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Time Bombs of Yesteryear and Today

October 16th, 2018 No comments

This past month, there was an article on the front page of a major publication about universal life (UL) insurance policies. The article included a statement that many people “… are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and most probably aren’t aware of it.”

This reminded me of another article that said, “Today, in this period of very low interest rates, many are sitting on time bombs… Yet many are unaware…” Guess when this period of very low interest rates was? 2002! How many times since then would someone have killed for a 2002 interest rate?

Effect of Lower Interest Rates

Both of these articles, separated by 16 years, attempt to warn advisors and consumers about how the lower interest rates are wreaking havoc on their life insurance policies. These pieces, and most articles in between, are focusing on UL but the same decrease in interest rates is affecting whole life (WL) policies in the same manner, sometimes with more spectacular and devastating results. Since 2002, the average decrease in dividend rates for major WL carriers is about 300 basis points and over 600 basis points since their peaks in the mid eighties. For both UL and WL, these even lower rates for a very extended period of time mean even more policies are doing worse than ever. At least the ones that haven’t already exploded.

If I asked a room of advisors in 2002 how many of them have dealt with these issues with their clients, a few, if any, hands would go up. The same talk today would result in many nodding heads and commiserating. Back then, I think many in my audience sincerely thought I was exaggerating the issue and often didn’t believe me. “After all, if what Bill is saying was true, certainly I’d have heard about it.” But if they were paying attention, they would’ve been seeing the effects and been reading about in their respective professional journals. Simply because they missed it or weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening.

Are the time bombs of 2002 and 2018 the same? Some are and some aren’t. Some of these bombs have very long fuses but many time bombs have already exploded and most of you have probably seen the effects. Premiums wasted, death benefits lost, estate and business succession plans built around life insurance destroyed, catastrophic income tax consequences in the worst cases. It’s all fund and games until someone loses a million bucks.

Detonation and Destruction

Countless bombs are still out there with fuses getting shorter by the day, including bombs that weren’t even built until after 2002. Some will blow before this piece is published. A fuse on some 60 year old might not run out until he’s 85, but if he doesn’t cooperate and die on time, the result will be the same… detonation and destruction.

Don’t let the promise of interest rate increases allow your clients to think everything will be fine. While they might ease the pressure on contracts suffering marginally, the lower rates and the lost time value of money will make even a rising interest market meaningless in most situations.

Why?

Why is this still happening? The industry won’t educate and manage, consumers won’t listen and pay attention and most advisors won’t get involved unless they are forced to. I see it over and over again. Too many advisors don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and they don’t want to jeopardize referral sources. Besides, this isn’t “their thing.” Few people want to jump into something that isn’t their thing, including me. But… if you know this is happening, do everyone a favor and find a way to bring it up. If you knew your client was driving a car with an active recall for faulty brakes or catching on fire, that’s not your thing either, but I imagine you might at least mention it when they’re in your office. If it was serious enough you’d likely pick up the phone. Last week I told a friend about a great new restaurant. Restaurants aren’t my thing, but I shared anyway.

I urge you to do yourself and your client a favor and join the bomb squad to help deactivate these bombs.

Bill Boersma is a CLU, AEP and LIC. More information can be found at www.oc-lic.com, www.BillBoersmaOnLifeInsurance.info, www.XpertLifeInsAdvice.com or email bill@oc-lic.com.

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Life Insurance Analysis: an Art or a Science

October 8th, 2018 No comments

DECK: Is it worth taking an undue risk to save a few bucks? 

Earlier this year, I was introduced to a policy owner by his estate-planning attorney regarding the evaluation of a survivor life policy on himself and his wife.  It was a $1 million 1995 universal life contract that was underfunded due to decades of decreasing crediting rates.

Fundamentally, he wanted to know how the policy was doing, what it would take to firm it up and if the recommendations he’d received three years earlier from a nationally recognized life insurance consultant were correct. For full post, click here…

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Letters Of Explanation – Policy Funding Options

September 24th, 2018 No comments

Dear Mr. Client:

It was a pleasure to speak with you last week and I appreciate the opportunity to review your life insurance policy. Per our discussion, this note is intended to be a follow up summary of our conversation. If there is any additional information you were looking for which I have forgotten to include, or if you have questions about what I have written, please do not hesitate to get back with me.

Your $1,000,000 was originally an Alexander Hamilton policy which was acquired by Jefferson Pilot and subsequently merged with Lincoln Financial. Though I do not have the original sales ledgers, the original premium of $13,750 was likely calculated to maintain the policy indefinitely given the interest crediting and expenses assumption in play at the time the policy was issued in 1995.

Since that time interest rates have come down significantly; probably 300 basis points or more. For full post, click here…

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A Life Insurance Carrier Offer Your Client Can’t Refuse?

