Another Good Year at Heckerling

The first thing you notice after entering the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center is the lineup of vendor booths set up in the hallway – the overflow from the cavernous convention center hall.  This year’s Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning appears to have been a great success.  The number of attorneys attending was up, and those putting on the session attracted more sponsors and exhibitors than ever. 

As we mentioned in one of our last posts, we have been coming to these sessions for over a decade and this year’s meeting was not only well attended but generated more attention than ever for ITM TwentyFirst services.  Not only was the traffic up at our booth, but so was the interest, especially from those attorneys who were finding out for the first time that there was a trust company that specializes in life insurance.  Many attorneys writing ILITs reluctantly become the trustee of the policy.  If not, they tend to lose track of the policy (and maybe the client).  Working with our trust company (https://lifeinsurancetrustco.com/) can alleviate an attorney-trustee of the fiduciary burden of handling the ILIT and still enable them to stay in contact with the client by receiving comprehensive updates on the policy and the trust that can be part of a billable year-end review.  This is one reason that the attorneys that stopped by are viewing the Life Insurance Trust Company as a partner in their clients’ ILIT success.  According to Leon Wessels, a TOLI veteran and the head of corporate development at the new trust company, the meeting was very gratifying. “The level of interest in the new trust company among lawyers attending Heckerling this year was much higher than even I expected. I was pleased that the attorneys I spoke with understood how we could benefit their practice. The fact that they are truly beginning to see our value was very rewarding for me.”

John Barkhurst, who heads up business development for our TOLI trust services shared Leon’s enthusiasm for this year’s reception.  “What attorneys and advisors are beginning to understand is that there is more to managing a policy than just tracking it. Our outsourcing service is much more than just a policy review. We have in-house life insurance experts who provide an analysis of any policy issues free from conflicts and deliver to the trustee what is most important – a prudent solution laid out in a concise report.  And since our solutions follow prudent practices that are documented and made part of the trust file, we can lower trustee risk.  Lawyers understand how valuable this can be should litigation about a policy ever occur.  That is one reason they are very receptive to the comprehensive services ITM TwentyFirst provides.” 

Heckerling always marks the beginning of the new year for us, and we are thankful this year the importance of our work has resonated and grown even stronger in the legal community. 

Join ITM TwentyFirst at the 53rd Annual Heckerling Institute of Estate Planning

We have three office locations across the United States, and as I write this, none will see 40 degrees as their high-temperature today, so it is no wonder we are looking forward to heading south to the sunshine of Orlando, Florida, for this year’s Heckerling Institute of Estate Planning session from January 14-18.  However, it is much more than that.

It has been about 15 years since we attended our first Heckerling session. Back then, we were pioneers in the trust-owned life insurance (TOLI) policy review space. Before we came to market, trustees had few resources, except local life insurance agents, to help review their portfolio. Our service solved a significant problem: for the first time, TOLI trustees could receive a non-biased policy review (our Standard Solution). We followed that up with a full-service outsource offering (our Managed Solution) that provided dedicated experts in trust administration and policy management to not only track the policy but to handle all back-office administration and equally important, to solve policy issues. We helped mitigate liability by creating the trust file documentation necessary to prove a prudent process occurred.

Last year, again taking a pioneering approach, we created the first trust company focused on life insurance (Life Insurance Trust Company) after clients approached us looking for a trustee who would take some or all their ILITs and not compete with them on their other assets.

Over the years, ITM TwentyFirst has grown by listening to clients. Going to Heckerling is one way we get to do that face to face. When we first exhibited there, we were focused only on prospecting, but now when we go, we get to visit with clients. Many of the exhibitors at Heckerling are trust officers at some of our more than 200 bank and trust clients, and we have worked with and received referrals from many of the attorneys speaking at the sessions. The satisfaction of going to Heckerling is not just the generation of new business, though thankfully that still happens. The real fulfillment is seeing clients we have had for over a decade – peers that have been a part of our growth and have grown their business alongside ours.  

It is also interesting to see the continued expansion in the industry we helped develop and to welcome others who are also trying to help trustees maximize this often-misunderstood asset of life insurance. We are proud of our part in helping to initiate and lead this progress.  

