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Life Insurance as an Employee Benefit
You can buy life insurance for your employees as an employee benefit, similar to any other benefit, under Section 7702 of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, the law lets business owners deduct the premiums for up to $50,000 of term life insurance for their employees. This is important in a society where employees are more and more used to getting insurance coverage from work. In some cases, this coverage may be the only life insurance a worker has.
Funding Buy Sell Agreements
If you have a business with one or more partners or other shareholders who are active in managing or running your business, you should have a buy-sell agreement in place. In a nutshell, this is a written agreement that the survivor will purchase the deceased partner’s interest in the business for cash from the deceased’s estate ? and that the deceased’s estate will sell.
If you fail to create a buy-sell agreement, you may find yourself in business with your partner’s spouse. Or worse, your partners’ spouse’s lawyers. Your partner’s heirs may have no expertise in or interest in running your business, which could create big problems down the road. They will still be entitled to your ex-partner’s share of any dividends or distributions from the business, and will demand their fair share of cash even though they may contribute little or nothing to the business’s operation. A buy-sell agreement protects both sides by ensuring the heirs get the cash they need, while you get to continue running the business.
And where does the cash to fund the agreement come from? Life insurance. Each partner can own a policy on each of the other partners, or the business itself can own the policy.
Key Person Insurance
Does your business have a key salesperson, manager or technician who is so productive, or so crucial to your operation, that it would severely damage your business if this person were to unexpectedly pass away? If so, you have an insurable interest in that individual, and you may want to consider owning a policy on him or her. If the worst happens, the policy will provide your business with enough cash to keep functioning while you search for, hire and train a replacement. This could cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some life insurance policies – specifically “permanent” insurance policies such as whole life or universal life policies, build cash value. The policy owner can use this cash value for any purpose. In some cases, you can structure a plan to award the cash value to a key employee as a bonus after a certain number of years of service. This so-called “golden handcuffs” plan gives your top employees a powerful incentive to stay with your company, and as time goes by, it gets very difficult for competitors to “poach” your key people.
Supplemental Retirement Planning
Cash value plans can also be a great way for you to supplement your retirement income, without all the many restrictions that come with standard retirement plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs. You can restrict life insurance-based retirement plans to owners and executives, for example, to supplement your other retirement savings. By purchasing a modest-sized death benefit, and funding the policy with substantial premiums, you can build significant cash value over time.
You can use this for retirement or even as a source of reserve capital for your business. You don’t have to wait until you are age 59 1/2 to use the money. Or you can simply keep the policy in force and use it for the purpose for which it was designed: Life insurance.
There are nearly as many ways to use a life insurance policy to benefit a business or business owner as there are businesses. Every business is different.