Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies – Introduction

The business of life insurance is serious business and the business of unclaimed life insurance cash is a serious problem. Many people believe that a loved one who has life insurance at the time of their death somehow magically advises the company of their death and the policy is paid. That is obviously not the case. Just because someone had a life insurance policy and died doesn’t mean that their beneficiaries automatically get the money that the deceased wished to leave for them. Somebody who is still living after the insured’s death had better know where to locate that policy and provide it, along with documented proof of the insured’s death, to the insurance company or else insurance proceeds will not be paid out; and right now, today, as you read this, BILLIONS of dollars are waiting to be paid out!

Make no mistake – insurance companies are in the business of paying claims and that’s what they will try to do. But there is a procedure that must be followed and that procedure begins with notification.

Once the legitimacy of a claim has been established, funds will be paid out. If there is a problem with establishing legitimacy, funds will be held until any problems are cleared up. If problems are not cleared up and legitimacy cannot be established, money, which the company doesn’t get to keep but which also won’t go to intended beneficiaries, remains unclaimed… and right now, today, as you read this, BILLIONS of dollars are waiting to be paid!

The procedure must, however, begin with notification.

Now, what might you, the living insured, do to make sure that your insurance proceeds get paid out per your wishes? Well, aside from assuring that all of the pertinent policy information is accurate and up to date, you MUST make sure that beneficiaries know that they are beneficiaries and, ideally, where to Find Lost Life Insurance Policy documents. At the very least, you must make them aware of the company or companies that issued the coverage and policy numbers. Otherwise the payment procedure breaks down and money goes unclaimed. (Also, don’t forget that if someone that you have designated as a beneficiary predeceases you, you need to update your beneficiary designations).

What to Do if You Are a Beneficiary

If you are certain of being a beneficiary or you are an executor of the decedent’s estate but he/she never told you where to find the policy information or even the name of the company, there are things that you can do to find the information that you need.

To start with, if you have any idea of the financial companies that the deceased did business with, make some telephone calls. Ask to speak with someone in the Claims or the Life or Policy Owner Service area. Explain the situation and ask how you may request that they do a search for any coverage that may exist/have existed on your loved one. Or, if you know that the deceased had a financial adviser, definitely call him/her. There is a good chance that he/she will have the information that you are looking for.

Also, because many employees simply go with employer-provided group life insurance, if the decedent was still working at the time of death, check with his/her employer. Or, if he/she was retired and receiving a pension, check with the retirement administrator.

Safe deposit boxes are one of the places where people routinely keep important papers. Don’t overlook this possibility. If these efforts fail you can look into hiring a private investigator who may have resources and legal allowances that you don’t.

If you are a beneficiary, don’t put insurance proceeds… and your loved one’s wishes to provide for survivors… at risk. Talk to your insured loved ones while talk is still possible. The subject is not an easy one to bring up but it is one that must be addressed. Not doing so could frustrate your loved one’s wishes and cost you thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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How to Find Cheap Life Insurance Policies

Accidents are a very valid concern for everyone. They are the situations that arise at the most unexpected times and inconvenience each individual terribly. The damages that are caused by each accident are varied in their extent ranging from very minor incidents to devastating catastrophes. Accidents are not only of the vehicular kind, being caught in a freak rainstorm without an umbrella is also an accident of sorts. Preparing for every situation life is going to throw at you can be very difficult. There are certain situations that can occur that you never even considered would happen to you. But just because life has thrown you a curve ball does not mean you cannot go on living. In fact, life really waits for no one. That is the reason why we get insurances. These are contingency measures that we take to protect ourselves from serious expenses that may befall us.

There are several different types of insurances that you can get – life, home or building, car or auto, contents, etc. All these policies are designed in different ways to help you prepare for the future, just in case something was to happen to your life or your house or your car. Every individual needs to get a life insurance policy. It is to protect your family from having to deal with the financial loss that will be coupled with the emotional loss if you were to die. This is important especially if you are the breadwinner of the family. Your loss can be a major blow that your family will find emotionally very difficult to deal with. Do you really want them to be in financial problems too?

