CPAs (including me) are in the business of helping you, their clients. We try to maintain and improve your economic and tax health. In theory, our job is simple: use our knowledge to help you. If we don't know how to solve a particular problem, then find someone who can. But recognize that often a CPA's or any other professional advisor's ability to help you is more a matter of their experience than their knowledge.

But remember, no matter how knowledgeable or experienced, none of us know it all. Like it or not, that's why often the use of a specific strategy, method or concept that could have helped many clients falls through the cracks unnoticed. The client that could have been helped is not. This article is about a simple strategy that few CPAs, lawyers and other professionals know exists. As you are about to learn when this strategy is used, those clients and their families who use it enjoy a huge increase in the amount of their wealth, tax-free, and no additional out-of-pocket cost.

Your author has helped implement this strategy hundreds of times. What guides me? Not much knowledge, but my years of experience. You see in this case, my job is to recognize the opportunity and then call in an expert who implements the strategy with ease. The client is always delighted.

Let's introduce the strategy by starting with some basic facts, based on my experience. Seventy percent of life insurance policies are outdated. What does this mean? These policies, typically at least 10 years old, are simply not capable of performing like the new policies available in the current marketplace.

Now here's the fact that makes the strategy a financial bonanza: 90% of the time when the old policy is replaced with a new policy, the client winds up with a significant increased death benefit, but no increase in out-of-pocket cash for premiums. And every dollar of those death benefits are tax free. No income tax. No estate tax.

Yes, taxes and legally avoiding them are in the CPA's realm. But life insurance, forget it! Almost every CPA is like a fish out of water when it comes to life insurance. We have pinpointed the problem: neither the client nor the CPA knows those old life insurance policies are a treasure trove of opportunity to increase the wealth of the client's family.

The best way to see how the strategy works is to look at some real-life examples. The following three examples, taken from my private client files show the wealth-creating power of this opportunity. A little side note: my partners are not happy with me revealing this strategy or the examples to the world.

Example No. 1: Joe, age 82, and his wife Mary, 84, had a 45-year-old policy on Joe with a death benefit of $396,000 and a cash surrender value (CSV) of $355,000. Joe stopped paying premiums many years ago. My insurance consultant used the $355,000 CSV to purchase a second-to-die policy (on Joe and Mary) with a $706,000 death benefit. That's a 78% increase over the original $396,000 death benefit … and, as is typical, not one cent of out-of-pocket cost to Joe.

Example No. 2: Larry, age 58 and single, had a 15-year-old policy on his life: death benefit of $788,631 and CSV of $239,027. Larry paid a $9,000 premium annually. This time my insurance guru traded-in (tax-free under the Internal Revenue Code) the old policy for a new policy with a $1,702,127 death benefit (a 116% increase). The $9,000 annual premium continued.

Example No. 3: Mildred, a young 71-year-old widow, owned a 26-year-old policy: $10 million death benefit, $2,880,000 CSV. Mildred's premium was $68,000 per year, but because the CSV was large enough to self-carry the policy, her intent was to pay no more premiums out-of-pocket (instead borrowing against the CSV). My insurance consultant pulled another rabbit out of the hat: he traded Mildred's old policy (tax-free) for a new one with a $12,670,000 death benefit guaranteed, no further premium payments by Mildred.

So you are wondering if you can join the tax-free, wealth-building fun like Joe, Larry and Mildred. Actually, it's easy to join: just meet the following three requirements:

  • Are you 48-years-old or older?
  • Do you have a policy that’s about 10-years-old or older with a CSV of $200,000 or more?
  • Are you healthy for your age? If married, is at least one of you is healthy? It's best if both are healthy?

If you said yes to all questions, this strategy is a must for you to follow through (to determine how much additional tax-free wealth can be created for your family). Now, the next question ... Why do I want your CPA involved? Here's the opportunity and the explanation.

First, the opportunity: my guess is that there are millions of hidden policies in the three examples above, where the insured will go to heaven and the insurance company will be enriched (unjustly), instead of the insured's family enjoying those additional death benefit dollars. But how do we get those millions of policies looked at and the strategy implemented?

Second, the explanation: your author has a simple plan to convert those hidden policies to their largest dollar potential. Here's the plan: get this article to your CPA.

This paragraph is for your CPA: Every year when you do your client's tax return or year-end business audit, ask the three questions above to determine if your client meets the requirements. If so, call your favorite, knowledgeable and experienced insurance consultant to review your client’s policy/policies.

Note to your CPA: When doing a year-end business audit, any insurance carried to fund a buy/sell agreement, keyman insurance or any other life insurance owned or paid for by the company should be (put through the above three-question routine) part of your audit program.

Yes, a new subject like this always leads to some good questions. Do you, the reader or CPA have any questions? If so, call me (Irv) at 847-674-5295. I'll walk you through what to do and how to do it. For CPAs: It just takes two or three complete policy conversions and you'll be a pro!

Irv Blackman, CPA and lawyer, is a retired founding partner of Blackman Kallick Bartelstein LLP and chairman emeritus of the New Century Bank, both in Chicago. He can be reached at 847-674-5295, e-mail BLACKMAN@ESTATETAXSECRETS.COM, or on the Web at: WWW.TAXSECRETSOFTHEWEALTHY.COM.