Real old-timers remember the days of one of comedy’s iconic duos, the husband and wife team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Any younger connoisseurs of good humor would do well to spend some online-time calling up at least some of their radio, television, and cinema work-product on YouTube or some other source. But search engines didn’t help me uncover one famous routine, so I will paraphrase:
Gracie: Did you hear that my friend got hit by a car that didn’t have its headlights on?
George: That’s awful! Why didn’t the driver bother to use the headlights?
Gracie: Because it wasn’t dark yet!
Knowing all the facts can certainly change the response to circumstances.
And so it is when talking to a business owner about how much company-owned coverage he or she can get on an important executive. Consider:
The standard key-person formula
Most carriers will allow a business to own coverage on an important executive in the amount of ten times his or her compensation package. This includes not just W-2 salary, but also bonuses, cost of perks (e.g. club memberships), fringe benefit costs (e.g. health insurance, etc.), qualified retirement plan contributions, deferred compensation, as well as the use of a company car or other business assets.
Stretching the limits a bit
Some carriers will allow a larger multiple for financial justification. But some might impose a lower multiple as well if it appears unlikely the executive will work for ten more years. When owner-executives are involved a carrier may allow for part of the proposed insured’s Schedule K income to be taken into consideration. If the proposed insured is being awarded ownership interests, the value of those interests might be treated as compensation.
Debt can help
Some carriers will allow additional coverage based on a percentage of the company’s longer-term obligations to financial institutions if it can be shown that loss of the executive will curtail the company’s ability to repay. Sometimes the policy is initiated by a lender’s requirement, in which case the financial institution is secured through a collateral assignment.
A major reason a business may be economically burdened by the death of an executive is the existence of an agreement to buy his or her ownership interest in the company from the surviving family. The agreed purchase price can be added to the amount of coverage sought. If no agreement exists this might open up a discussion of that planning need with the client.
Company-owned policies are often more easily placed because the limited time for which coverage is needed (till the insured’s anticipated retirement or for the expected period of service) make economical term insurance a good product choice.
George Burns lost his show-biz and life partner in 1964. His career continued after Gracie until he passed away 32 years later, just 49 days after his 100th birthday. So we will end with the signature closing of Burns & Allen:
George: Say good-night, Gracie.
Gracie: Good-night, Gracie!