Getting life insurance is not as expensive as people might think. Yes, there are a number of policies that can be very pricey and have very high monthly or annual premiums but there are those that are cheap enough to be affordable for the average Joe. The way to get the cheapest premium on this sort of policy is to take quotes from all the different companies before you make your choice. In fact, if you hire an agent, he or she will make sure that you get the best policy at the cheapest premium. You can even avail certain discounts and offers that the agent may be able to get for you.

If a full policy is too expensive for you then you can even opt for a Term Policy. This is a policy that has a coverage validity for a specific term that can be anywhere between 1 year to 20 years even. These policies are way cheaper than the full type because they have a set expiry period. If anything happens to your life during this period then your family will be able to make a claim. Also, if you live past the expiry date then you will no longer be covered. Each of the policies has a number of different terms and conditions that you can get from the company or from your agent.

Car Insurance Terms and Glossary

No car insurance resource would be complete without a comprehensive glossary of car insurance terms. We’ve compiled a list of terms and their definitions to better help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of insurance

Accident – This is an unexpected sudden event that causes property damage to an automobile or bodily injury to a person. The event may be an at-fault or not-at fault and it may be report or unreported. An accident involving two vehicles may be termed a collision.

Accident report form – This is the report filed by police, often called the police report, containing the important information regarding the vehicle collision. This report will include the names of all individuals involved, vehicles involved, property damaged and citations that were issued.

Adjuster – This is the person who will evaluate the actual loss reported on the policy after an accident or other incident. They will make the determination on how much will be paid on the auto insurance policy by the Insurer.

Agent – This is a licensed and trained individual who is authorized to sell and to service insurance policies for the auto insurance company.

At Fault – This is the amount that you, the policy holder, contributed or caused the auto collision. This determines which insurance agency pays which portion of the losses.

Auto Insurance Score – This is a score similar to credit score that evaluates the information in your consumer credit report. These scores are used when determining pricing for your auto insurance policy. Negative marks on your credit report can increase your auto insurance premiums. The use of this information to determine policy pricing does vary from state to state.

Automobile Insurance – This is a type of insurance policy that covers and protect against losses involving automobiles. Auto Insurance policies include a wide range of coverage’s depending on the policy holders needs. Liability for property damage and bodily injury, uninsured motorist, medical payments, comprehensive, and collision are some of the common coverage’s offered under an auto insurance policy.

Binder – This is a temporary short-term policy agreement put in place while a formal permanent policy is put into place or delivered.

Bodily Injury Liability – This is the section of an insurance policy that covers the cost to anyone you may injure. It can include lost wages and medical expenses.

Broker – This is a licensed individual who on your behalf sells and services various insurance policies.

Claim – This is a formal notice made to your insurance company that a loss has occurred which may be covered under the terms of the auto insurance policy.

Claims Adjuster – This person employed by the insurance agency will investigate and settle all claims and losses. A representative for the insurance agency to verify and ensure all parties involved with the loss, get compensated fairly and correctly.

Collision – The portion of the insurance policy that covers damage to your vehicle from hitting another object. Objects can include but are not limited to; another vehicle, a building, curbs, guard rail, tree, telephone pole or fence. A deductible will apply. Your insurance company will go after the other parties insurance policy for these cost should they be at fault.

Commission – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that is paid to the insurance agent for selling and servicing the policy on behalf of the company.

Comprehensive – This is a portion of the insurance policy that covers loss caused by anything other than a collision or running into another object. A deductible will apply. This includes but is not limited to vandalism, storm damage, fire, theft, etc.

Covered loss – This is the damage to yourself, other people or property or your vehicle that is covered under the auto insurance policy.

