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Monday, April 16, 2007

Second-To-Die Life Insurance PoliciesImagine a life insurance policy that doesn't pay off when you die. Second-to-die life insurance fits that descrip

Imagine a life insurance policy that doesn't pay off when you die. Second-to-die life insurance fits that description, and might be a worthwhile purchase for people who will leave behind estates worth $1 million or more.

A second-to-die life insurance policy, or survivorship life as it's sometimes called, insures two lives - usually a husband and wife. Unlike traditional life insurance, the death benefit isn't paid out until the second insured person dies.

Usually, the death benefit from a second-to-die life insurance policy is intended to pay taxes owed after both spouses pass away. The product was developed in the early 1980s in response to a law that postpones estate taxes until both spouses pass away.

Under federal tax law, there is a marital deduction permitting you to leave an unlimited amount of assets to your surviving spouse. If you leave all your worldly possessions to your husband or wife, no federal estate taxes are owed at the time of your death. Those assets then become part of the estate of the spouse and might be taxed when he or she dies. The death benefit from a life insurance policy could help pay those taxes.

There are also estate tax ramifications for small businesses, which is why business partners also purchase second-to-die policies.

The second-to-die sales pitch

Agents who sell second-to-die life insurance often point out your beneficiaries can pay estate taxes with the proceeds of your policy, so they won't be forced to sell your house quickly or liquidate assets to pay the bill. When you buy the policy, you'll pay less than the estate taxes will cost. Many attorneys say with the right legal advice, you can avoid estate taxes altogether. Therefore, you might not need life insurance to pay the estate taxes.

Sometimes, a second-to-die-policy salesperson and the policyholders' lawyers will construct a financial plan reducing the tax burden of wealthy individuals by creating trusts and using second-to-die life insurance as part of the estate-planning process.

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