Life Insurance

Who Can I Name as a Beneficiary on My Life Insurance Policy?

Every life insurance policy requires you to name a beneficiary. A life insurance beneficiary is typically the person or people who get the payout on your life insurance policy after you die; it may also be a trust, charity or your estate.

You can also name more than one beneficiary, as well as the percentage of the payout you want to go to each one—for instance, you could designate 50% to a spouse and 50% to an adult child.

You’ll typically be asked to pick two kinds of beneficiaries: a primary and a secondary. The secondary beneficiary (also called a “contingent beneficiary”) receives the payout if the primary beneficiary is deceased.

Providing for Kids
A big reason why people buy life insurance is to provide for children left behind. Usually this is done by making the surviving spouse or partner who cares for and is raising the kids the beneficiary. But what if you’re widowed or—God forbid—-both you and your partner pass away at the same time?

First, know that it’s not a good idea to name a minor as a beneficiary. That’s because the law forbids life insurance payouts to anyone who has not reached the age of majority, which is 18 to 21 depending on your state. If a child were to be named, then it would be turned over to probate court. The court will name a guardian who has oversight of the money/estate until the child comes of age.

Fortunately, there are two options. The first is to name an adult custodian. The custodian should be someone you can trust to use the money for things like housing, health care, and education until the child reaches the age of majority. At that point, any remaining money gets turned over the child and they can spend it any way they want.

The second option is to work with an attorney to set up a trust. In this scenario, the trust is the beneficiary and a trustee is named to manage and distribute the funds. The main advantage of a trust over naming a custodian is having more control.

A trust lets you specify how you want the money distributed—and it lets you do so even when your kids are adults. (One quick word of caution: Definitely consult with an attorney if you’re setting up a trust for a special needs child. They can help you create one that doesn’t impact your child’s eligibility for government assistance like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.)

Naming a Charity
Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? If so, you might consider naming a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your life insurance.

There are several ways to do this. They include naming the charity as a beneficiary on a new or existing life insurance policy, making the charity both the owner and the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, adding a charitable-giving rider to a life insurance policy, or working with a community foundation to figure out the best way to distribute a payout.

Final Tips
Think carefully about naming your estate as a beneficiary. This can trigger a long and costly legal process known as probate. A faster and more efficient solution is to name specific individuals or organizations as beneficiaries.

1. Get specific. Instead of naming “my spouse” or “my children” as beneficiaries, list their names along with their addresses and Social Security numbers. This saves a lot of time since the insurance company doesn’t have to track down information.

2. Always name a contingent beneficiary. Passing away and leaving behind life insurance without a living beneficiary could mean the payout goes to someone you never wanted your policy to benefit. It could also require a court-appointed administrator to sort things out.

3. Pick trustworthy custodians and trustees. Really consider who’d you trust your child’s financial well-being with if you weren’t in the picture. Your kids may love their uncle or aunt, but is he or she mature and responsible with money? If not, pick someone else who is.

4. Regularly review your beneficiaries. It’s a good idea to review your beneficiaries about once a year and after major life events like a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or a death in the family.

5. Communicate your wishes. Let your beneficiaries know your intentions and how to find the policy.

6. Be aware of special situations. There are some situations that could trigger a tax on the life insurance benefit—for instance, when the policyholder and the insured aren’t the same person. Likewise, things can get sticky if you live in a community property state and don’t name your spouse as a beneficiary. An insurance agent can give you life insurance advice on this and much more.

By Amanda Austin
Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Looking for a Guaranteed Income Stream for Life? Think Annuities

Are you headed toward retirement or even in retirement and concerned about outliving your savings? Perhaps an income annuity will fit your needs. An annuity is a financial instrument that can offer a guaranteed lifetime income that you can’t outlive.

I’ve spent many years helping my clients with annuities as part of their broader financial plan. So here’s a very high-level understanding of some options.

Fixed income annuities are offered with a number of payment options, allowing you to structure payouts according to your financial goals and objectives. Consider these four income streams:

Joint life: This option provides income for two people, as long as either person is alive. When one person passes away, payments continue to the survivor.

