Understanding FDIC Insurance

Cheryl Tanenbaum

Cheryl Tanenbaum

In our day-to-day business, we find that a banking concept that is oftentimes confusing and misunderstood by many of our customers is FDIC insurance. So today I thought I’d take a moment and shed some light on both the history of FDIC insurance and how your deposits are protected today.

FDIC insurance was created back in 1933 in the wake of the Great Depression. It was instituted as a result of thousands of bank failures in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. During that precarious financial time, many bank customers lost staggering sums of money. Gaining access to money in banking institutions during this crisis was on a first come, first serve basis – if customers didn’t get their money out of the bank before it went under, they were out of luck. On the coattails of this financial disaster, individual states attempted to insure deposits. However, they were all unsuccessful.

Amid fear and chaos, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Banking Act of 1933 into law. This act created the FDIC as a temporary measure to restore order to the U.S. banking system. Consequently, bank failures and bank runs (the concerted action of depositors who withdraw their money because they believe the bank is about to fail) quickly declined, suggesting that the FDIC was a successful measure in bolstering consumer confidence and the banking system in general. The U.S. Treasury funded the initial FDIC insurance with $289 million. These funds were repaid to the Treasury in 1948.

FDIC was made a permanent agency under the Banking Act of 1935. This new act refined how the organization would work (e.g. under this act the insurance was now funded by banks instead of the U.S. Treasury). Today, the FDIC proudly notes that since the Banking Act of 1935 was enacted “no depositor has lost a single cent of insured funds as a result of a failure.”

The goal of this permanent agency was and still is to promote trust in our banking system. Simply put, if your deposits are FDIC insured, the U.S. government stands behind the promise to make them whole if the bank fails.

The FDIC runs an insurance fund – a giant pool of money that can be utilized in the event of a bank failure. The money in this fund doesn’t come from taxpayer dollars as some depositors assume. The money is funded through premiums paid by FDIC insured banks and the earnings on the assets in this fund. These banking institutions pay into this fund to pay their depositors if they should someday fail as well as to help pay for other banks that fail.

On July 21, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act. This act, in part, permanently raised the current standard maximum insurance of $100,000 to $250,000.

So, what does this mean to you?
This means that in the event of a bank failure, the FDIC insurance coverage limit of $250,000 applies per depositor, per insured depository institution for each account ownership category.

The FDIC insurance covers all deposit accounts at insured banks and savings associations, including checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and certain retirement accounts. This insurance however does not protect money invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, life insurance policies, annuities or municipal securities. It is important for depositors to understand these distinctions.

What are the basic FDIC coverage limits?

Single Accounts (owned by one person with no beneficiaries) – This is a deposit account owned by one person and titled in that person’s name only, with no beneficiaries. All single accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $250,000.

Joint Accounts (two or more persons with no beneficiaries) – This is a deposit account owned by two or more people and titled jointly in the co-owners’ names only, with no beneficiaries. If all co-owners have equal rights to this money, each co-owner’s shares of all joint accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $250,000.

Revocable Trusts (Formal and Informal) – A revocable trust account is a deposit account owned by one or more people that identifies one or more beneficiaries who will receive the deposits upon the death of the owner(s). A revocable trust can be revoked, terminated, or changed at any time, at the discretion of the owner(s). The term “owner” means the grantor, settlor, or trustor of the revocable trust.

This ownership category includes both informal and formal revocable trusts:

• Informal revocable trusts — also known as payable on death (POD), in trust for (ITF), testamentary, or Totten Trust accounts — are the most common form of revocable trusts. These informal revocable trusts are created when the account owner signs an agreement — usually part of the bank’s signature card — stating that the deposits will be payable to one or more beneficiaries upon the owner’s death.

• Formal revocable trust — also known as Living trusts or family trusts — are formal revocable trusts created for estate planning purposes. The owner of a living trust controls the deposits in the trust during his or her lifetime. The trust document sets forth who shall receive trust assets after the death of the owner.

Deposit insurance coverage for revocable trust accounts is provided to the owner of the trust. However, the amount of coverage is based on the number of beneficiaries named in the trust and, in some cases, the interests allocated to those beneficiaries, up to the insurance limit. A trust beneficiary can be an individual (regardless of the relationship to the owner), a charity, or a non-profit organization (as defined by the IRS).

Revocable trust coverage is based on all revocable trust deposits held by the same owner at the same bank, whether formal or informal. If a revocable trust account has more than one owner, each owner’s coverage is calculated separately, using the following rules:

• Revocable Trust Deposits with Five or Fewer Beneficiaries — Each owner’s share of revocable trust deposits is insured up to $250,000 for each unique eligible beneficiary named or identified in the revocable trust (i.e., $250,000 times the number of different beneficiaries), regardless of actual interest provided to beneficiaries.
• Revocable Trust Deposits with Six or More Beneficiaries — Each owner’s share of revocable trust deposits is insured for the greater of either (1) coverage based on each unique eligible beneficiary’s actual interest in the revocable trust deposits, with no beneficiary’s interest to be insured for more than $250,000, or (2) $1,250,000.

Determining coverage for revocable trust accounts that have six or more beneficiaries and provide different interests for the trust beneficiaries can be complicated. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you need assistance in determining the insurance coverage of your revocable trust or should you have any questions concerning your FDIC coverage.

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