Did you know you can use life insurance to make charitable donations? Millions of Americans make donations of cash and property to the charities of their choice each year. However, many donors are left wishing that they could do more for the charities that they love and support. Life insurance can be an effective and convenient asset to give. There are various methods for making life insurance donations; each method has unique advantages.
Using Life Insurance to Make Charitable Donations – THE KEY TAKEAWAYS :
- Life insurance can be an effective and convenient asset to give to a charity of your choice.
- There are various methods for making life insurance donations and each has unique advantages.
- Charitable giving riders pay a specific percentage of the policy’s face value to a qualified charity of the policyholder’s choice.
- Gifting a life insurance policy can cut the donor’s taxable estate.
- Naming the charity of your choice as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy is the simplest way to provide a charity with the death benefit proceeds from a policy.
Charitable Giving Riders on Life Insurance:
Charitable giving riders are just one type of rider that is available in modern life insurance policies. For example, these riders, which can be attached to policies, pay a specific percentage of the policy’s face value to a qualified charity of the policyholder’s choice, although sometimes there are limitations placed on the maximum allowable gift amount.
These riders usually come at no additional cost and often do not reduce the cash value or the death benefit of the policy. These riders effectively eliminate the need to create, pay for, and administrate separate gift trusts until the death of the insured.
Once the rider has been added, no further action is needed by the policyholder. These riders do have a few limitations, including the high amount of protection that must be purchased to use them.
Any charity chosen must be a qualified 501(c)(3) charity that meets the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) definition of a nonprofit organization. Make sure the charity you wish to support will accept your life insurance policy. Some types of policies, such as term policies, are shunned by these organizations.
Although this strategy is a bit more involved than merely purchasing a charitable gift rider, policy donations also provide a much greater benefit to the donor and the charity. Gifting a life insurance policy can greatly reduce the donor’s taxable estate, which can save thousands of dollars in estate taxes for upper-income taxpayers.
Perhaps most importantly, the charity will receive the entire face amount of the policy upon the death of the insured. This is usually going to be much more than they would receive from any rider, and it can represent a substantial windfall. The cost to the donor is the premium paid on the policy, and any premiums paid after the date of the gift will be deductible as well.
There is also no limit on the size of the policy that may be donated (since charitable donations have no ceiling for estate tax purposes). This strategy does not impede the donor’s current investment strategy and can provide a useful way to dispose of an unwanted policy originally purchased to cover a need that no longer exists.
Important: Donors should consider the use of charitable riders on their cash value insurance policies to provide at least a small gift if possible.
Naming a Charity as Beneficiary:
Naming the charity of your choice as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy is the simplest way to provide a charity with the death benefit proceeds from a policy. It doesn’t offer the income tax advantages that come with gifting a policy, but it still reduces the donor’s estate by the amount of the death benefit.
Donors who aren’t completely sure how they want to distribute their assets after death can list a charity as a revocable beneficiary. This gives them flexibility in case their financial situation changes. If the donor chooses to stop paying the premiums, the charitable organization can choose to continue the process or allow the policy to lapse.
Naming a charity as a beneficiary also ensures the privacy of the transaction, which can be important for donors who wish to keep their gifting intentions secret from their families or other heirs. A transfer of assets from an insurance contract cannot be contested, making it impossible for anyone to stop the donation from occurring.
Gifting Policy Dividends:
Although gifting policy dividends will not provide the same amount of benefit to a charity as the other strategies discussed, it is possible for policyholders to receive the dividends paid to their life insurance policies in cash and donate them to charity. The dividends donated are deductible in the same manner as premiums paid on a gifted policy, and this strategy does not require any additional cash outlay from the donor.
Why Choose to Donate Life Insurance?
A donation of insurance may be a greater benefit to the donor and the charity than a cash gift. It may reduce the donor’s taxable estate, saving estate taxes for upper-income taxpayers. The charity will receive the entire face amount of the policy upon the death of the insured. It can represent a substantial windfall. No limits exist on the size of the policy that may be donated because charitable donations have no ceiling for estate tax purposes.
What’s a Charitable Giving Rider?
These addenda to a policy pay a specific percentage of the policy’s face value to a qualified charity of the holder’s choice. At times, limitations are placed on the maximum allowable gift amount. Riders usually come at no added cost and often don’t cut the value of the death benefit. They remove the need to create, pay for, and administrate separate gift trusts until the death of the insured.
The Bottom Line:
Donors who wish to leverage their cash donations to charity can use life insurance to accomplish their goals. By either gifting a policy outright or naming a charity as beneficiary, they can provide the charity of their choice with a large sum of money and provide a lasting legacy for a cause they believe in.
Contact Asset Strategy’s Insurance Manager, Greg Killilea to learn how to reduce your tax implications now and in the future.
– or contact an an Asset Strategy Advisor to if you have any questions.
Written by Mark P. Cussen, Dec. 19, 2023.
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