The federal tax legislation recently signed by President Bush means sweeping changes for income, gift, estate, capital gains and generation-skipping taxes for millions of Americans.
Many of these tax changes are being enacted over a period of years and, in the case of the federal estate tax, will be repealed for a year and then re-enacted. This has created a great deal of uncertainty about the ultimate effect of these changes on anyone planning his or her personal finances. Of course, uncertainty often leads to procrastination and delays by your clients in implementing their wealth accumulation, preservation and distribution strategies–delays that can be extremely hazardous to their financial health.
The new tax package, taken together, affects the three phases of everyones economic life: asset accumulation, asset preservation and asset distribution. Yet you can insulate your clients from adverse effects of these changes and potentially others in the future through thoughtful planning and the use of permanent life insurance.
Asset Depletion vs. Asset Accumulation
Despite the new tax cut, the payment of federal income taxes (10% to 35%) and state income taxes (up to 15%), or in some cases, state and federal capital gains taxes (up to 27%), can shrink your clients assets significantly. These same income tax consequences even apply to the death-time transfers of such assets as annuities, IRAs, pension plans, deferred compensation benefits, vested stock options and installment sales receipts (IRC Section 691). Also, heirs and beneficiaries who inherit appreciated assets may one day face capital gains taxation should the new law repealing estate taxes in 2010 remain on the books.
Effective asset accumulation planning today can preclude these potential lifetime and death-time losses tomorrow. One of the most effective financial tools to accomplish the dual financial goals of wealth preservation and asset accumulation is variable life insurance.
VL insurance can provide the ultimate in income protection and planning flexibility to compensate for the uncertainty of change, such as the shifting and uncertain tax environment we find ourselves in today. Life insurance is truly an asset planning technique for all seasons, a technique that can insulate a financial plan from tax law, regardless of the form that such law may take.
And, lest we forget, change has always been an inherent characteristic of tax law. The estate tax, for example, has been enacted four times since 1797, repealed three times, and undergone major reform at least nine times.
Asset Confiscation vs. Asset Preservation/Replacement
Regardless of tax changes, financial assets can be lost or depleted through other life events such as litigation, divorce, creditor attachments, nursing home expenses, and bankruptcies. Consider these statistics:
–Over 13 million civil lawsuits are filed each year in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.
–One out of every two marriages ends in divorce.
–One out of three persons older than 65 may spend some time in a nursing home, according to the Alberquerque Journal.
–Only 30% of family-owned businesses survive liquidation and are successfully transferred to a second generation and only 12% survive to a third generation, according to Estate Planning magazine.
Business and personal assets can be insulated from each of these adverse occurrences through the implementation of a cost- and tax-effective life insurance asset preservation and replacement plan that incorporates a properly designed, flexible trust instrument.
Innumerable tools exist to accomplish a wide range of personal financial objectives: spendthrift trusts, business continuation plans, family dynasty trusts, special needs trusts, family limited partnerships, shared ownership life insurance, and others. Flexibility can be an inherent characteristic of each of these planning methods to compensate for future change in either personal and family circumstances or changes in tax laws.
Failed vs. Successful Asset Distribution Planning
Disability, premature death, legal incapacity, intestacy, and the contesting of a last will and testament can all cause an intended asset distribution plan to fail. Those who fail to plan for such unforeseen circumstances may ultimately be designing a plan with a fatal Achilles’ heel.
Successful asset distribution plans can ensure that the right assets go to the right beneficiaries at the right time and in the right amount. Effective planning today with properly designed and funded trust instruments and Family Limited Partnerships can help guarantee that distribution objectives will be accomplished.
A failure to plan today may result in a plan to fail tomorrow. A failure to insulate one’s asset accumulation plan, asset preservation/replacement strategy and asset distribution directives from future tax law changes may be detrimental to the financial health of both your clients and their family members.
Life insurance provides your clients with a tax-advantage with both the flexibility and permanence needed for the successful attainment of financial planning objectives. It could also help your clients weather any financial storms brewing on the estate tax horizon.
John S. Budihas, CLU, ChFC, CFP, is a business, estate and trust planning consultant for Hartford Life in Sarasota, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 3, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.