Drumgoole Financial Services

Family Protection for Cohabiting Couples

When structuring life assurance for cohabiting clients and their family, it is important to remember that cohabitants have no automatic rights to their deceased partner’s assets under the Succession Act.

So, if you are cohabiting and have no Will in place, the proceeds of a life assurance policy could end up in the hands of the deceased’s ‘next of kin’, their parents or even their brothers and sisters, if the arrangement is not structured correctly.

With the possible exception of the family home, the total value of all assets passing between two people who are not married or civil partners, are liable to Inheritance and Gift Tax, regardless of how long the couple are living together. This includes the value of any life assurance benefits.

If the beneficiary did not pay the premiums, or if the beneficiary is not the legal spouse or registered civil partner of the person who paid the premiums, the plan proceeds will be liable to Inheritance Tax.

From a tax perspective ‘partners’ are treated as ‘strangers’ for Inheritance Tax purposes with a threshold of only €16,250 (currently) tax-free. The balance is currently taxed at 33%. Where there are children of the current or a previous relationship there can be confusion over who the proceeds of the life assurance contract will be paid to, as well as how the proceeds will be taxed.

For example, a new client recently asked me to set up a Life Assurance policy for her protection needs. This client is not married to her partner, but they have one child. They had initially received (bad) advice to set up a dual life Term Assurance plan along with their joint life Mortgage Protection plan.

In this instance, I recommended they each set up an individual Life Assurance policy on the other person (i.e. Life of Another) with the premiums being paid from their individual bank accounts. It may be slightly more expensive than a joint/dual policy, but they will potentially avoid a future tax bill of 33% as described above.

In the event of death, who will receive the plan proceeds?

The sum assured will automatically be paid to the policy owner in the event of the death of a partner. If both were to die during the term of the plans, the proceeds will go to the estate. In the case of my client, she will leave the entire estate to their son.

Have a question? #justcallOran on 087 668 6624 or visit www.drumgoolebrokerage.ie.

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