Declarations Page – This is the part of the insurance policy that includes the entire legal name of your insurance company, your full legal name, complete car information including vehicle identification numbers or VIN, policy information, policy number, deductible amounts. This page is usually the front page of the insurance policy.

Deductible Amount – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that is the amount the policy holder must pay up front before the Insurance Company contributes and is required to pay any benefits. This amount can be within a wide range in price and varies from approximately $100 – $1000. The larger amount you pay in a deductible the lower your normal monthly/yearly policy will cost. This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that would be applicable only to comprehensive or collision coverage.

Discount – This is a reduction in the overall cost of your insurance policy. Deductions can be given for a variety of different reasons including a good driving record, grades, age, marital status, specific features and safety equipment on the automobile.

Emergency Road Service – This is the part of an auto insurance policy that covers the cost of emergency services such as flat tires, keys locked in the car and towing services.

Endorsement – This is any written change that is made to the auto insurance policy that is adding or removing coverage on the policy.

Exclusion – This is the portion of the auto Insurance policy that includes any provision including people, places or things that are not covered under the insurance policy.

First Party – This is the policyholder, the insured in an insurance policy.

Gap Insurance – This is a type of auto insurance provided to people who lease or own a vehicle that is worth less than the amount of the loan. Gap auto Insurance will cover the amount between the actual cash value of the vehicle and the amount left on loan should the care be stolen or destroyed.

High-Risk Driver – If you have a variety of negative marks on your insurance record including driving under the Influences, several traffic violations, etc. you may be labeled as a risk to the insurance company. This will increase your insurance policy or may make you ineligible for coverage.

Insured – The policyholder (s) who are covered by the policy benefits in case of a loss or accident.

Insurer – Is the Auto Insurance company who promises to pay the policy holder in case of loss or accident.

Liability insurance – This part of an auto insurance policy which legally covers the damage and injuries you cause to other drivers and their vehicles when you are at fault in an accident. If you are sued and taken to court, liability coverage will apply to your legal costs that you incur. Most states will require drivers to carry some variation of liability coverage Insurance and this amount will vary state by state.

Limits – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that explains and lists the monetary limits the insurance company will pay out. In the situation you reach these limits the policy holder will be responsible for all other expenses.

Medical Payments Coverage – This is the portion of an auto insurance policy that pays for medical expenses and lost wages to you and any passengers in your vehicle after an accident. It is also known as personal injury protection or PIP.

Motor Vehicle Report – The motor vehicle report or MVR is a record issued by the state in which the policy holder resides in that will list the licensing status, any traffic violations, various suspensions and./ or refractions on your record. This is one of the tools used in determining the premium prices offered by the insurance agency. This is also used to determine the probability of you having a claim during your policy period.

No-Fault Insurance – If you reside within a state with no-fault insurance laws and regulations, your auto insurance policy pays for your injuries no matter who caused the accident. No-fault insurance states include; Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington, DC..

Non-Renewal – This is the termination of an auto insurance policy on the given expiration date. All coverage will cease as of this date and insurer will be released of promised coverage.

Personal Property Liability – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that covers any damage or loss you cause to another person’s personal property.

Personal Injury Protection or PIP – This portion of an auto insurance policy pays for any lost wages or medical expenses to you and any passengers in your vehicle following an accident. PIP is also known as medical payments coverage.

Premium – This is the amount charged to you monthly, yearly or any other duration agreed upon by insurance company and policy holder and paid directly to the auto insurance company. A premium is based on the type and amount of coverage you choose for your vehicle(s) and yourself. Other factors that will affect your insurance premium prices include your age, marital status, you’re driving and credit report, the type of car you drive and whether you live in an urban or rural area. Premiums vary by insurance company and the location you live.

Quotation – This is the amount or estimated amount the insurance will cost based on the information provided to the agent, broker or auto insurance company.

Rescission.- This is the cancellation of the insurance policy dated back to its effective date. This would result in the full premium that was charged being returned.

