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.

Best Interest Standards for Life Insurance Would Be a TOLI Trustee’s Best Friend

While the DOL fiduciary rule, which went into partial effect in June raises the bar for those advisors working with annuities and investments in retirement accounts, no corresponding federal regulation applies for life insurance sales in the trust-owned life insurance (TOLI) market.

New York state has the most stringent law about best standards for life insurance and annuity sales.  The law, which will begin to take effect in August of 2019, exempts some types of life insurance transactions, including corporate-owned (COLI) or bank-owned (BOLI) life insurance and those dealing with the sale of life insurance in the secondary market (the state already has regulations dealing with life settlements). But the law provides strict guidelines when dealing with traditional life insurance sales to consumers, including TOLI sales.  

The law requires any life insurance salesperson to “act in the best interest of the consumer” and any product recommendation must “be based on an evaluation of the relevant suitability information of the consumer” and reflect “the care, skill, prudence, and diligence that a prudent person acting in a like capacity… would use under the circumstances.” 

In making any recommendation “only the interests of the consumer” can be considered and though no limitations are placed on compensation, the law requires that “compensation or other incentives permitted” should not “influence the recommendation.”

While a few other states, as well as some national insurance organizations are also mulling over similar regulations, today the TOLI trustee has an obligation to their customer that is much higher than a life insurance salesperson or advisor.  In most instances a life insurance sale must only meet a suitability requirement, a low bar and this has created issues we at ITM TwentyFirst have seen firsthand – issues that could cause a TOLI trustee to write a check, or worse, wind up in court (and possibly write a bigger check).

In the past year, we had a prospect (who later became a client) write a high six-figure check to make a grantor whole for a policy replacement that occurred two years prior.  The transaction, which we could not undo, put the trust in a worse position than the existing policy.   The trustee, who largely because of that transaction later became a client under our Managed Solution program, had followed the advice of a local life insurance agent, a mistake on his part.

Policy replacements have become an area of increased liability for trustees. In the TOLI Handbook, available here as a free PDF download, we write about two replacement transactions. Either could have placed the trustee in hot water – and possibly a courtroom. One replacement, pushed hard by an agent who was also a good friend of the grantor would have replaced an existing policy in the trust  with one with demonstrable costs four times as high over the lifetime of the policy, clearly violating Section 7 of the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA) dealing with “appropriate and reasonable” costs. In another replacement case, an agent advised a TOLI trustee to replace a portfolio of whole life contracts with a  new equity index universal life policy that would have provided the trust with fewer guarantees and a death benefit worth $900 thousand less.  The trustee has a duty to investigate any transaction, including all the options for the existing policy – in this case, the agent never reviewed any.

As a TOLI trustee, you have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that every transaction – either a new policy sale or replacement is not only suitable for your client, but also in your client’s best interest.  Until regulations change you will be sitting on the other side of the table from most life insurance salespeople. 

Remember that.

Finally, a Place for Orphan ILITs!

The last few years have been a tumultuous time in the life insurance trust business.  The prospect base is shrinking after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act raised the federal estate tax exemption from $5.49M to $11.18M per person.  Today only 1 in 1,000 estates affected by the estate tax (1).  The asset class has become even more cumbersome to manage, as policy performance has suffered and sophisticated policies with more moving parts leave trustees with a greater chance for something to go wrong, just when the society around us seems to have become more litigious – especially in the life insurance space. Many trust-owned life insurance (TOLI) trustees are questioning the viability of their TOLI business model – and perhaps some should.  Especially those whose portfolio includes many orphan accounts – those grantors whose only business with the bank or trust company rests in a trust that generates minimal revenue, but a considerable liability.

The answer?  It’s a three-step process:

  1. Review all the ILITs in your portfolio and determine which represent significant other revenue for your firm. ILITs without additional revenue represent little more than a liability to most banks and trust companies.
  2. For those orphan ILITs with clients that have no other assets at your firm, contact Leon Wessels at Life Insurance Trust Company (LITC) to develop a game plan for removal of those ILITs. While the life insurance asset will be housed at LITC, any other revenue relationships that could be developed would remain with you.
  3. Review your options with the rest of your ILITs. If you are not now utilizing the Managed Solution through ITM TwentyFirst, consider utilizing that service which allows you to still house the ILIT, but outsource the administration of the trust and the tracking and management of the policy.  The Managed Solution option allows you to efficiently and economically raise the level of service to your most profitable clients.