September 18th, 2018 No comments

Last week, I was contacted by an agent with whom I’ve had a long-term relationship regarding a question from a client. The client is a gentleman who’s the surviving insured on a $1 million second-to-die policy and he’s very old. His policy has little cash value and it may or may not last as long as he will without throwing a lot more money at it. In fact, next year the policy has no cash value and it’ll lapse in four years.

What initiated the call was something the client received from the carrier. It was an “Enhanced Cash Surrender Value” opportunity. The bottom line is that the insurance carrier is offering the policy owner a chance to surrender the contract for more money than the cash surrender value and, in this case, more than the gross policy cash value. For full post, click here…

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Letters of Explanation: Donating a Policy to Charity

August 16th, 2018 No comments

Good Afternoon:

It is my pleasure to be introduced to you.  Your accountant referred you to me because of the frustrating, yet required process when donating a life insurance policy to a non-profit.  I understand it is not pleasant to hear you won’t be getting the deduction you were expecting for your policy donation to the school but the process I will bring you through will get you everything you are entitled to.

Unfortunately, your cash value is not the number the IRS looks at when taking donations into account.  To think about it in a simplistic way, they aren’t eager to let you take a deduction for something you have never paid tax on.  In other words, the special rules which allow your life insurance cash value to grow tax free is what is preventing you from fully deducting that same cash value. For full post, click here…

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Life Insurance Premium Financing

August 15th, 2018 No comments

It’s too often improperly presented, implemented and managed.

I’ll start out by saying that I’m not opposed to premium financing. I’m simply a strong advocate for making sure it’s understood and done right. That being said, many of these proposals are not understood and can be misleading.

Fundamentals of Financing

First, it’s a good idea to look back to the general fundamentals of financing. Financing comes into play when someone needs or wants to purchase an asset of something but doesn’t have the money or the liquidity to pay the entire purchase price. Financing fills this void, not to get something that’s otherwise unaffordable.

We do this day in and day out. We finance our homes, cars, businesses, equipment and more. Generally, we can afford these things but the money isn’t readily available. Additionally, we often finance things we do have the money for if the financing provides a positive arbitrage to be taken advantage of. For full post, click here…

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Letters of Explanation – Trustee Liability

July 31st, 2018 No comments

This letter is to the management of a law firm.  Multiple attorneys act as trustees for clients.  There has been no program of management regarding these policies and I was called in to suggest a plan.  I was also able to look at redacted policy information and could see at a glance that many policies are underperforming and headed towards failure.  A decision was made that the attorneys deal with it on a case by case basis as they see fit.  I see this as a grave mistake.

Dear Firm Management:

It’s been a while since we’ve talked and the last time we did you mentioned the attorneys who are acting as trustees will be deciding independently on how to proceed.

I understand this but as we discussed earlier, if things go wrong (which they have and will) and result in a lawsuit, case law has shown that an independent third party is critical to a successful defense.  I am currently involved in four litigation support and expert witness cases, some going after trustees and some defending trustees. For full post, click here…

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Letters of Explanation: Whole Life Term Blend

July 25th, 2018 No comments

This letter is to a client explaining why the term blended whole life policy on his mother is failing:

Dear Mr. Client:

Unfortunately I still do not have what I requested from XYZ Life but I was able to do some work anyway.  Also, what I requested may end up being sent directly to the policy owner, which is you as trustee, at the address of record.

You had asked about potential income tax consequences regarding this policy and I believe there would be none as it looks like the gross cash value is less than what I calculate the basis to be in the contract.  I am waiting on a formal basis and gain calc from the company. For full post, click here…

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Success Story: Another Second Opinion

July 20th, 2018 2 comments

The attorney for a billionaire family called me one day at the behest of a mutual acquaintance. The clients were looking to procure $100,000,000 of new coverage and simply wanted a second opinion.

The couple worked closely with a large bank and their advisor had brought in the bank insurance specialist. I went in with no preconceived notion as I have seen many similar situations and in some I supported the transaction and others I stopped it. success-stories-logo

In this case the existing advisors had been doing a very good job. They seemed sincere and had looked at many angles. I am not sure how excited they were that I was brought in but they had to deal with me. I quickly realized they are among the “good guys” and all I did, after understanding the goals and objectives, was to challenge a few things, brought a couple of ideas to the table and offer some opinions. In the end, what they moved forward with was substantively what they had planned before I was in the picture. For full post, click here…

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Giving Life Insurance to a Charity

June 13th, 2018 No comments

Make sure clients understand rules before taking action.

Life Insurance and associated tax issues are complicated. When you throw charity into the mix, it can get downright diabolical. It’s not as much that the rules are so complex, it’s that they don’t make sense to the typical taxpayer/donor.

Recently, I had another call about appraising a life insurance policy donated to charity. The one thing these calls have in common is that the policy in question was donated a number of months ago and only well after the fact did the policy owner understand the “special rules.” Very few people understand the tax and deduction rules before they make the gift. This also leads me to believe that whomever the donor is dealing with at the nonprofit in question doesn’t really know the rules either. For full post, click here…

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