Rental Reimbursement – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that covers the cost of an automobile rental of similar size should the covered vehicle be in repair from a reported incident.

Replacement Cost – This is the amount of money it would cost to replace a lost or damaged item at it is actually new replacement value. This monetary amount would be based on a new identical item in the current local market.

Salvage – This is the auto insurance policy holders property that is turned over tot eh insurance agency in a loss final settlement. Insurance companies will sell the salvage property in hopes to recoup some of its monetary loss due to the loss and settlement.

Second Party – this is the actual insurance company in the auto insurance policy.

Surcharge – This is the amount added to your auto insurance policy premium after a traffic violation or an accident in which you were found to be at fault.

Third Party – This is another person other than the policy holder and auto insurance company who has faced a loss and may be able to collect and be compensated on behalf of the policy holder’s negligence.

Total Loss – This is complete destruction to the insured property of a policy holder. It has been determined that it would be a great sum of money to repair the item rather than replace the insured piece of property to its state prior to the loss.

Towing Coverage – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy that covers a specified amount for towing services and related labor costs.

Under insured Driver – This is the portion of an auto insurance policy which covers injuries to you caused by a driver without enough insurance to pay for the medical expenses you have incurred from the accident. This is portion of the policy can vary state by state as some states include damage to the car in this section.

Uninsured Driver or Motorist – This is the portion of the auto insurance policy which covers injuries to you caused by a driver who was without liability insurance at the time of the accident. Uninsured driver or motorist coverage comes in two different sections; uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage covers the injuries to you or any passenger in your vehicle when there is an accident with an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist property damage coverage covers the cost for the property damage to your vehicle when there is an accident with an identified uninsured driver. Uninsured driver or motorist coverage must be offered when you purchase the required liability coverage for your vehicle. You must sign a declination waiver if you decline Uninsured driver or motorist coverage. The majority of states require drivers to carry some form of uninsured motorist coverage. Some states include damages to your car in this coverage.

Vehicle Identification Number or VIN – A VIN is a 17 letter and number combination that is the identification of the specific vehicle. It will identify the make, modem and year of the automobile. This number is typically located on the driver’s side window on the dash. It can also be found on the vehicles registration and title.

A Brief Introduction to Captive Insurance

Over the past 20 years, many small businesses have begun to insure their own risks through a product called “Captive Insurance.” Small captives (also known as single-parent captives) are insurance companies established by the owners of closely held businesses looking to insure risks that are either too costly or too difficult to insure through the traditional insurance marketplace. Brad Barros, an expert in the field of captive insurance, explains how “all captives are treated as corporations and must be managed in a method consistent with rules established with both the IRS and the appropriate insurance regulator.”

According to Barros, often single parent captives are owned by a trust, partnership or other structure established by the premium payer or his family. When properly designed and administered, a business can make tax-deductible premium payments to their related-party insurance company. Depending on circumstances, underwriting profits, if any, can be paid out to the owners as dividends, and profits from liquidation of the company may be taxed at capital gains.

Premium payers and their captives may garner tax benefits only when the captive operates as a real insurance company. Alternatively, advisers and business owners who use captives as estate planning tools, asset protection vehicles, tax deferral or other benefits not related to the true business purpose of an insurance company may face grave regulatory and tax consequences.

Many captive insurance companies are often formed by US businesses in jurisdictions outside of the United States. The reason for this is that foreign jurisdictions offer lower costs and greater flexibility than their US counterparts. As a rule, US businesses can use foreign-based insurance companies so long as the jurisdiction meets the insurance regulatory standards required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

There are several notable foreign jurisdictions whose insurance regulations are recognized as safe and effective. These include Bermuda and St. Lucia. Bermuda, while more expensive than other jurisdictions, is home to many of the largest insurance companies in the world. St. Lucia, a more reasonably priced location for smaller captives, is noteworthy for statutes that are both progressive and compliant. St. Lucia is also acclaimed for recently passing “Incorporated Cell” legislation, modeled after similar statutes in Washington, DC.

