For most of us, buying a life insurance policy is a simple concept. We decide how much coverage we need, apply for the policy and name a beneficiary, who will receive the face amount when we die. But what if you have strange or unusual circumstances as to who the insured person is but someone else is paying for the policy?
There are three "people" involved in the purchase, not counting the agent of course. They are as follows:
1. The insured. This is the person whose life is being insured. When they die the policy pays out. The insured is the one who may have to go through a paramed exam, along with their medical records being looked at by the insurance company's underwriter.
2. The beneficiary. This is the person who, as mentioned previously, receives the money at the time of the insured's death. You can name more than one beneficiary and the money will be divided by percentages. For example, Bill may get 40%, Joe may get 20% and Mary, who is obviously the favorite, will get 60%.
It's important to keep your beneficiaries up to date. If you need to change a beneficiary, it is usually a simple process of calling the insurance company and having them send you a form. It can be done at any time.
3. The payor/owner. These payor and owner are usually the same person, and in the vast majority of cases, the payor is the insured as well. However, on certain occasions, the owner may be a third party, like an employer. In these cases, the employer may offer to buy a policy on an employee as a perk with the employee's family as the beneficiary.
Another example is when a parent takes out a policy on a small child. The parent is the owner, but when the child grows up and is a responsible adult, the parent can transfer ownership of the policy to the adult child, who now can pay the bill each month and change the beneficiary to their spouse or children.
As you can see, the owner of the policy is in control of the policy. This allows them to make decisions with the cash value if the life insurance is a permanent policy, like whole life or universal life.
A few years ago I was working with a client who wanted to take out a policy on himself and leave the money to his church. Knowing that this was a version of a charitable donation, he thought he could just write off the premiums, but after doing a bit of research, we found out that the IRS frowned on this practice.
We found a workaround, though, by changing the ownership of the policy to the church, with the client as the insured. The bill for the annual premium would go to the church, who would contact the client. The client would cut a check for the amount of the premium as a "donation" to the church, which the church would use to remit the premium payment. The insured could then deduct the donation as a gift. Everyone was happy.
Knowing who is the insured, owner and beneficiary of your life insurance policy is important and, as you can see, they can move around from time to time. If you have questions, drop us a note in the comments section. In the meantime, stay healthy!
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life, disability, long term care, cancer, accident and other insurance coverages in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog!