LIFE INSURANCE: ADAPTING TO CHANGING NEEDS When Pat purchased her life insurance policy ten years ago, she assumed that her life insurance planning was complete. She thought that if she just paid her premiums on time, she could sit back and not worry about life insurance any more. True, Pat’s policy has provided her with peace of mind by helping to protect her family’s finances. However, that doesn’t mean she should let her insurance program run on autopilot. Life insurance is just like any other piece of your financial puzzle. It should be periodically monitored as your circumstances and needs change. This way, you can help ensure your life insurance program is achieving its desired objective. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things that Pat, like all policyholders, should review, at least annually. Is Coverage Current? Pat must first determine if her original reasons for purchasing her policy are still current. She should also evaluate whether or not she’s developed any additional needs. For instance, when Pat initially purchased her policy, she was newly married and owned a small, modest home. Now, Pat and her husband, Ed, have three children and a much larger home. Is Pat’s existing policy adequate for these additional responsibilities—covering a substantial mortgage, funding college for three, and contributing to the protection of her family’s financial security? More than likely, Pat may require additional life insurance. And, she’ll want to make sure she has enough coverage on Ed as well. If Pat’s existing policy is term insurance, she may want to consider converting it to a permanent contract. Permanent insurance is unique in that it has a cash value component that offers the potential for tax-deferred accumulation, as well as the same death benefit features of term insurance. In later years, the cash value could come in handy to help supplement college costs or retirement income needs. It is important to note that access to cash values through borrowing or partial surrenders can reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, can increase the chance the policy will lapse, and may result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured. Updating Beneficiaries Currently, the primary beneficiary of Pat’s life insurance policy is her husband, Ed. If Ed were to predecease Pat, the policy currently names Pat’s nephew as a contingent beneficiary. Now that Pat has her own family, she will likely want to update her policy’s beneficiary arrangement to name her children as contingent beneficiaries instead of her nephew. In addition, if Pat and Ed eventually set up a living trust, their legal professional may suggest naming their trust as the policy’s beneficiary. Planning for a Growing Estate Regardless of the type of life insurance Pat owns and who is named as the beneficiary, the death benefit proceeds from the policy will be included in Pat’s estate. It’s important that Pat and Ed recognize this. As their asset base increases over the years, they should consider ways to help reduce the effects of estate taxation and plan accordingly. Life insurance can play a significant role in solidifying the family finances of couples like Pat and Ed. However, it is also important to recognize that life insurance policies, like all financial matters, need to be reviewed on a regular basis with a qualified professional. A qualified insurance professional can be a valuable resource when evaluating your present situation and determining an appropriate course of action.