Common Captive Insurance Abuses; While captives remain highly beneficial to many businesses, some industry professionals have begun to improperly market and misuse these structures for purposes other than those intended by Congress. The abuses include the following:

1. Improper risk shifting and risk distribution, aka “Bogus Risk Pools”

2. High deductibles in captive-pooled arrangements; Re insuring captives through private placement variable life insurance schemes

3. Improper marketing

4. Inappropriate life insurance integration

Meeting the high standards imposed by the IRS and local insurance regulators can be a complex and expensive proposition and should only be done with the assistance of competent and experienced counsel. The ramifications of failing to be an insurance company can be devastating and may include the following penalties:

1. Loss of all deductions on premiums received by the insurance company

2. Loss of all deductions from the premium payer

3. Forced distribution or liquidation of all assets from the insurance company effectuating additional taxes for capital gains or dividends

4. Potential adverse tax treatment as a Controlled Foreign Corporation

5. Potential adverse tax treatment as a Personal Foreign Holding Company (PFHC)

6. Potential regulatory penalties imposed by the insuring jurisdiction

7. Potential penalties and interest imposed by the IRS.

All in all, the tax consequences may be greater than 100% of the premiums paid to the captive. In addition, attorneys, CPA’s wealth advisors and their clients may be treated as tax shelter promoters by the IRS, causing fines as great as $100,000 or more per transaction.

Clearly, establishing a captive insurance company is not something that should be taken lightly. It is critical that businesses seeking to establish a captive work with competent attorneys and accountants who have the requisite knowledge and experience necessary to avoid the pitfalls associated with abusive or poorly designed insurance structures. A general rule of thumb is that a captive insurance product should have a legal opinion covering the essential elements of the program. It is well recognized that the opinion should be provided by an independent, regional or national law firm.

Risk Shifting and Risk Distribution Abuses; Two key elements of insurance are those of shifting risk from the insured party to others (risk shifting) and subsequently allocating risk amongst a large pool of insured’s (risk distribution). After many years of litigation, in 2005 the IRS released a Revenue Ruling (2005-40) describing the essential elements required in order to meet risk shifting and distribution requirements.

For those who are self-insured, the use of the captive structure approved in Rev. Ruling 2005-40 has two advantages. First, the parent does not have to share risks with any other parties. In Ruling 2005-40, the IRS announced that the risks can be shared within the same economic family as long as the separate subsidiary companies ( a minimum of 7 are required) are formed for non-tax business reasons, and that the separateness of these subsidiaries also has a business reason. Furthermore, “risk distribution” is afforded so long as no insured subsidiary has provided more than 15% or less than 5% of the premiums held by the captive. Second, the special provisions of insurance law allowing captives to take a current deduction for an estimate of future losses, and in some circumstances shelter the income earned on the investment of the reserves, reduces the cash flow needed to fund future claims from about 25% to nearly 50%. In other words, a well-designed captive that meets the requirements of 2005-40 can bring about a cost savings of 25% or more.

While some businesses can meet the requirements of 2005-40 within their own pool of related entities, most privately held companies cannot. Therefore, it is common for captives to purchase “third party risk” from other insurance companies, often spending 4% to 8% per year on the amount of coverage necessary to meet the IRS requirements.

One of the essential elements of the purchased risk is that there is a reasonable likelihood of loss. Because of this exposure, some promoters have attempted to circumvent the intention of Revenue Ruling 2005-40 by directing their clients into “bogus risk pools.” In this somewhat common scenario, an attorney or other promoter will have 10 or more of their clients’ captives enter into a collective risk-sharing agreement. Included in the agreement is a written or unwritten agreement not to make claims on the pool. The clients like this arrangement because they get all of the tax benefits of owning a captive insurance company without the risk associated with insurance. Unfortunately for these businesses, the IRS views these types of arrangements as something other than insurance.

