Expert Insights for Smart Financial Planning
Gifting a Life Insurance Policy to a Charity
Earlier this year, Grace who is a recent widow and longtime client, found herself questioning the need of an old whole life policy. The policy had cash value of $100,000 and a death benefit of $220,000. With the passing of her husband and her two grown children financially independent, she wondered if she still needed the policy.
Should she cash it in? Leave it to her kids?
Since Grace was secure in her financial independence, and wanted to give more to charity, an option that was appealing to her both financially and philanthropically was donating the policy to her favorite charity, her local library association.
Though gifting a life insurance policy to a qualified charity is nothing new, it is often overlooked. The advantages are several, first being the leverage or ability to magnify a gift.
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Grace paid annual premiums totaling $80,000. However, what the charity will receive — the $220,000 death benefit — is almost three times what she contributed, a substantial increase and terrific use of leverage.
In addition to the leverage, there are tax benefits. Namely, once the insurance policy is irrevocably assigned to the charity, Grace receives a current income tax deduction. If Grace continues to pay the premiums via gifts to the charity, these premiums are tax deductible. Limitations will apply, so it is best to consult with an accountant or financial planner.
Finally, the death benefit is removed from Grace’s estate, and the premiums — if she continues to fund — may help keep her estate under the estate tax thresholds, so long as she dies three or more years after gifting the policy to the charity.
All in all, options abound for gifting to a charity, and one should be careful to fully analyze these options. Had Grace had a significant IRA or appreciated stocks she wanted to sell, perhaps these would have made better gifts to the charity and she could instead leave the life insurance to the kids outright or in trust.
However, under the right circumstances, namely because of the leverage mentioned earlier, donating a life insurance policy can be a great way to magnify a gift to a qualified charity.
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