Period certain only: This allows you to target how long you need an income stream. If you were to pass away before the end of the certain period, the remaining payments would continue to the person you designate as your beneficiary, meaning the person you want to receive the money.

Life with a period certain: In this scenario, the annuity pays out income for your lifetime. If you were to pass away prior to the end of the certain period elected, your beneficiary receives the remaining payments.

Life only: This is the least-commonly selected payout. When you die, payments cease—no matter what. This can be risky, but the upside is this option provides the highest payouts.

My mother-in-law, now deceased, used a joint life immediate annuity to generate a lifetime income, using the proceeds from the sale of her home. Now my wife, as her beneficiary, is receiving an income stream for the balance of her life from this same annuity policy.

A guaranteed lifetime income, one you cannot outlive, provides peace of mind. Should this be part of your financial plan? Ask your agent or advisor to see if it fits your needs.

by Marvin Feldman
Originally posted on LifeHappens.org

4 Things Life Insurance Is Not | CA Employee Benefits Agency

Are you confused about life insurance? I don’t blame you. When I first started writing about finances more than a decade ago, my understanding of life insurance was limited.

I knew about life insurance because it was offered through my employer, and I thought a $50,000 policy was a lot of money. I also recognized insurance company names from late-night TV commercials and the occasional bit of junk mail.

I understood “insurance” to be that stuff that you had to have for your car, your home, and your health. The “life” part was a big, blurry blob of “other.” If that’s how you’re feeling, here are a few tips that might help bring things into focus—by understanding the “nots.”

1. Life insurance through work is generally NOT enough. Since learning this myself some years back, I’ve noticed that many people never explore life insurance past what is offered through their work. Policies through work are a great benefit to have, but are usually limited to one- or two-times your salary or a fixed amount like $50,000. Plus the coverage typically ends when your employment there does.

How far will an amount like that go when you consider what’s left behind for your loved ones: the loss of your income and mostly likely debts and bills. What about things like rent or mortgage, child-care and education costs?

An easy way to get a working idea of how much life insurance you need is with a Life Insurance Needs Calculator from a neutral source like www.lifehappens.org/howmuch.

2. Life insurance is NOT a luxury item. Many people have not even considered buying life insurance because they’re convinced it’s a luxury. In a recent study by Life Happens and LIMRA, consumers thought the cost of a 20-year, $250,000 level term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year-old was three times higher than it generally is. Younger people, in particular, overestimate the cost of a term policy by a factor of five.

If you took a guess at what that policy above would cost, what would you say? It comes out to about $13 or so a month for that policy. Definitely not a luxury—most of us spend more than that on a meal out.

3. Life insurance is NOT just about covering funeral expenses. While covering funeral expenses is very important, and a major reason people purchase it, life insurance does so much more. If something happens to you, life insurance benefits can help replace lost income, or pay off a mortgage, or help ensure a college fund or safeguard a retirement nest egg.

The proceeds of a life insurance policy are generally tax free and can be used for anything your loved ones may need now and well into the future. Amazing, right?

4. Life insurance is NOT just for really healthy people. Granted, life insurance is less expensive the younger and healthier you are, but don’t discount it just because you’re not in triathlete shape!

Many people don’t considering buying life insurance because they think they won’t qualify. But when certain health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are under control with a doctor’s guidance or medication, it’s often possible to qualify. You may even be able to get coverage after a heart attack. Just know that it is probably best to work with an experienced insurance agent if you are concerned about a health issue and qualifying for coverage.

Now, if you’re a bit overwhelmed with this information and perhaps don’t know where to start, just know that a life insurance agent will sit down with you at no cost to go over your needs and help you get life insurance coverage to fit your budget. If you don’t have an agent or advisor, go here for suggestions on how to find one. You can also tap the Agent Locator there to find someone in your area.

