Yes, a member can name a church as a primary or alternate beneficiary under a life insurance policy. Here are several points to consider:
- There are several ways for church members to make gifts to their church using life insurance, but naming the church as a primary or alternate beneficiary is the simplest. The member continues to own the policy, and pay the premiums, and fills out a “change of beneficiary” form that names the church as a beneficiary.
- In some cases, a member may want to name the church?as the sole beneficiary. This can be a way for a member to make a much larger gift to his or her church than would otherwise be possible. This can be as simple as purchasing a term insurance policy online, naming the church as the sole beneficiary. Some members have made substantial donations to their church at the time of death by using this option, at a relatively modest cost.
- In other cases, a member may want to name a spouse or children as the primary beneficiary, and a church as an alternate beneficiary. In such cases the church will receive the insurance proceeds only if none of the primary beneficiaries survive the donor.
- Making a charitable gift of a life insurance policy to one’s church has a number of advantages. The donor remains in control of the insurance policy. This means that the donor can change beneficiaries at any time, for any reason. Or, the donor can terminate the policy if, for example, he or she no longer can afford the premiums. The donor, as the owner of the policy, also can access the policy’s cash value.
- Donors who name their church as a beneficiary under a life insurance policy that they own cannot deduct their premium payments as a charitable contribution. Further, since they own the policy, the policy’s value will be included in their estate for estate tax purposes. However, they may be able to claim an estate tax charitable contribution deduction.
There are other ways for church members to use life insurance for the benefit of their church. These include naming their church as the recipient of dividends under the policy, transferring ownership of the policy to their church, and donating a new life insurance policy to their church. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and some require careful planning to achieve the desired benefits. Church members interested in pursuing these or other options should consult with a life insurance agent or an attorney.