Share

Madison Wisconsin's Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Important Considerations for Beneficiary Designations of Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance is often one of the most important parts of an estate plan. People usually purchase life insurance to prevent their spouse, children, or other dependents from suffering financial hardship if they die unexpectedly.

You may think that all you need to do is simply write in the name of the person you would like to receive the proceeds from your life insurance policy on the beneficiary designation section of your paperwork and forget about it. However, there are several important factors you should consider first.

Consider Naming a Trust as the Beneficiary

Many people designate the person they would like to benefit as a direct beneficiary of their life insurance policy. If you want to provide funds for your spouse’s retirement, it may make sense to name him or her as the primary beneficiary. However, depending upon your particular circumstances, goals, and who you are trying to protect, it may be more prudent to name a trust as the beneficiary. For certain individuals, it will be more beneficial if the life insurance proceeds are distributed according to the terms you have established in your trust rather than having a large cash payment made directly to them.

Minor children. Life insurance companies will not pay death benefits to children under the age of 18 (or the age of majority in your particular state). As a result, if you name your child as a primary beneficiary, but die when your child is still a minor, a court-appointed guardian, who may or may not be someone you would have chosen, will likely be put in charge of managing the payout of the insurance proceeds for your child’s benefit. The proceeds may not be managed in the way you would have chosen.  In addition, any remaining proceeds will likely go directly into their pockets when your child becomes a legal adult--whether they are mature enough to handle such a windfall. This can be avoided if a trust is named as the primary beneficiary of the life insurance policy, with your child as a beneficiary of the trust. Then, the life insurance proceeds will be managed by the person you have chosen as the trustee and will be distributed to your child according to your wishes.

Some people may also mistakenly designate the child’s caretaker as the primary beneficiary to avoid the appointment of a guardian. However, this does not guarantee that the funds will actually be used for the child’s benefit, and the proceeds are vulnerable to claims made by the caretaker’s creditors. These problems can be avoided by designating a trust as the primary beneficiary and naming someone you trust as the trustee of that trust.

Recipients of government benefits. Although your intentions may be good, naming someone who is receiving need-based government benefits as a primary beneficiary of your life insurance policy may cause them to lose their eligibility for those benefits. A special needs trust can be created and named as the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policy. In that way, the insurance proceeds will be managed and distributed in a manner that will not compromise the government benefits, but will instead supplement them.

Beneficiaries who may be spendthrifts. If you are concerned that the potential beneficiary of your insurance proceeds is not financially responsible, making them a primary beneficiary may be asking for trouble. The proceeds could quickly be squandered. If you make a trust the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policy, and name the individual as the beneficiary of the trust, you can establish specific conditions for distributions to that person, for example, that the distributions must only be for health, maintenance, or educational purposes.

Think About Asset Protection

Designating a trust as the direct beneficiary of your life insurance policy can also protect its cash value and death benefit from creditors’ claims.

Protection against your creditors. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutes that protect the death benefit or cash value of life insurance, and sometimes both, from you and your estate’s creditor claims. In some states, however, the exemptions for cash value life insurance are limited to a specific dollar amount or to the amount reasonably necessary to support a beneficiary. In addition, although typically the death proceeds of the life insurance policy are never available to your creditors because they pass to your beneficiaries without ever becoming part of your estate, some states have laws that limit the exemption only to certain beneficiaries, such as a spouse, children, or other dependents. Designating a special trust called an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) as the primary beneficiary of your policy can be a strategy to protect proceeds that are outside the scope of the statutory exemption.

In addition, keep in mind that it is essential that you actually name a beneficiary or beneficiaries for your life insurance policy, because if you do not and leave this designation blank, the proceeds of the life insurance policy will be payable to your estate by default. Because your estate is responsible for paying off your debts, the life insurance proceeds may be available to satisfy your creditors’ claims, and the individuals you want to benefit may never see a penny of it. On the other hand, you may choose to do this intentionally, to ensure that your estate has sufficient funds to pay off your debts. If your main goal is to provide for the needs of your family, however, you need to name them or a trust created for their benefit as the beneficiary of the policy.

