Life Insurance Policy Review & Monitoring
A life insurance policy review is strongly recommended every two years. For many life insurance buyers, an objective and impartial advocate always proves to be invaluable. For individuals, families or businesses, you can navigate the life insurance world with the comfort of an impartial professional. Transparency and disclosure is the cornerstone of our practice.
For institutional owners of life insurance policies or individual trustees of trust owned policies, life insurance is an asset that must be regularly monitored by the policy owner. The owner is a fiduciary and is therefore responsible for the policy and for keeping it in good standing as any other asset for which they have this responsibility. When revocable or irrevocable trusts are owners of life insurance, we recommend that the policy or policies be reviewed on a regular basis by the Trustee. If the review is out-sourced to a professional, we suggest these reviews be done on a fee basis to ensure objectivity.
Long before other professionals began working in this area, we recognized the value of an unbiased, fee-based option to give trustees and owners the proper level of due diligence assurance and fiduciary compliance that comes with being trustee.
I began offering a life insurance policy review service to law firms, CPA firms and Trust companies, reviewing more than 2000 Trust Owned Life Insurance Policies (TOLI) on a fee basis.
The life insurance industry is in a constant state of change making life insurance a complex financial asset. Many types of policies and their components are insufficiently understood by the policy owner. Having an objective professional who is contractually prohibited from selling products is wise trust management.
FREE OR FEE? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) should be treated as a “buy and manage” asset. Too often, life insurance agents offer only the buy function and not the manage function as this is typically not part of their standard discipline. Every Trustee and Owner of a life insurance policy must ask themselves this question: “Is there a difference in the value of a life insurance policy review done on a fee basis versus a free review?” Is the review being done by a sales agent as a way to create selling opportunities? The goal for policy owners is to develop a review and monitoring model based on best practices versus predatory practices. When the owner is in a fiduciary capacity, the review process should be done on a fee basis to ensure impartiality.
THE LIFE INSURANCE POLICY REVIEW – CHANGE CREATES RISK FOR OWNERS HELD TO A FIDUCIARY STANDARD.
- Life Expectancy has lengthened.
- Insurance companies have introduced innovative new products and pricing techniques that reduce premiums and improve policy performance. For example, indexed universal life is policy type that did not exist 20 years ago.
- Interest and dividend crediting rates change. These crediting rates are directly tied to the rate of return in the policy.
- Market conditions have changed which can affect policies tied to the markets.
- Planning goals of the policy owner may have changed. Evaluation of current goals and needs is an essential part of the life insurance policy review process.
- New products have emerged, often making previous product selections less desirable in light of new options.
- Federal Estate and Gift Tax laws have changed which can eliminate the need for a trust to hold this asset.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A LIFE INSURANCE POLICY REVIEW?
- Update original goals and objectives, including a policy summary.
- Location of original policy and all amendments.
- Confirm current contact information for owners, trustees, etc.
- A review of policy structure, ownership, beneficiaries, payment methods, etc.
- Assessment of possible underwriting class improvements.
- An evaluation of the effect of changes in interest rates/sub-account performance, increase in cost of insurance, or any combination thereof. Updated carrier ratings provided from national rating agencies.
- An objective evaluation on whether there is a more cost effective and reliable way to meet client expectations.
- Context Analysis –is the policy still suitable for the current estate plan, as circumstances are constantly changing in clients’ lives as well as applicable tax law.
- Premium Funding Analysis – Many policies may lapse due to poor policy performance, leaving a sizeable premium increase. Current projections should be obtained to view the policy under different conditions.
- Stress Test – Worst case scenarios should be analyzed.
- Market Comparison – It is important to assess whether there are savings and other benefits available to the client should they choose to switch to a new carrier.
- Secondary Market Analysis – If it is determined that a policy is no longer needed or wanted, rather than lapsing or surrendering the policy, does it make sense to settle the policy?