster than anticipated. 
            We previously discussed the basic concepts of an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), but today we want to focus on how policies are transferred to the ILIT.  There is an estate tax rule that requires the inclusion in a decedent’s estate of life insurance transferred within three years of death.  Because of this rule, the ideal planning technique is for Grantor to execute the ILIT and then for the Trustee to apply for new insurance on the life of the ILIT’s Grantor.  If the Trust is the initial owner and beneficiary of the life insurance policy, and the Grantor never had any incidents of ownership in the policy, the three-year inclusion rule does not apply.  
            If there is existing insurance, a client will often set up an ILIT, have the trustee apply for a new policy, and then terminate the old policy when the new policy is issued with the Trust as the owner.  This protects the Grantor if the new insurance application is declined.  There is usually no need to have twice the insurance coverage, but you want to maintain the existing coverage until the new policy is issued and effective.
            Sometimes there is a need for an ILIT, but the Grantor is unable to secure new insurance coverage or the coverage is too expensive because of age or health issues.  At these times you utilize the next best strategy and transfer an existing policy to an ILIT, knowing the three year inclusion rule applies.  You need to remember that the value of the policy at the time of the transfer is a gift.  In addition, any amounts gifted to the ILIT and later used for payment of premiums are gifts.  If the policy transferred is a term policy, there is probably little value other than the unused premiums for the policy year in question.  However, if the policy is an existing permanent policy, there may be significant cash value requiring consideration for gift tax purposes.  The Crummey rules require notice be given to Crummey beneficiaries so that the gift can be considered a present gift and allow use of the annual gift exclusion.  However, if the total of premiums and cash value of transferred policies exceeds the total of Crummey beneficiaries times $14,000, a portion of the gift will not qualify for the annual exclusion.  Any gift in excess of the available annual exclusions is considered a future gift and will use a portion of the Grantor’s lifetime exclusion.
            Planning for policy transfers can be tricky and confusing and should be done with the guidance of professionals qualified in both insurance and tax issues.

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