Remember, the right agent or advisor can help you make sense of the confusion and get you on track for the financial future you want—with the protection your loved ones need.

by Helen Mosher
Originally posted on LifeHappens.org

Look Backward to Plan Forward | CA Benefits Agents

We have entered Open Enrollment season and that means you and everyone in your office are probably reading through enrollment guides and trying to decipher it all. As you begin your research into which plan to choose or even how much to contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), consider evaluating how you used your health plan last year. Looking backward can actually help you plan forward and make the most of your health care dollars for the coming year.

Forbes magazine gives the advice, “Think of Open Enrollment as your time to revisit your benefits to make sure you are taking full advantage of them.” First, look at how often you used health care services this year. Did you go to the doctor a lot? Did you begin a new prescription drug regimen? What procedures did you have done and what are their likelihood of needing to be done again this year? As you evaluate how you used your dollars last year, you can predict how your dollars may be spent next year and choose a plan that accommodates your spending.

Second, don’t assume your insurance coverage will be the same year after year. Your company may change providers or even what services they will cover with the same provider. You may also have better coverage on services and procedures that were previously not eligible for you. If you have choices on which plan to enroll in, make sure you are comparing each plan’s costs for premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for next year. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a plan based on how it was written in years prior.

Third, make sure you are taking full advantage of your company’s services. For instance, their preventative health benefits. Do they offer discounted gym memberships? What about weight-loss counseling services or surgery? How frequently can you visit the dentist for cleanings or the optometrist? Make sure you know what is covered and that you are using the services provided for you. Check to see if your company gives discounts on health insurance premiums for completing health surveys or wellness programs—even for wearing fitness trackers! Don’t leave money on the table by not being educated on what is offered.

Finally, look at your company’s policy choices for life insurance. Taking out a personal life insurance policy can be very costly but ones offered through your office are much more reasonable. Why? You reap the cost benefit of being a part of a group life policy. Again, look at how your family is expected to change this year—are you getting married or having a baby, or even going through a divorce? Consider changing your life insurance coverage to account for these life changes. Forbes says that “people entering or exiting your life is typically a good indicator that you may want to revisit your existing benefits.”

As you make choices for yourself and/or your family this Open Enrollment season, be sure to look at ALL the options available to you. Do your research. Take the time to understand your options—your HR department may even have a tool available to help you estimate the best health care plan for you and your dependents. And remember, looking backward on your past habits and expenses can be an important tool to help you plan forward for next year.

Do Single People REALLY Need Life Insurance? | California Benefits Advisors

Many people make the assumption that life insurance is for married couples and those with kids. While it is true that not all single people need life insurance, there are a number of reasons when it can make (really) good sense.

 

1. You have student loan debt. Many people assume that your debt dies with you, but that’s not always the case. While the loans through the federal government are discharged (aka forgiven) if you were to die, personal loans that have a cosigner are generally not. That means if your parents, for example, co-signed your student loan through a bank, they would be responsible for paying the rest of the loan if something happened to you. There are instances when the bank has called for the loan to be paid in full immediately following a death. You don’t want to leave your parents dealing with grief and loan payments.

2. You’re living with your significant other. When you’re living together, a lot becomes shared financial responsibility. Consider this example: You need both your incomes to meet the mortgage or rent where you’re living. Have you thought about what happens if one of you dies prematurely? Would the other partner have to sell up? Find a new place to live immediately? And this is just one example of many shared financial responsibilities couple have. Adequate life insurance is an easy answer to those questions.

If your parents co-signed your student loan through a bank, they’d be responsible for paying the rest of the loan if something happened to you.

3. You plan on having kids … someday. It may not be now, but when kids do come, so do the expenses and bills. According the USDA, it costs $245,340 to raise a child to age 18, and that’s without factoring in the cost of college. Getting life insurance in place now means you have coverage in place for when you do have a child. Plus, you protect your insurability for the future. … and that leads us to the next reason.