This year, Leon Wessels, who is spearheading growth at our new trust company, and John Barkhurst, who is heading up business development on our TOLI services, will be attending. Please take the time to stop by and bring along your toughest problems about the life insurance policies you handle. You will not find two more capable people on the exhibit hall floor to solve them.

If you stop by and see them at booth #128, you can also find out how to get a free PDF copy of The TOLI Handbook, the most comprehensive guide available for TOLI trustees and take the ITM TwentyFirst TOLI Challenge for the chance to win a prize.

We hope to see you there.

ITM TwentyFirst Publishes Free Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) Handbook

As a decade plus provider of services to the TOLI marketplace, ITM TwentyFirst has developed a reputation as the expert in the trust owned life insurance arena. A pioneer in the field with the introduction of a web based administration portal for TOLI trusts in 2002, ITM TwentyFirst became the first company to offer total outsourced TOLI administration and policy management in 2007. In 2017 its affiliated entity, Life Insurance Trust Company became the first trust company in the United states to focus exclusively on life insurance, offering trust companies the opportunity to off load the asset to a firm that would not compete in other areas.

Over the last year ITM TwentyFirst has developed a handbook for TOLI trustees and advisors dealing with life insurance, especially in a fiduciary capacity. The 17-chapter book was developed and written by in-house specialists to provide internal education for staff, but was adapted and is being released to the public as a free downloadable manual. ITM TwentyFirst has always championed peer education developing a robust internal program for team members, as well as ITM TwentyFirst University that offers free CE for the industry. The company blog has provided timely industry insight for almost 6 years.

The handbook is a practical reference guide for those who are aware of life insurance, but not necessarily expert. It provides an overview of the responsibilities of a TOLI trustee and the guidance to live up to them.

The TOLI Handbook includes many actual cases studies and anecdotes drawn from the day to day work of ITM TwentyFirst team members. It is being published as a live document and is expected that it will be updated periodically as it adapts to the changing marketplace and industry. We believe that it presently represents the best single source of information available for managing TOLI trusts and life insurance. To receive a free copy of the TOLI Handbook, go to http://www.tolihandbook.com./

The TOLI Handbook Chapter Listing:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – The Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)

Chapter 2 – The Responsibilities of a TOLI Trustee and Some Guidance

Chapter 3 – Developing a TOLI Administration System

Chapter 4 – An Introduction to Life Insurance

Chapter 5 – Whole Life Insurance – A Closer Look

Chapter 6 – The Mechanics of the Universal Life Chassis

Chapter 7 – Current Assumption Universal Life – A Closer Look

Chapter 8 – Guaranteed Universal Life – A Closer Look

Chapter 9 – Variable Universal Life – A Closer Look

Chapter 10 – Equity Index Universal Life – A Closer Look

Chapter 11 – Why Did the Cost of Insurance Increase in My Policy?

Chapter 12 – Selecting the Best Policy

Chapter 13 – Taxation of Life Insurance

Chapter 14 – Understanding Life Settlements

Chapter 15 – Understanding Life Expectancy Reports

Chapter 16 – Policy Remediation

Chapter 17 – Closing Thoughts

How About Just Doing the Right Thing?

During an ITM TwentyFirst University webinar on trustee liability, I described a replacement case that came into our remediation department. A grantor with a whole life contract in his trust had decided to stop gifting. His agent advised him to complete a 1035 exchange of the cash value from the existing policy into a new current assumption policy. The exchange, with no other premium, would carry the new policy out past life expectancy on a non-guaranteed basis but not to policy maturity. The death benefit in the trust would be lowered, but the grantor was comfortable with this, as the focus was on limiting the costs associated with the trust. Our remediation team notified the trustee that the death benefit in the existing policy could be guaranteed to maturity by requesting a reduced paid-up policy with the existing carrier, which would contractually guarantee the existing policy’s death benefit with no additional premium. The death benefit would be lowered but would still provide $900,000 more in death benefit than the new non-guaranteed policy was proposing.