The times have changed dramatically in the bank and trust space, but great reward awaits the business leaders who review their product line and seize growth opportunities while effectively managing or minimizing those areas that bring the least to the bottom line.

Outsourcing has always been a viable option in the right situation and today more than ever in the trust owned life insurance (TOLI) market outsourcing and trimming client lists will cause less liability and greater profits.

For more information on how you can increase profits while limiting your liability, contact Leon Wessels at 605.574.1703 or lwessels@lifeinsurancetrustco.com.

  1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The TOLI Handbook – Chapter 16: Remediation, the Weak Link for Trustees

A TOLI trustee we work with received a request from a grantor tired of gifting to pay premium on his portfolio of whole life policies. His agent suggested that the three policies be replaced with one policy with a reduced death benefit. The existing portfolio totaled $5.7 million of coverage.  The agent proposed transferring the $2.1 million of cash value into a $3 million equity index universal life (EIUL) policy. Assuming a reasonable crediting rate assumption and current charges, the new policy would carry until age 92, which was past the life expectancy of the grantor/insured.

While it is true that the new policy would need no additional funding, and assuming conservative crediting assumptions would carry the policy past the expected lifespan of the insured, no review was ever done on the existing policy options. After contacting the carrier, we found that the existing policy death benefit could be reduced to $3.9 million by requesting a paid-up policy which would contractually guarantee the death benefit until maturity when the policy would endow (cash value equals death benefit).

Trustee choices in this case:

  1. Guaranteed $3.9 million of coverage with increasing cash value.
  2. Non-guaranteed $3 million of coverage with decreasing cash value.

 

While it seems easy to see the prudent decision is number 1, it was not easy to see at the time.  Why?  Because the trustee did not have all the information or the requisite skill to gather and analyze all the information.  In the decade we have been reviewing TOLI policies – including replacement options – this lack of knowledge and skill has been the weak link for trustees managing ILITs.

And this is a growing problem.  We cite 6 case studies in the TOLI Handbook, each with its challenges, each representing potential liability to the TOLI trustee if handled incorrectly.  And we could have added more real-life situations we have encountered.

If you are a TOLI trustee what do you do when:

  • You take on a portfolio of whole life policies with growing loans?
  • A grantor tells you to surrender their policy or allow it to lapse?
  • Grantors say they want to replace their variable universal life policy with a “more conservative” equity index universal life policy?

 

We guide you through these situations in the TOLI Handbook, a free 155-page PDF we believe represents the best single source of information available for managing TOLI trusts and life insurance.

With the changes in the federal estate tax exemption, you will be receiving more of these types of requests.  They will mean much more work, and more important, much more liability for you.

For a FREE copy, please go to www.TOLIHandbook.com.

The Life Insurance Trust Company Solves Major Problems for Veteran Life Insurance Agents and Advisors

Four years ago, it was reported that the average age of a financial advisor in America was 51, with 43% over the age of 55 and many heading towards retirement (1). One year later, an industry publication noted that the average age of a US life insurance agent was even higher — 59 (2).

Many veteran life insurance agents have worked for years building a book of business by focusing on entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals — in other words, the high-net-worth market. It has served them well and now, as they begin to look back on their careers, they are also looking forward to their options.

One option is to sell their book of business to a younger associate. To be successful, this process should be carried out over a number of years with the junior agent developing relationships with the clients. Most veteran agents became successful because their practice was relationship based, not transaction based; handing off the business to another is hard unless there is a relationship.

Another option is to simply slow down — to throttle back the practice and take more time to enjoy life. This can mean shorter days and longer vacations, still with one foot in the office door to keep the relationships strong and develop additional business — although not at previous levels. For many life insurance producers, that option is appealing.

Both options present challenges, but one challenge can be resolved rather easily. Unlike the financial services market in general, life insurance has not kept up with the technological advances in investment management. Software and online services make investment portfolio selection, as well as asset tracking and reporting, easier than ever, thereby cutting office costs. The same cannot be said of life insurance, where policy tracking and management is still a cumbersome and expensive back-office process.

Clients of most veteran life insurance producers utilize a trust company to house their policies for estate planning and distribution reasons. A new trust company — the Life Insurance Trust Company — is providing services that will make clients happy and agents’ lives much easier by affording them an opportunity to lower costs and increase services.

The Life Insurance Trust Company utilizes one of the most sophisticated policy management systems available today. Developed internally over 15 years, it provides an annual review that not only tracks policy performance but also alerts all to policy triggers, such as conversion options.