4. You’re young and healthy. Age and health are two major drivers of how much you’ll be paying for life insurance. Why not lock in a low price if you have both of those working for you? Did you know that a healthy 30-year-old can get a 20-year $250,000 term life insurance policy for about $13 a month? Doable, right? Don’t wait until a health issue or age puts life insurance out of your reach.

5. You know you’ll be taking care of family members in the future. This may mean aging parents or perhaps you have a special-needs sibling that you help care for and support financially. What would happen to them if something happened to you and your support disappeared? Life insurance can ensure that there is money in place to fund those needs into the future. This is where it might be wise to consider a permanent life insurance policy (one that’s there for your lifetime, as long as you pay your premiums).

6. It will pay for your funeral. No one likes to think about such things, but the truth is if you die, someone will have to pay for your funeral. You wouldn’t want to leave your parents, partner or other family members struggling with grief as well as paying for a funeral and burial, which can cost an average of $7,100.

If any of this sounds daunting, just know that it does’t have to be. You can start by doing a quick calculation on your own to see if you need life insurance with this Life Insurance Needs Calculator. And just know that you can also talk things through with an insurance agent—at no cost. They will help you figure out how much you may need, and also find a policy that fits into your budget.

 

Originally posted on lifehappens.org

 

Getting Married? Two Questions You Need to Ask Your Partner (but Probably Haven’t) | California Employee Benefits

Getting married is a big leap. And you may be in the midst of a whole lot of planning—from when and where to have the wedding to whom to invite. But planning the wedding and honeymoon is just the start of your life together. As you start planning your future, don’t forget to put a solid financial base in place.

While you may have already talked about joint or separate bank accounts and what gets paid by whom and when, there is probably a piece you haven’t talked about: insurance. While it isn’t top of mind for most people, talking through your insurance coverages is actually an important step. As you combine households and finances, you want to make sure that you have protection in place. Here are two questions to think about and to talk through with your partner.

Do you have any life insurance? People may get a certain amount of life insurance coverage through work, often one or two times their salary. And while that sounds like a lot, you have to consider how long that money would need to last. For example, are you buying a home together? If so, would just one of you be able to continue with the mortgage if the other died unexpectedly, or would you be forced to sell it just so you could meet day-to-day living expenses?

Plus, you also have to consider that life insurance coverage through work typically ends when your job does. So if you change jobs, you may find yourself without coverage, and you new job may or may not offer life insurance as a benefit.

The easy solution is to get your own individual life insurance policy. And for most people, it can be quite affordable. Remember, the younger and healthier you are, the less expensive coverage is. For example, a healthy 30-year-old can get a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for about $13 a month. Most people can find that in their budgets.

Do you have disability insurance? If you are working and rely on your paycheck (and how many of us can say we don’t!), this is a key piece of coverage. Disability insurance pays you a portion of your salary if you were to become sick or disabled and unable to go to work and earn your paycheck.

An individual disability insurance policy has this key benefit: It will be with you as you move from job to job.

Many people think Workers’ Comp would take care of them if something happened, but you only get this coverage if the accident is work-related. Most disability claims—more than 90%—are due to illnesses, like cancer, for example. That means if you couldn’t work, you’d have no income. What is your plan to pay your monthly costs if something like this happened? That’s where disability insurance comes in. It would replace a portion of your salary so you could continue to pay your mortgage or rent and your monthly bills until you are able to return to work.

Your employer may offer this coverage through work, so be sure to talk to your HR rep or benefits administrator to see if you have disability insurance (short-term, long-term or both) and what it covers and for how long. You can also get an individual disability insurance policy, which has this key benefit: It will be with you as you move from job to job. In a tight economy, employers are always looking for ways to trim costs and unfortunately, insurance coverage is often first on the chopping block. When you have your own policy, you never have to worry about if your next job will have coverage.

Once you have talked with your partner, if you find either of you has gaps in coverage you’d like to fill, then it makes sense to sit down with an insurance agent. Remember, they will talk through your options at no cost to you—and no pressure to buy.

 

By Maggie Leyes
Originally posted on lifehappens.org