There are many benefits to having life insurance. Below are some of the most important features and protections offered by life insurance policies.
Most people use life insurance to provide money to beneficiaries who would suffer a financial hardship upon the insured’s death. However, for wealthy individuals, the tax advantages of life insurance, including the tax-deferred growth of cash value, tax-free dividends, and tax-free death benefits, can provide additional strategic opportunities.
Avoiding Taxes—the death benefit of a life insurance policy is usually tax-free.1 Wealthy individuals sometimes buy permanent life insurance within a trust to help pay the estate taxes that will be due upon their death. This strategy helps to preserve the value of the estate for their heirs. Tax avoidance is a law-abiding strategy for minimizing one’s tax liability and should not be confused with tax evasion, which is illegal.
Who Needs Life Insurance?
Life insurance provides financial support to surviving dependents or other beneficiaries after the death of an insured policyholder. Here are some examples of people who may need life insurance:
- Parents with minor children—if a parent dies, the loss of their income or caregiving skills could create a financial hardship. Life insurance can make sure the kids will have the financial resources they need until they can support themselves.
- Parents with special-needs adult children—for children who require lifelong care and will never be self-sufficient, life insurance can make sure their needs will be met after their parents pass away. The death benefit can be used to fund a special needs trust that a fiduciary will manage for the adult child’s benefit.2
- Adults who own property together—married or not, if the death of one adult would mean that the other could no longer afford loan payments, upkeep, and taxes on the property, life insurance may be a good idea. One example would be an engaged couple who take out a joint mortgage to buy their first house.
- Seniors who want to leave money to adult children who provide their care—many adult children sacrifice time at work to care for an elderly parent who needs help. This help may also include direct financial support. Life insurance can help reimburse the adult child’s costs when the parent passes away.
- Young adults whose parents incurred private student loan debt or cosigned a loan for them—young adults without dependents rarely need life insurance, but if a parent will be on the hook for a child’s debt after their death, the child may want to carry enough life insurance to pay off that debt.
- Children or young adults who want to lock in low rates—the younger and healthier you are, the lower your insurance premiums. A 20-something adult might buy a policy even without having dependents if there is an expectation to have them in the future.
- Stay at home spouses – stay at home spouse should have life insurance as they have significant economic value based on the work they do in the home. According to Salary.com, the economic value of a stay at home parent would have been equivalent to an annual salary of $162,581 in 2018.
- Wealthy families who expect to owe estate taxes—life insurance can provide funds to cover the taxes and keep the full value of the estate intact.
- Families who can’t afford burial and funeral expenses—a small life insurance policy can provide funds to honor a loved one’s passing.
- Businesses with key employees—if the death of a key employee, such as a CEO, would create a severe financial hardship for a firm, that firm may have an insurable interest that will allow it to purchase a life insurance policy on that employee.
- Married pensioners—instead of choosing between a pension payout that offers a spousal benefit and one that doesn’t, pensioners can choose to accept their full pension and use some of the money to buy life insurance to benefit their spouse. This strategy is called pension maximization.
- Those with preexisting conditions—such as cancer, diabetes, or smoking. Note, however, that some insurers may deny coverage for such individuals, or else charge very high rates.