Protection against your loved ones’ creditors. If your spouse is the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policy, the proceeds typically cannot be reached by your individual creditors. However, if your spouse has joint debts or obligations with you, for example, if he or she co-signed a mortgage loan, credit card, or personal loan with you, the proceeds may be available to creditors to satisfy those obligations, depending upon state law.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that although state law provides that the proceeds of your life insurance policy are exempt (at least partially) from your creditors, once those proceeds are in the hands of your direct beneficiaries, they typically are within the reach of their creditors. Even if your children or other loved ones do not currently have any creditors, they may eventually face lawsuits, bankruptcy, or divorce. If they are primary beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, the death benefit you intended for them to receive may be exposed to claims from those creditors.

An ILIT or other trust can also protect the death benefit through the inclusion of a “spendthrift trust” provision that prohibits trust beneficiaries from pledging the trust assets, including life insurance proceeds, as collateral. Their creditors are then only able to reach any distributions made to them from the trust.

Seek Advice About the Amount Your Beneficiaries Will Need

Seek the counsel of your financial advisor to determine the amount of life insurance benefits your loved ones will need for a financially secure future. Many factors should be taken into account, including your current income, other insurance policies, savings and investments, possible college and other future expenses, your total debt, including your mortgage, as well as the number of individuals who are financially dependent on you. It is important to establish a secure safety net, as well as provide financial stability during the transition period after your death, particularly if you are the primary breadwinner, and your spouse is the main caregiver for your children but will need to return to the workforce.

We Can Help

It is important to check with an experienced Madison Estate Planning Attorney, as well as your financial advisor, to make sure that you have covered all the bases when it comes to life insurance policies and beneficiary designations. We can help you decide how to best protect your loved ones if you pass away by carefully considering who you should name as your beneficiaries, including whether it would be advantageous for a trust to be the primary beneficiary, and how much insurance to acquire. If you already have a life insurance policy, we can also provide guidance as you review and update your beneficiary designations. We look forward to helping you gain peace of mind by ensuring the financial security of your family.


Blog Categories

401(k)

AB Trust

ABLE Program

Abuse

Addiction

Adult Beneficiaries

Advancement of share

Agent

Aging

Alcohol abuse

Amendment of Trust

Annual exclusion

Annuity

Armed Service Personnel

Asset Protection

Attorney

Avoid Probate

Basis

Beneficiary

Beneficiary Designations

Birth

Business Succession

Buy-Sell Agreement

Capacity

Caregiver

Celebrity

Changes in life

Changes in tax law

Charitable Planning

Children

Cognitive Impairment

Community Property

Compensation

Conservatorship

Core Values

Corporate Trustee

Court

Creditor Protection

Creditors

Death

Debts

Decanting

Deed

Digital Estate Planning

Discretionary Trusts

Disinherit

Divorce

Divorce Protection

Documents

Driving

Drug abuse

Duress

Dynasty Trust

Dysfunctional Family

Education

Elder Law

Equal Division

Estate Planning

Executor

Fair Division

Family

Farming and Ranching

Fees

Fiduciary

Financial Power of Attorney

Flexibility

Fraud

Funding Your Trust

Funeral

Generational Planning

Gifting

Government Assistance

Grandchildren

GSST

Guardian

Guardianship

Health Care

Health Care Agent/Proxy

Health Savings Account

Heirlooms

Heirs

HIPAA

Holographic Will

House

Incapacity

Income Tax

Inheritance

Instruction

Insurance

Intent Letters

Internet

Inter-vivos Trusts

Intestacy

Inventory

IRA

Irrevocable Trusts

Joint Tenancy

Keepsakes

Kids

Law Firm

Lawsuits

Liability

Liability Insurance

Life Estate

Life Events

Life Insurance

Lifetime Planning

Lifetime QTIP

Lifetime QTIP Trust

Limited Liability Company

Living Probate

Living Trust

Living Will

LLC

Loans

Long-Term Care

Lottery Winnings

Marital Property

Marraige

Medicaid Planning

Meeting

Mental Illness

Minor Children

Money

Moving to/from a State

Myths

Newlyweds

NEWSLETTERS

Nursing Home

Oral Wills

Overseas Estate Planning

Parents

Partners

Payable on Death (POD)