I was reminded of the case while reading an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining that the Fifth Circuit Court had “struck down” the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, stating that the department “overreached” by requiring those who handle retirement accounts to act in the “clients’ best interest” and asserting that the “rule is unreasonable” (1). I understand the industry fight against this law. They are afraid that it will mire them in lawsuits and make the sale of some products much harder in the retirement plan community. The law as it stands only affects retirement accounts, but states are pushing to have “best interests” laws apply to non-qualified annuities and even life insurance (2), which would certainly increase the number of lawsuits.

What ever happened to just doing the right thing? In the case above, had the trustee allowed the replacement, the agent would have made approximately $20 thousand, depending on his brokerage arrangement, but the grantor’s beneficiaries would have lost almost a million dollars. Believe me, many trustees without specialized skills are allowing these cases to slip through.

At ITM TwentyFirst, we service trustees bound by fiduciary duty, and our new affiliated company, Life Insurance Trust Company, is bound by that same duty to maximize the benefit in the trust for the beneficiaries, but that duty does not extend to most of those selling life insurance products. This has created a conflict in the marketplace that trust owned life insurance (TOLI) trustees must recognize. Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20, at 2PM, we are sponsoring a free webinar providing CE for CFP and CTFA designates that addresses the prudent purchase of life insurance. Click here to register, and if you cannot attend, stop back by our website for a replay at a later date.

 

1.) Fiduciary Rule Dealt Blow by Circuit Court Ruling, Lisa Beilfus, Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2018
2.) N.Y. Urges Life Insurance Fiduciary Standard in NAIC Rule, John Hilton, insurancenewnet.com, January 25, 2018

 

 

The Biggest Story in Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) in 2016? Trustees Running Away From Their Portfolios-How Can They?

In blogs published throughout 2016, we highlighted the increased challenges for TOLI trustees attempting to manage life insurance policies prudently. Life insurance cost increases more than doubled the carrying costs of many policies, while there were increased fiduciary and regulatory burdens and a multimillion dollar verdict against a major financial institution over a life insurance policy. All this occurred in 2016 and underlined the difficulties and risks associated with managing this asset.

Many banks and trust companies have TOLI portfolios that are filled with “orphan” trusts, with clients that have no other wealth-management relationship with the bank. These portfolios, many obtained through acquisition, often contain much more risk than revenue, and as institutions await a new presidential administration that appears to favor an end to the federal estate tax, some are looking for an exit strategy.

In the past year, we have witnessed and assisted in a number of “bulk transfers” of TOLI portfolios from institutions wishing to exit the business to other firms still committed to servicing this asset. The exiting firm can offload all of the TOLI trusts in their portfolio or just a select group. Generally, in a bulk transfer the selected trusts are moved at once, with one trustee taking control over them from another at a specified date. Obviously, this is not a transaction that will fit with every firm’s business goals, but for those that can take advantage of the transaction, it can be a true win-win scenario.

On Tuesday, December 13, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, ITM TwentyFirst University will feature Leon Wessels, a 15-year veteran of the TOLI industry, who will discuss Knowing Why, When and How to Move ILIT Accounts Out of Your Portfolio. This will be our last session of 2016, and if you are contemplating any changes to your TOLI business in 2017, it will be one you will want to attend. To register, click on the following link: https://www.itm21st.com/Education

 

Recent Court Case Identifies An Obvious Tax Liability: One TOLI Trustees Sometimes Miss

A recent US Tax Court Memo identifies the financial risk in unwittingly or intentionally mismanaging a life insurance policy. In 1987, a policy owner purchased a single premium variable life policy (since this was pre Code Section 7702A, it was not considered a modified endowment contract) with a payment of $87,500. The policy contract permitted the owner to take loans from the policy, allowing any unpaid loans and interest that accrued to be added to the “policy debt.” Once the policy debt exceeded the cash value of the policy, the carrier could terminate the policy after giving the policy owner notice and the opportunity to pay down the policy debt to avoid termination.

For 10 years the policy owner took loans totaling $133,800 and allowed the debt to grow over the ensuing years, even after receiving updates on policy values spelling out the growing interest and policy debt. In October of 2011, the carrier notified the policy owner by letter that he would have to make a minimum payment of $26,061 to avoid termination, which would cause a taxable gain. The owner did not make the payment, and the carrier terminated the policy and issued a 1009-R to the policy owner.