The Life Insurance Trust Company utilizes the back-office services of their affiliated company, ITM TwentyFirst, the nation’s largest manager of TOLI trusts, so the agent can be assured that premiums are paid on time. With specialized insurance professionals on hand, the Life Insurance Trust Company can alert the grantor and agent to any issues that arise and contact the carrier to obtain the information necessary to make prudent decisions about the policy.

Although the trustee owes a fiduciary duty solely to the beneficiary, they understand the life insurance business and its products and will work together with the advisor to maximize the asset in the TOLI trust.

Because they do all the heavy lifting by gathering information from the carrier, the agent is relieved of the past back-office expense, which lowers their overall office expenses while maintaining or even increasing their client service levels.

For more information about the Life Insurance Trust Company, visit https://www.lifeinsurancetrustco.com/, or contact Leon Wessels at 605.574.1703 or lwessels@lifeinsurancetrustcompany.com.

 

  1. Melanie Waddel, “43% of Advisors Older Than 55: Cerulli,” ThinkAdvisor.com, January 21, 2014.
  2. Andrea Wells, “Young Agents Survey: The Next Generation Steps Up,” InsuranceJournal.com, April 20, 2015.

 

TOLI Trustees Can Gain Guidance From 401(k) Lawsuits (and the TOLI Handbook)

In the past, we have written about 401(k) lawsuits flourishing and what trust owned life insurance (TOLI) trustees can learn from them. This week, a research paper concerning 401(k) lawsuits landed on our desks that can provide guidance to trustees handling life insurance. The report published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College notes that “over 100 new 401(k) complaints were filed in 2016–2017 — the highest two-year total since 2008–2009” (1).

The number of TOLI lawsuits has not increased like the number of 401(k) lawsuits has … yet. Regulations around 401(k) plans have been in place much longer than those concerning TOLI trusts. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which governs 401(k) plans, is almost 45 years old, but lawsuits have only proliferated over the last ten years. In the TOLI world, the Uniform Prudent Investor Act and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Unique and Hard-to-Value Assets handbook are much more recent guides.

The guides mentioned above share one common characteristic that was pointed out in the research paper — they do not “spell out” specific directions for managing an asset. They all provide general guidance, but it is up to the trustee to take that guidance and develop a process to prudently manage the assets. ITM TwentyFirst has just published a free handbook that provides more specific direction.

The authors of the research paper cite three main areas of contention in the 401(k) world that can be applied to the TOLI world.

  1. Inappropriate Investment Choices: In the 401(k) world, this relates to options in the retirement plan. In the TOLI world, this could relate to the separate account investments in a variable policy or even a broader application — the choice of the policy type. Variable life investment options are chosen by the trustee, not the carrier, which layers in another trustee responsibility. (See Chapter 9 in the TOLI Handbook for guidance.) Moreover, the asset in a TOLI trust must match the trust’s temperament and goals as well as the grantor’s financial situation. (See Chapter 12 in the TOLI Handbook for guidance.)
  2. Excessive Fees: 401(k) investment fees are easy to see, but in the TOLI world, the costs within a policy can be much more opaque. We have witnessed situations in which trustees were ready to accept replacement policies that had internal costs that were 3–4 times more than the existing policy. Why? Because they had no process in place with which to review the new policy and instead relied on the word of the salesperson. Without a process in place, a trustee could easily be held liable. (See Case Study #5 starting on page 128 of the TOLI Handbook for guidance.)
  3. Self-Dealing: According to the Boston College research paper, self-dealing occurs when a fiduciary acts in “its own best interest rather than serving” its clients. In the TOLI world, we have had our own lawsuits in this area — one in which a major bank that had received a large commission on a policy in its trust fought back against a lawsuit by beneficiaries who charged that the trustee had “violated the prudent-investor rule” (see page 14 in the TOLI Handbook for more information on how), and another in which trustees were held liable for over one million dollars when the beneficiary charged that they had breached their fiduciary duties. (See page 17 in the TOLI Handbook for further explanation.)

Many pundits believe that the trustees of trust-owned life insurance policies will encounter increasing liability in the coming years. The well-informed trustee will be less likely to be among those facing litigation. The TOLI Handbook – available here – can help inform.

 

  1. George S. Mellman and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, “401(k) Lawsuits: What Are the Causes and Consequences?” Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, May 2018.

 

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