The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has previously discussed the need for estate planning documents including a Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Living Will and Power of Attorney. Life Insurance can also provide a valuable estate planning tool. In its most fundamental function, life insurance can add a tremendous amount of liquidity and value to an estate. The payment upon death of a life insurance policy with a cash value of say $500,000.00 most certainly would provide an immediate benefit to the named beneficiaries.
Life insurance products can be complex and can take various forms such as term life, whole life or universal life. Before purchasing life insurance, a person should fully research and understand the different aspects of each product and obtain advise from professionals including insurance brokers, attorneys and financial advisors.
Additionally, the selection and designation of the insurance beneficiaries must be considered and made so that the life insurance proceeds are paid in a manner that is part of an overall estate plan. Very often people take out life insurance and either forget to name beneficiaries or beneficiaries who were named are no longer alive or perhaps are no longer intended by the policy owner to be the preferred recipients.
While life insurance can provide a huge benefit upon a person’s death, there are also a number of potential advantages that arise during a person’s life. One very interesting advantage is that a policyholder may sell their interest in the policy to another during their life. The investor essentially pays a fee to the owner and invests in the prospect that the person whose life is insured will die sooner rather than later. The insurance proceeds are paid to the investor. This arrangement is called “Stranger-owned life insurance” (“SOLI” or “STOLI”) and was recently found not to violate New York Insurance Law by the New York State Court of Appeals in Kramer v. Phoenix Life Insurance Co., decided on November 17, 2010. Thus, a person can obtain an immediate pre-death benefit from insurance on his or her life by assigning the policy to an investor.
Jules Martin Haas, Esq., has been representing clients in Probate and Estate Administration proceedings throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a Last Will or other aspects of Probate or Estate Administration, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.