Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maximizing Life Insurance Benefits

Posted by Lindsey Connell

Life insurance has long been a staple in basic estate planning. Life insurance may provide an income tax-free death benefit1 far in excess of the premiums paid. However, much of the life insurance proceeds may be wasted if the ownership and beneficiary designations are not properly structured.

Because of federal and/or state estate taxes, a tax may be imposed on all the property that you own at your death. This tax must be paid from your estate. This tax does not attach if, as a general rule, your property is valued at less than your estate tax exemption amount. If you own a life insurance policy, or you or your estate are named as beneficiary, the policy death benefit will increase your estate. If, after including your life insurance death benefit proceeds, your estate is still valued at less than your estate tax exemption amount, no federal estate tax will be assessed. Therefore, your policy's death benefit proceeds can be directed to any of your heirs, and need not be used to pay your estate tax liability.

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