There are several different trusts available to achieve asset protection planning goals and to ensure you leave a legacy behind for your loved ones. One of the most common trusts to help achieve these goals is an irrevocable life insurance trust, also called ILIT. These trusts protect the benefits of your life insurance policies by keeping them separate from your taxable estate. Experienced estate planning attorneys recommend ILITs to their clients who own large life insurance policies that, in addition to other assets, may put those clients over the state or federal estate tax thresholds. ILITs also allow policy owners to choose who benefits from the life insurance proceeds and how those benefit payments are distributed.

But how do you know if an irrevocable life insurance trust is the right tool for you to protect your assets? The first step you should take is to speak with an estate planning attorney who can determine if this trust fits in with your goals. Here is some additional information that can help you get ready for that discussion:

An ILIT is an irrevocable trust, which means it cannot be changed or revoked by the Grantor (the person who makes the trust), and the Grantor must give up all ownership of the Trust assets. Once a life insurance policy is transferred to the ILIT, the Grantor no longer owns the policy and technically has no control over the policy or any beneficiary designations. However, the Grantor sets the terms of the trust, so they control how the life insurance distributions are made and to whom, as well as when those distributions are made to the beneficiaries.

The Grantor names a Trustee, usually a spouse or adult child, to oversee the trust and the life insurance policy. Keep in mind that the life insurance policy must be transferred to the ILIT at least three years before the death of the Grantor, otherwise, the value of the life insurance policy will still be included in your estate for state and federal estate tax purposes.

An irrevocable life insurance trust is difficult to craft correctly and requires the knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney to create. If the trust is created incorrectly, your estate may be responsible for paying estate taxes on your life insurance policies while your wishes for your beneficiaries may not be fulfilled.

If you are interested in learning more about irrevocable life insurance trusts, or if you’d like one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to review your existing irrevocable life insurance trust, please contact us at 941-909-4644 or 763-420-5087 to set up a consultation.


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Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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