Peace of Mind

Personal Property

Personal Representative

Pets

Physicians

Planning

Portibility

Power of Appointment

Power of Attorney

Predator Protection

Predators

Prenuptual Agreements

Privacy

Probate

Procrastination

Promises

Property

QTIP Trust

Remarraige

Rental Property

Restatement of Trust

Retirement Assets

Review

Revocable Trusts

Saving Money

Simultaneous Death

Special Needs Trusts

Spendthrift Tust

Spouse

Stand Alone Retirement Trust (SRT)

Storage of Documents

Storing Documents

Stress

Successor Trustee

Surgery

Tangible Personal Property Memorandum

Taxes

Testamentary Trusts

Theft

Timeshare

Title

Transfer of Assets

Transfer on Death (TOD)

Trust Administration

Trust Contest

Trust Funding

Trust Protector

Trustee

Trusts

Umbrella Insurance

Unborn Children

Unfinished Estate Plan

Update Planning

Vacation Poperty

Values

Will

Will Contests

Wishes

Year End Strategies

Young Families

Archived Posts

2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
Being Deployed? Here’s What You Need to Do
The Only Constant in Life is Change: When Circumstances Change, So Should Your Estate Plan
Beyond Wills and Trusts: 3 Documents Everyone Needs
Reconsider Outright Inheritances: How to Protect Your Heirs and Your Legacy from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Expand Your Cast to Prevent Chaos
Planning for Blended Families: Second or Later Marriages and Divorce of Beneficiaries
The Flexible Protection of Trust-Based Planning
Why “I Love You” Wills Really Don’t Say “I Love You”
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Your Guide to Better Incapacity Protection in Your Estate Plan
Are You Familiar With Community Property Trusts?: Learn How These Special Trusts Can Help Reduce Income Taxes
Modernizing an Outdated Estate Plan: What to do with a Confusing, Old Trust
Have You Considered a Dynasty Trust for Your Family’s Estate? Why You Should Think Twice Before Ruling One Out
What if you don’t die?: Why Ignoring the Importance of Incapacity Planning Can Have Serious Consequences
Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today: Why It’s Time to Talk with Your Family and Your Estate Planning Attorney
Who Will Inherit Your Financial Wisdom?: Passing on More Than Just Wealth
How Tax Reform Will Impact You and Your Estate Planning
Will My Debt Outlive Me?: Your Questions About Debt After Death Answered
Planning Your Summer Vacation?: 5 Things to Consider Now
Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan
12 Crucial Insights for Protecting Your Furry Family Members
Does Your Family Know About Your Estate Plan?: A Guide for How Much to Share and With Whom
Planning for the Financial Future of a Troubled Adult Child: Your 3-Step Guide to Creating an Informed Estate Plan
Keeping the Peace After You Are Gone: Planning With an Aim Towards Building Unity
Have You Taken Advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Planning Window?: Important Estate Planning Tips You Should Act on Now
Back-To-School Preparation: Not Just About the School Supplies- Use This Time to Revisit The Parts of Your Estate Plan That Impact Your Children Most
What Do the New 199A Regulations Mean for You?: New Choices and Opportunities for Tax Savings
Three Legal Strategies When Facing a Major Health Event: What You and Your Family Need to Know
How to Protect Your Retirement Account
2018 Midterm Elections: What Do They Mean For Your Estate Plan?: Strategic Planning Guidance in Light of the Midterm Results
Estate Planning Projects to Tackle in the New Year
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians You Can Use Too
June
3 Estate Planning Secrets the Wealthy Use That You Can Too!: Strategies to Enhance Your Success
Five Key Considerations for Your Estate Plan
Your Personal Property Memorandum: 4 Tips for Success
How to Coordinate Your Retirement and Estate Plans
How to Avoid a Disastrous Will or Trust Contest
Is Your Estate Plan Probate-Proof?
Want a Greater Sense of Purpose? Plan Your Legacy
What is Asset Protection and Do I Need It?
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan Is Set Up to Fail
Your Vacation Checklist
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Estate Planning Is Not Just About Money
Is Your Estate Plan Unfinished? Don’t Wait to Complete This Important Process!
When Equal Is Not Necessarily Fair
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
