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When Life Insurance Becomes Taxable

According to the most recent estimates from the US Census Bureau, the population of people over the age of 55 grew twenty times faster than the population of people younger than 55 between 2010 and 2020. The fastest growing age group was people between the ages of 65 and 74, who experienced a nearly 50% increase in growth in those ten years.1

Living this long may have unexpected tax consequences. Here’s why.

Many older life insurance policies mature at a specific age, typically 95 or 100. If the insured individual attains that age, the policy’s cash value may be paid out to the policy owner in lieu of a death benefit payment.2

TRACKING TAXES

This payout may be taxed as ordinary income on the amount that exceeds the policy owner’s cost basis (or the sum of after-tax premiums). The after-tax amount would then become part of the policy owner’s estate and may be subject to further taxation upon the policy owner’s death.3,4

If a policy is owned by an irrevocable trust, the trust is responsible for any tax owed, though the proceeds would not become part of the insured’s estate if the insured had no incidents of ownership.3,5

AVOIDING THE TAXABLE RISK

This taxable risk may be mitigated through a maturity extension rider, which allows the policy to continue until the death of the insured. Many newer life policies come with a higher maturity age (like 120) or an indefinite period.6

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