Some Pointers On Using Variable Universal Life In SERPs
The flexibility of variable universal life insurance results in its use in many marketing applications, one of them being use in supplemental executive retirement plans.
As you may recall, in a SERP, the client heavily funds the policy during the pre-retirement years to maximize a level lifetime income during the post-retirement period. The heavy funding minimizes cost of insurance charges, enabling greater accumulation to occur.
Following are some ideas about how to structure such plans to achieve maximum benefit for your client.
First, consider using the Option 2 death benefit during the accumulation phase of the product. (Note: Under Option 2, the death benefit equals the sum of the specified amount and the account value.)
Here is the advantage to this approach: In most cases, the death benefit under Option 2 allows for the highest possible premium funding during the accumulation period.
Granted, the death benefits are higher than they would be with an Option 1 (level) death benefit plan; but the net result of using Option 2 is the greatest possible cash value buildup.
Next, when the policyholder reaches retirement age, suggest switching the VULs death benefit option to Option 1. This will minimize future COI charges. Once that is done, your client can start taking distributions.
Finally, bone up on how to handle those distributions. In the post-retirement years, these are usually handled as partial withdrawals to basis and as policy loans thereafter.
Assuming the VUL is not a modified endowment contract (under Section 7702A of the Internal Revenue Code), none of these payments would be subject to federal income tax under current tax law.
However, if the contract terminates prior to the insureds death, the full gain in the policy would be taxable. The insured would receive the gross cash value less the outstanding indebtedness.
Such situations are one of the greatest concerns to marketers. Here is why:
Since each income payment after a certain point is borrowed, the net cash value could well be a small portion of the cash value. The tax bill could thus be well in excess of the insurance policy proceeds. In fact, it is entirely possible there would be no net proceeds at all. In a VUL where there are no underlying guaranteed accumulations, the likelihood of such occurrences is even greater.
Therefore, it would be best to encourage your client to avoid such situations.
The condition that will most likely cause the policy to terminate is the policy loan reaching its maximum. Most VULs provide for a maximum ratio of loaned cash value to total cash value–say, 90%. When this ratio is exceeded, the VUL goes into a grace period, and will lapse unless the ratio is reduced to below the maximum.