Risk sharing agreements such as these are considered without merit and should be avoided at all costs. They amount to nothing more than a glorified pretax savings account. If it can be shown that a risk pool is bogus, the protective tax status of the captive can be denied and the severe tax ramifications described above will be enforced.

It is well known that the IRS looks at arrangements between owners of captives with great suspicion. The gold standard in the industry is to purchase third party risk from an insurance company. Anything less opens the door to potentially catastrophic consequences.

Abusively High Deductibles; Some promoters sell captives, and then have their captives participate in a large risk pool with a high deductible. Most losses fall within the deductible and are paid by the captive, not the risk pool.

These promoters may advise their clients that since the deductible is so high, there is no real likelihood of third party claims. The problem with this type of arrangement is that the deductible is so high that the captive fails to meet the standards set forth by the IRS. The captive looks more like a sophisticated pre tax savings account: not an insurance company.

A separate concern is that the clients may be advised that they can deduct all their premiums paid into the risk pool. In the case where the risk pool has few or no claims (compared to the losses retained by the participating captives using a high deductible), the premiums allocated to the risk pool are simply too high. If claims don’t occur, then premiums should be reduced. In this scenario, if challenged, the IRS will disallow the deduction made by the captive for unnecessary premiums ceded to the risk pool. The IRS may also treat the captive as something other than an insurance company because it did not meet the standards set forth in 2005-40 and previous related rulings.

Private Placement Variable Life Reinsurance Schemes; Over the years promoters have attempted to create captive solutions designed to provide abusive tax free benefits or “exit strategies” from captives. One of the more popular schemes is where a business establishes or works with a captive insurance company, and then remits to a Reinsurance Company that portion of the premium commensurate with the portion of the risk re-insured.

Typically, the Reinsurance Company is wholly-owned by a foreign life insurance company. The legal owner of the reinsurance cell is a foreign property and casualty insurance company that is not subject to U.S. income taxation. Practically, ownership of the Reinsurance Company can be traced to the cash value of a life insurance policy a foreign life insurance company issued to the principal owner of the Business, or a related party, and which insures the principle owner or a related party.

1. The IRS may apply the sham-transaction doctrine.

2. The IRS may challenge the use of a reinsurance agreement as an improper attempt to divert income from a taxable entity to a tax-exempt entity and will reallocate income.

3. The life insurance policy issued to the Company may not qualify as life insurance for U.S. Federal income tax purposes because it violates the investor control restrictions.

Investor Control; The IRS has reiterated in its published revenue rulings, its private letter rulings, and its other administrative pronouncements, that the owner of a life insurance policy will be considered the income tax owner of the assets legally owned by the life insurance policy if the policy owner possesses “incidents of ownership” in those assets. Generally, in order for the life insurance company to be considered the owner of the assets in a separate account, control over individual investment decisions must not be in the hands of the policy owner.

The IRS prohibits the policy owner, or a party related to the policy holder, from having any right, either directly or indirectly, to require the insurance company, or the separate account, to acquire any particular asset with the funds in the separate account. In effect, the policy owner cannot tell the life insurance company what particular assets to invest in. And, the IRS has announced that there cannot be any prearranged plan or oral understanding as to what specific assets can be invested in by the separate account (commonly referred to as “indirect investor control”). And, in a continuing series of private letter rulings, the IRS consistently applies a look-through approach with respect to investments made by separate accounts of life insurance policies to find indirect investor control. Recently, the IRS issued published guidelines on when the investor control restriction is violated. This guidance discusses reasonable and unreasonable levels of policy owner participation, thereby establishing safe harbors and impermissible levels of investor control.

The ultimate factual determination is straight-forward. Any court will ask whether there was an understanding, be it orally communicated or tacitly understood, that the separate account of the life insurance policy will invest its funds in a reinsurance company that issued reinsurance for a property and casualty policy that insured the risks of a business where the life insurance policy owner and the person insured under the life insurance policy are related to or are the same person as the owner of the business deducting the payment of the property and casualty insurance premiums?

