Financial Planning for November 2002

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Fee-only Life Insurance Advisers... Check Them Out!
Life insurance comes in a bewildering array of choices. For a lot of people, simple term coverage will suffice: It’s cheap, and you buy it only when you really need it (until the kids are out of college).

But if you are prosperous (assets in seven figures) and concerned about estate taxes, it could make sense to buy a whole life policy or permanent life. It builds up a cash value that can go to you in retirement or to your heirs at your death. Properly structured, the policy will pay out a death benefit that escapes both estate tax and income tax. The tax benefits are sometimes enough to overcome the considerable overhead costs (salesmen’s commissions, etc.) of passing on wealth in this fashion.

Should you have the time and the willpower to school yourself in the vast arena of insurance products, you can make the decisions yourself. Insurance agents are eager to help you even if you don’t need so much. While the world is full of honorable agents, remember they typically pocket your first year’s premium, so the bigger the policy they sell you, the better for them.

That’s why fee-only insurance advisers exist. These advisers are working for you; they don’t sell policies and thus receive no commissions. With most charging around $250 per hour, they configure policies to suit your particular needs and steer you to low cost insurers like Ameritas Life or TIAA-CREF, which eliminates commissions. For complex estate planning, it is smart to have the adviser work with your attorney, CPA and financial planner.

It could be very beneficial to take a look at all the complexities of insurance within the bigger picture of estate planning. An adviser and your CPA can definitely help sort it out. Insurance is expensive, so you should look at all aspects of your financial picture first.


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