How Life Insurance Can Fund Your Charitable Legacy

Compliments of Our Law Firm,
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys

May people might think it is beyond their means to leave a testamentary charitable gift (a gift made after you die) and would be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be wealthy to leave behind a substantial charitable legacy. One way to accomplish this is with an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT). All you need is enough income to set aside a little extra money each month. The great news about this approach is that it comes with estate and income tax benefits.

The process begins when you establish an ILIT – an Irrevocable Trust designed for the management of a life insurance policy. You designate your chosen charity as beneficiary of the Trust, and you fund the Trust in one of two ways:

  • By transferring an existing life insurance policy to the Trust; or
  • By transferring money to the Trust so the Trustee can purchase a new life insurance policy

The Trustee manages the Trust, using funds you transfer to the Trust to pay policy premiums. When you die, the charity you have designated as a beneficiary receives the policy’s death benefit.

The tax consequences vary, based on how you choose to fund the trust.

Existing Life Insurance Policy

When you use an ILIT to purchase a new life insurance policy, there is no three-year rule – that policy’s death benefit is never treated as part of your estate for tax purposes.

Whether you transfer an existing insurance policy or you use the Trust to buy a new policy, you receive a charitable deduction for the funds you transfer to the ILIT to maintain the premiums.

Contributing to your favorite charity while gaining tax benefits is a great estate planning strategy. Whether an ILIT is the best way for you to accomplish this depends on your particular circumstances. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you evaluate the options available to you and choose the best course of action.


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