One Year After the Historic 2016 Election: Strategic Estate Planning in Uncertain Times
Funding Your Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
The Harmonious Family that Won't Fight
3 Asset Protection Tips You Can Use Now
Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners
Estate Planning is More Than Just Death Planning
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters
What to Bring to Your First Meeting with the Estate Planning Attorney
April
March
February
January
2018
September
August
July
Not Married? You’re not alone - but you still need a plan. Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes
Are Your Documents Following the Same Script? Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning
A Trust for Fluffy or Fido? Why Every Pet Parent Needs to Consider a Pet Trust Today
Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform...Still a good idea? What are the implications for your family if you don’t spend all the money?
Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business
Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family: Why You Need to Think Before You Sign
The One Thing Every New Grandparent MUST Do As Soon as Possible
How to Fix 5 Common Estate Planning Problems
How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children
Financial Planning. Tax Planning. Legacy Planning. Estate Planning - How many plans do I need?!
Why Not Just Go on NoloⓇ and Create Your Own Estate Planning Documents Cheaply?
3 Things You Must Do Once Your Divorce Is Final
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Finding the Right Fit: Questions For Prospective Wills and Trusts Attorneys
The Biggest Threat to Successful Estate Planning
Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation
Joint Tenancy Pitfalls: The ‘Simple’ Fix that Can Leave Your Family Broke
One Call You Must Make After You Buy a Home-That You’ve Probably Forgotten
3 Tips For Every New Homeowner
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
What To Do With Your Beloved Collection
Legal Considerations When Getting Your New College Student Ready to Go
Digital Afterlife- An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account
How an Estate Planning Letter of Intent Can Help Your Family
Kids and Investors Are Not the Only Options
Retirement Planning for Business Owners
Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden - Why Incapacity Planning for Business Owners is an Indispensable Component of Your Plan
March
February
2017
September
August
July
May
April
Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Inherited IRAs are Not Protected from Creditors
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians Anyone Can Use
Three Estate Planning Mistakes Farmers and Ranchers Make and How to Avoid Them
The Wrong Successor Trustee Can Derail Your Final Wishes
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
The Tragic Loss of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin: Lessons for Estate and Legacy Planning
The Three-Year Review and The Three-Year Plan
The Shocking Truth About Asset Protection Planning
The Pros and Cons of Probate
The Perils of Promises...Marlon Brando’s Story
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The IRS Took Half of Tony Soprano’s Estate: Don’t Fall into the Same Trap!
The Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning
Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S.
Stress Test Your Estate Plan
Sonny Bono’s Procrastination in Creating a Will Led to Years of Estate Battles
Skyrocketing Probate Fees – Another Reason to Avoid Probate Court
Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?
Prince’s Sad and Incredibly Expensive Mistake! (Are You Making It, Too?)
3 Powers to Consider Giving to a Trust Protector
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will: 3 Critical Mistakes
Parental Warning: If You Own Your Property this Way, You May Accidentally Disinherit Your Own Children
Over 70% of Elvis Presley’s Estate Paid in Taxes & Fees: How Can You Avoid the Same Trap?
Nosey Neighbor Nellie Can Find Out About Your Probate. Really.
Michael Jackson’s Estate Pulled into Seemingly Endless Probate Court Battles
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
Is Your Estate Plan as Stale as Last Week’s Ham Sandwich? 5 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan
March
Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?
Is a Payable on Death Account Right for You and Your Family?