If this can be answered in the affirmative, then the IRS should be able to successfully convince the Tax Court that the investor control restriction is violated. It then follows that the income earned by the life insurance policy is taxable to the life insurance policy owner as it is earned.

The investor control restriction is violated in the structure described above as these schemes generally provide that the Reinsurance Company will be owned by the segregated account of a life insurance policy insuring the life of the owner of the Business of a person related to the owner of the Business. If one draws a circle, all of the monies paid as premiums by the Business cannot become available for unrelated, third-parties. Therefore, any court looking at this structure could easily conclude that each step in the structure was prearranged, and that the investor control restriction is violated.

Suffice it to say that the IRS announced in Notice 2002-70, 2002-2 C.B. 765, that it would apply both the sham transaction doctrine and ยงยง 482 or 845 to reallocate income from a non-taxable entity to a taxable entity to situations involving property and casualty reinsurance arrangements similar to the described reinsurance structure.

Even if the property and casualty premiums are reasonable and satisfy the risk sharing and risk distribution requirements so that the payment of these premiums is deductible in full for U.S. income tax purposes, the ability of the Business to currently deduct its premium payments on its U.S. income tax returns is entirely separate from the question of whether the life insurance policy qualifies as life insurance for U.S. income tax purposes.

Inappropriate Marketing; One of the ways in which captives are sold is through aggressive marketing designed to highlight benefits other than real business purpose. Captives are corporations. As such, they can offer valuable planning opportunities to shareholders. However, any potential benefits, including asset protection, estate planning, tax advantaged investing, etc., must be secondary to the real business purpose of the insurance company.

Recently, a large regional bank began offering “business and estate planning captives” to customers of their trust department. Again, a rule of thumb with captives is that they must operate as real insurance companies. Real insurance companies sell insurance, not “estate planning” benefits. The IRS may use abusive sales promotion materials from a promoter to deny the compliance and subsequent deductions related to a captive. Given the substantial risks associated with improper promotion, a safe bet is to only work with captive promoters whose sales materials focus on captive insurance company ownership; not estate, asset protection and investment planning benefits. Better still would be for a promoter to have a large and independent regional or national law firm review their materials for compliance and confirm in writing that the materials meet the standards set forth by the IRS.

The IRS can look back several years to abusive materials, and then suspecting that a promoter is marketing an abusive tax shelter, begin a costly and potentially devastating examination of the insured’s and marketers.

Abusive Life Insurance Arrangements; A recent concern is the integration of small captives with life insurance policies. Small captives treated under section 831(b) have no statutory authority to deduct life premiums. Also, if a small captive uses life insurance as an investment, the cash value of the life policy can be taxable to the captive, and then be taxable again when distributed to the ultimate beneficial owner. The consequence of this double taxation is to devastate the efficacy of the life insurance and, it extends serious levels of liability to any accountant recommends the plan or even signs the tax return of the business that pays premiums to the captive.

The IRS is aware that several large insurance companies are promoting their life insurance policies as investments with small captives. The outcome looks eerily like that of the thousands of 419 and 412(I) plans that are currently under audit.

All in all Captive insurance arrangements can be tremendously beneficial. Unlike in the past, there are now clear rules and case histories defining what constitutes a properly designed, marketed and managed insurance company. Unfortunately, some promoters abuse, bend and twist the rules in order to sell more captives. Often, the business owner who is purchasing a captive is unaware of the enormous risk he or she faces because the promoter acted improperly. Sadly, it is the insured and the beneficial owner of the captive who face painful consequences when their insurance company is deemed to be abusive or non-compliant. The captive industry has skilled professionals providing compliant services. Better to use an expert supported by a major law firm than a slick promoter who sells something that sounds too good to be true.