Key Person Life Insurance

Anyone can spend their whole life building the business of their dreams.  It’s a rewarding experience like few others, but it’s also one that can be irreparably damaged with one bad stroke of luck, one serious incident, or the loss of one key employee.

Savvy business owners know they must take steps to protect their business in many ways so that it can continue to prosper under all conditions.  And one the ways they do this is by securing key person life insurance for themselves and important employees who are vital components of their operations.

Key person life insurance policies are taken out by companies on their employees, with death benefits that are paid to the company, rather than to the insured person or to their estate or heirs.  Businesses pay all the premiums and in return, they receive all of the benefits.

It is a smart business move that protects a company from the unexpected death of an employee who plays an essential role in the financial health of a company.

Key Person Life Insurance can be used to maintain the health of a business in several ways:

  • It provides cash flow flexibility during the transition period.
  • It boosts the creditworthiness of a company.
  • It can be used to help secure loans to help a business grow and expand.
  • It can be used to purchase the ownership interest from the deceased person’s estate.
  • It provides peace of mind to creditors and customers that a company is on stable financial footing.
  • It is simple to implement and offers business complete flexibility as to who they want to insure.
  • It can help retain key employees who see it as a significant employee benefit when several executives are covered.
  • It can be implemented no matter what the size of the company is. Policies exist to help businesses large and small.
  • It remains a very affordable option to provide all of these other benefits.

Death benefits paid to the business are not taxable and investment earnings derived from insurance premiums grow tax-free in the policy, providing a financial cushion for the business as well.

How much should I buy?

After determining that buying Key Person Life Insurance is a good business move, the next question then becomes how much to buy.  Placing an exact value on an employee and their contributions can be a difficult proposition.

While the exact amount will vary by situation and by company, the challenge for a life insurance company and company ownership is to determine what the realistic loss of a key employee would be to a company if they pass away or become disabled to the point of not being able to contribute any longer.

While many methods exist, there are three that tend to be favored by most businesses:

Multiples of income.  This is the most simple and straightforward method used to determine a key executive’s value to a company.  An insurance company will base the amount of insurance needed on a multiple of the key executive’s salary and benefits.  Typically, the multiple will be anywhere from five to seven times this amount.  For example, if a key executive has a salary and benefits package of $250,000, an insurance company may use a multiple of six and thus issue a policy valued at $1.5 million.  Individual situations will vary, leading to higher or lower values.

Replacement cost.  This method uses the assumption of how much it would cost to replace the key executive if they pass away or can no longer render services to a company.  Calculating this cost not only includes salary and benefits, but also costs associated with recruiting, training and bringing the new employee up to the same level of contribution as the former employee.  Some insurance companies will also factor in the projected loss of revenues that could occur during the transition time following the death or disability of the key executive.

Contribution to earnings.  This method attempts to calculate the percentage of contribution that a key person adds to a company’s bottom line profit.  This can be a preferred method when the key person is a company’s top sales person who contributes a significant amount of sales volume and profits to a company’s bottom line.  Insurance companies will take into account the actual value of the company’s profits directly attributable to the key person and multiply it by the number of years it would require to replace those numbers by hiring and training another replacement employee.

In using these valuation methods, many insurance experts agree that a business owner should purchase as much key person insurance as they can afford, providing the greatest amount of protection for their company.

To save on premiums, it is recommended that a company purchase term insurance versus whole or variable life policies which carry higher premiums and pay out greater commissions for insurance agents.  Because a person’s employment will be for a specific amount of time, term insurance makes the most sense.

It’s also important to get quotes from several sources, as costs can vary from company to company.  And it’s also wise to get quotes on a variety of amounts ranging from $250,000 to $1 million or more.  The bottom line is to remember that as a business owner, the primary consideration is to purchase the amount that will protect the short-term cash needs of a business until the key person can be replaced, restoring financial health to the company.

Key person insurance as part of a business succession plan

In some instances, a business may not be able to recover from the loss of a key executive.  That key executive may be the owner and the face of the company, or their contributions will never be able to be fully replaced under any circumstances.

When this is the case, key person insurance can be an effective component of a broader business succession plan.  Whether or not key person insurance is purchased, all companies of any size should have a business succession plan in place no matter what.  Business succession planning ensures the ongoing health of a company and addresses a variety of contingencies that can otherwise threaten the overall health of the business.

However, with prudent advance planning, key person insurance can be an important element of a succession plan that can provide much need bridge capital and flexibility until the succession plan can be put into action.

Unfortunately, statistics show that only about one-quarter of all small businesses have a succession plan in place, often putting extreme stress on the survival of many businesses in times of transition.

What other kinds of business insurance do you need?

Key Person Life Insurance is an important part of the overall long-term protection of your business, but there are also many other kinds of insurance you should consider as well.  In fact, the right kinds of insurance should be a primary part of your business operations to safeguard everything you have work for, while also protecting your employees, your family, and your financial well-being.

There are several other aspects of your business you should consider insuring.  Each will have it’s own unique set of factors that will determine how much coverage you need.   Some of the most common types of insurances include:

Liability – There are two types of liability insurance you should consider.  General liability insurance protects your business in instances where a customer is injured on your property.  It will also pay for your legal defense in cases where you are sued due to claims that your product or your service caused a person harm in any way.  Professional liability insurance protects you against claims rising against you by others who claim your service caused them financial loss.

Property – Protects the physical assets of your business, including buildings, inventory, equipment and other hard assets.

Workers’ compensation – If you have employees you will need to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover medical bills arising from any illnesses or injuries that took place as a result of work activities.

Business interruption – If your business is not able to operate due to a property loss, this type of insurance will cover lost income during the period in question.

Health insurance – With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it is critical that you know what your responsibilities are as an employer and how they relate to you and your employees.

Commercial auto – If you or your employees drive vehicles that are owned by your company, or that are personal vehicles that are driven during the course of business, you need to have a commercial auto policy in place to protect you from potentially devastating losses that could be the result of an auto accident.

Working with PolicyZip

Because there are so many variables when it comes to protecting the long-term financial health of any business, it makes sense to work with insurance professionals who can design the most cost-efficient and streamlined coverages for your individual situation.

PolicyZip has an experienced team of insurance professionals throughout the United States who work with major insurance carriers on a daily basis, and can provide you and your business with a practical, common sense approach to safeguarding your interests for many years to come.