A trust is one way to leave a legacy, but you’ll need to hire a lawyer to draw it up. And there may be ongoing management fees that will reduce the amount your loved ones will receive.
There are simpler, cheaper ways to leave a legacy. For instance, you can buy a cash-value life insurance policy or fund a 529 college savings plan.
But one of the best options, an income annuity, is usually overlooked. It’s an ideal vehicle for leaving a legacy. An annuity offers unique benefits. It’s the only gift guaranteed to keep on giving for a lifetime.
One Way to Execute This Plan
Here’s how it would work for a grandchild. You buy a longevity annuity — also called a deferred income annuity — for your grandchild. This type of annuity defers payments until a future date that you choose.
For example, your grandchild is 10 years old. You make a $100,000 deposit. You decide to have income payments begin when your grandchild reaches age 25 and continue for the remainder of his or her life.
One top insurer will guarantee a payment of $481.68 per month, with $335.73 of it taxable. If your grandchild lives to age 85, he or she will collect $346,809.60: $246,809.60 in interest plus the $100,000 of principal.
Pros and Cons
The Issue of Cash Value
An income annuity has no cash value, and that’s something that can be both a pro AND a con. As a pro, after you’re gone, your grandchild won’t be able to blow the money on a fancy pickup truck or whatever. Upon request, some insurance companies will even add a non-assignable/transferable clause to the policy in order to prevent your loved one from selling their annuity on the secondary market.
While lack of cash value has advantages, it does have some downsides. Of course, you must be sure you’ll never need the money before you give it away for good. I use the example of a $100,000 deposit, but you don’t need to spend that much. You can buy an income annuity with as little as $10,000. In addition, you’re trading your cash for the insurer’s promise to pay a stream of income. So, you need to take care to choose a financially strong company.
Depending on your state’s laws, once you buy an annuity you have 10 to 30 days to change your mind and get your money back. But once the “free look” period is over, you can’t get out of the contract, though you or your heirs may be able to sell an income annuity on the secondary market, if you didn’t have a non-assignable/transferable clause added to the policy as described above.
A Fond Remembrance
Another pro is that since your grandchild will receive a check from you every month or year, you’ll be remembered fondly. If you choose annual payments, you might have the annuity check arrive each year on your grandchild's birthday or on Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday.
You can also extend your legacy. With the right type of annuity and strategy, you can choose to have annuity payments continue to go to his or her child or children for the remainder of their lives, too. While you may never even meet your great-grandchildren, they too can receive a regular gift from you. This option, however, does reduce the amount of income your grandchild will receive.
Possibility of Inflation Protection
In addition, the checks can increase. For an added cost, you can add an inflation-protection rider so that the amount will go up over time. This will help the recipients retain future purchasing power. Over time, an initial deposit of $100,000 could grow to $300,000, $400,000 or more in total gifts received. It depends on how long the income pays out, the internal rate of return offered by the insurance company, and how many recipients are set up to receive the income payouts. What other financial product will let you do this?
Another advantage is tax efficiency. When income is received, only a portion of it will typically be taxable. This is because part of the income from an annuity is considered to be a return of principal and part is considered to be earnings. While earnings are taxed, return of principal is not.
Who Might Be Interested in This Strategy, and Who Might Want to Consider Another Route
Buying an annuity for a child or grandchild is probably not the best approach for someone with a relatively large estate and sufficient resources to hire estate planning attorneys and accountants, as well as having the necessary time and patience to implement a more complex estate plan involving various forms of trusts, etc. But for someone who wants a quick, easy and inexpensive way to be remembered as giving the gift of guaranteed lifetime income to younger loved ones, it can be a good fit.
Keep in mind that this strategy is not intended to replace your entire estate plan, it’s just an option for part of it.
The Bottom Line
While others may give gifts that are soon forgotten, providing those loved ones with an ongoing gift of income that will last for the remainder of their lives or longer will ensure that you have created a legacy for yourself as well as a nice financial cushion for the younger generation of your heirs.
Retirement-income expert Ken Nuss is the founder and CEO of AnnuityAdvantage, a leading online provider of fixed-rate, fixed-indexed and immediate-income annuities. Interest rates from dozens of insurers are constantly updated on its website. He launched the AnnuityAdvantage website in 1999 to help people looking for their best options in principal-protected annuities. More information is available from the Medford, Oregon, based company at https://www.annuityadvantage.com (opens in new tab) or (800) 239-0356.
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