What You Need to Know
- Ed Slott and Wade Pfau provide their view of life insurance and annuities as part of a portfolio.
- Life insurance is the most flexible and tax-efficient asset to leave to a trust, Slott says.
- Advisors should look at the client's lifestyle when choosing an annuity.
What is better for retirement and estate planning: life insurance or annuities?
In a recent webinar by The American College of Financial Services, moderator Steve Parrish, adjunct professor of advanced planning, asked this question of Ed Slott, CPA and head of Ed Slott & Co., and Wade Pfau, professor of retirement income at the college. Here is an excerpt of their answers:
STEVE PARRISH: Ed, as we go into 2022, has the recent increase in premiums for life insurance and the tougher underwriting standards affected your opinion or is [life insurance] still a great RMD alternative?
ED SLOTT: Obviously, price is something to be evaluated, but remember for planners, you have to look at the long-term, big picture — not what it costs now, but what you can provide to a family. When I say long term, not just for retirement, but beyond the estate plan: The plan for the beneficiaries — those are your new clients.
Obviously, there are costs in anything upfront, but even with the higher premiums in general, I’ve always been a life insurance fan because I look at the long term. …
Now with the Secure Act, all Congress did was shoot themselves in the foot by eliminating the stretch IRA. They downgraded IRAs for wealth transfer and estate planning vehicles and upgraded things like life insurance. … All they did is incentivize us to do the better planning we should have been doing all along.
But somebody said an IRA trust probably won’t work anymore after the Secure Act. That’s true, because most of them will be subject to this 10-year rule. And the existing trusts have to be looked at because under the 10-year rule, there are no more [required minimum distributions] after death. It’s just one big RMD.
Well, if that all gets dropped into the trust at the end of the 10 years, you could have the exact opposite of what the client intended: post-death control and low taxes for their beneficiaries. Now you have $5 million being paid out at the end of the 10 years.
Life insurance is a great alternative to that. [It’s a] better option, similar to the Roth conversion, to take down that growing IRA, pay some of the tax now at low rates and use it, if the client wants that post-death control, to purchase life insurance and leave [that] to the trust.
Life insurance is the most flexible and tax-efficient asset to leave to a trust. You don’t have those tricky RMD rules. You don’t have all these tricky and very complex IRA trust rules.