Irrevocable Trust Decanting in 4 Steps
IRS Announcement: Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request
Investment, Insurance, Annuity, and Retirement Planning Considerations
If You Die Without a Will, Does Your Spouse Inherit Your Entire Estate?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
How to Minimize the (Voluntary) Federal Estate Tax with Portability
How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death
HELP! This Probate Is Taking Forever!!!
Four Steps to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person
Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently ABLE Act
Flo Jo’s Tragic Mistake: A Missing Will
5 Reasons Why Uncle Bill May Not Make a Good Trustee
Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse
5 Reasons to Embrace Estate Planning
Estate Planning: 3 Reasons We Run the Other Way
Estate Planning Basics for Newlyweds – How to Get Prepared for the Unexpected
Escape From a Bad Trust: 5 Strong Reasons to Decant Your Trust
Doris Duke’s Trustee Bilked Estate for $1M: How Well Do You Know Yours?
Don’t Leave Your Trust Unguarded: 6 Key Ways a Trust Protector Can Help You
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Who’s Going to Get It: Do You Really Know the Beneficiaries of Your Dynasty Trust?
Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries From Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Did you include your grandkids in your will? 5 Tips to Avoid Common Problems
Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?
Dennis Hopper Saves Heirs with Last Minute Estate Plan Changes
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Avoiding Guardianship When you are Incapacitated
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Who Should I Choose as a Successor Trustee
Celebrities Who Failed To Recognize Unborn Children in Their Wills: A Teachable Lesson
February
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan is Set Up to Fail
How to Choose a Trustee
Name a Guardian for Your Child
Caution: Creditors Now Have Easy Access to Inherited IRAs
Big Bang Theory Star’s “Ironclad” Prenup Challenged: How Does Yours Compare?
Will Your Family Be Able to Find Your Original Last Will?
Ways to Avoid Court Proceedings
Are Handwritten Intentions Enforceable? Princess Diana Thought So…
An Estate Planning Checklist to Facilitate Wealth Transfer
Aging.gov: A New Resource for Older Americans and Their Families
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation
10 Types of Trusts: A Quick Look
5 Tragic Mistakes People Make When Leaving Assets to Their Pets
5 Things Every New Mother Needs to Know About Wills
New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes What This Means for You and Your Family
5 Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now
5 Mistakes Made by Successor Trustees (and How to Prevent Them)
5 Good Reasons to Decant a Trust
3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Fees
3 Tips for Overwhelmed Executors
3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs
3 Reasons You Want to Avoid Probate
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment
Will Your Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate? It Depends.
Why Your Estate Planning Project Must Morph into a Process
Estate Planning Tips for Commitment Without Marraige
3 Celebrity Probate Disasters and Tragic Lessons
3 Examples of When an Irrevocable Trust Can – and Should – Be Modified
January
2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
2013
2012


Nennig Law Offices, LLC assists clients in Madison, WI and throughout Southern Wisconsin including Verona, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains,Sauk City, Belleville, Waunakee, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Black Earth, DeForest,Monona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cambridge, Deerfield and Fitchburg.



© 2019 Nennig Law Offices, LLC
6418 Normandy Ln, Ste 225, Madison, WI 53719
| Phone: 608-661-4333

Estate Planning | Asset Protection | Business Succession Planning | Special Needs Planning | Planning for Children | Advanced Estate Planning | Probate & Estate Administration | Estate Planning for High Net Worth Individuals | Estate Planning with Wills | Trusts & Estate Planning | Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families | Estate Tax Planning | Estate Litigation | Guardianships | Pet Trusts | Who We Are | Becoming A Client

Attorney Website Design By
Zola Creative