Insuring Your Business with a Buy-Sell Agreement
Life insurance is designed to help protect a household from the financial hardships that may follow the untimely death of a primary wage earner. But how will a death affect a small business?
One way of safeguarding a business is to create a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement is a contract between different entities within a corporation to buy out the interests of a deceased or disabled member. A buy-sell agreement also can protect the business from loss of revenue and cover the expense of finding and training a replacement.
Types of Buy-Sell Agreements
Two main types of buy-sell agreements are commonly used by businesses:
- Cross-Purchase Agreement. In a cross-purchase agreement, key employees have the opportunity to buy the ownership interest of a deceased or disabled key employee. Each key employee takes out a policy on each of the other key employees. Cross-purchase agreements tend to be used in smaller companies where there are not too many key employees to cover.
- Stock-Redemption Agreement. Stock-redemption agreements are formal agreements between each of the key employees—and the business itself—under which the business agrees to purchase the stock of deceased key employees. Key employees agree to sell their shares to the company, often in exchange for a cash value.
These agreements establish a market value for a key employee’s share of the company.
Funding a Buy-Sell Agreement
Several options are available for funding a buy-sell agreement:
- Set Aside Funds. Money for a buy-sell agreement can be set aside, as long as it is easily accessible. These funds must be kept up for the life of the company, and may present a temptation during fiscally tough times. The business owners must determine the appropriate amount needed to cover the cost of a buyout.
- Borrow the Needed Amount. A company can borrow enough to buy out a withdrawing key employee at the time of his or her death. However, the loss of the employee can often affect a company’s ability to secure a loan, and the payments become an added stress on the business during an already difficult time.
- Life Insurance. Purchasing a life or disability policy in order to fund a buy-sell agreement is an option when preparing for the future. Using life insurance enables a buy-sell agreement to be funded with premium payments and attempts to ensure that funds will be available when they are needed.
Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy is surrendered prematurely, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.
A buy-sell agreement is imperative in the event of the death, disability or retirement of a business co-owner, or another situation that has an impact on business ownership. It addresses questions of ownership interest now so that there will be no surprises down the road.
Provided by Michael L. Espinoza, CRPC