The policy owner did not report the income on his joint tax return, though he and his wife did consult with tax advisors, including one that told them they were “going to owe a bunch of money.” Instead, they affixed a handwritten note to their return that explained that they did not know how to compute the tax and that the “IRS could not help when called.” They asked for a “corrected 1040 explanation + how much is owed.”

As you can imagine, this did not end well for them. According to the Tax Memo, the loans taken “resulted in a policy debt of $237,897.25,” “the termination of the policy in 2011 resulted in the extinguishment of” that debt, and “$150,397.25 (the amount by which the constructive distribution exceeded his investment in the life insurance contract) was includable in their gross income.”

This particular case seems straightforward enough. “Phantom income” will be always be attributed to a taxpayer who allows a life insurance policy to lapse when the debt on the policy exceeds the cost basis, yet, at ITM TwentyFirst, we have seen situations in which trustees have allowed this to occur. After bringing in a portfolio of policies, I once asked a trust advisor about one particular whole life policy with a very large loan and was told not to worry because “that policy has lapsed.” Luckily, with a minimal payment, it was reinstated. If not, it would have resulted in a taxable event of almost $200,000 for a trust that had no cash assets.

In another case, the liability was less transparent and off in the future.  A grantor with a portfolio of whole life policies had not been paying anything into the policies for years, allowing loans to pay the premiums. When we took over, we reached out to the agent who said he “had a plan,” essentially allowing the interest and loans to accrue on the policy. When we reviewed the policies, we realized that shortly the portfolio would be in jeopardy, and in short order, cash contributions would have to be made, or taxable lapses would occur. Even with the cash contributions, each year as the loans grew, the net death benefit on the policies would drop. This was not a good situation, and one that could have been avoided with a little educated foresight.

These two cases highlight two types of liabilities for trustees. The first is easy to see (but sometimes is missed); the second can only be seen with a thorough analysis (which is often not done). On Tuesday, September 27, ITM TwentyFirst University will be hosting a free webinar entitled, How Trustees Can Avoid Getting Sued. The session will include the thorough analysis we provided on the second case above as one of the “real life” case studies. The session will provide one hour of continuing education for both CFP and CTFA designations. To sign up, simply click this link: https://www.itm21st.com/Education.

 

ITM TwentyFirst Taking Part in Week Long Education Course on Unique and Hard to Value Assets

ITM TwentyFirst will be participating in a week long course focused on administering Hard to Value Assets, to be held at the University of Notre Dame this Summer. Kelly Anders, Trust Administrator and Michael Brohawn CFP, CLU, Managing Director, will head up a day-long session focused on Trust Owned Life Insurance (TOLI) trusts and policy management.

The course, sponsored by Cannon Financial Institute, the nation’s pre-eminent provider of education and performance improvement programs for financial institutions, will run from July 10-16, 2016.

Duane E. Lee, II, Executive Vice President at Cannon, will act as lead instructor.  While Ms. Anders and Mr. Brohawn will focus on TOLI trusts, other leading industry experts will provide insight into managing other assets, including, Real Estate, Minerals, Oil & Gas, Privately-Owned Businesses, Loans and Notes, Tangible Assets & Collectibles, and Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Etc.

The sessions will focus on practical approaches to asset management and include many real life case studies designed to provide the session participant with a genuine exposure to industry best practices.

According to Kurt Gearhart, CEO of ITM TwentyFirst, participation fits in well with ITM TwentyFirst goals. “We believe strongly in fostering education opportunity, both inside and outside of our company.  All of our team members take part in a rigorous education program.  And over the years we have reached out to the trust and financial community with the introduction of ITM TwentyFirst University, which provides free CFP, CTFA and FIRMA continuing education credits to industry members via periodic webinars.  Taking part in the Notre Dame Cannon Financial Institute session is the logical next step in helping to inform the industry.”

While the initial sign up has been greater than expected, there is still opportunity to participate.  For further information you can go to the Cannon Financial Institute website, http://www.cannonfinancial.com/courses/unique-and-hard-to-value-asset-management/678