Steve and Connie Adams, ages 82 and 79 respectively, have always been avid birders. When they married 55 years ago, it was at a bird sanctuary. It took them a while to save up to launch their own business, but 40 years ago they turned their passion for birding into a small family business, The Bird House, which sells birding and bird-keeping supplies. Over the years, they passed along their love of birding to their 3 sons and 8 wonderful grandchildren, all of whom got involved with The Bird House as it grew into a small chain of highly successful stores.

Way back when Steve and Connie first started The Bird House, an insurance broker—and longtime family friend—convinced them to purchase life insurance to provide for the young family and the young business in case something happened to either of them. He noted that birders should be sure to protect a nest egg. The broker recommended $1 million of coverage for Steve and $500,000 for Connie. It was difficult in that day and age to come up with $72,000 of annual premiums—but they did it.

Today, their $40 million estate has no estate tax exposure, and the original need for the life insurance policies no longer exists: their children and grandchildren will be well provided for. The death benefits for the policies have gone up over time as the cash values have increased, but lately ...

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