Strategizing Using Split-Dollar Life Insurance
Arrangements That Are Not Just About Survivor Benefits
by Joseph Milano CHFC, CLU, CLTC
Creative agreements using permanent life-insurance policies at their core provide advantages to both employer and employee. How the contract is written up depends on what the end goal is.
It Takes Two to Tango
Split-dollar life insurance is a contract between employer and employee concerning a permanent life insurance policy. The agreement details the “splitting” of obligations and benefits. The document addresses who owns the policy, how premiums are paid and what the share of cash value and death benefits for each will be. The objective of these agreements is to provide an employee high-quality life insurance with the employer paying most or all the premiums. The advantage to the employer is that it retains an interest in the cash value portion and/or death benefit of the policy usually to the extent of premiums paid.
Clever Planning Involving Key Employees
A great advantage to these agreements is customizability based on the situation faced by an employer. With some ingenuity the employer can come up with an agreement to help with its key employee concerns. Here are some examples:
Recruitment: offering a high-quality insurance policy at a low or no cost can be used as part of a package to attract key talent
Morale: giving permanent life insurance to an employee who might not be able to afford it is a choice benefit that builds goodwill in the workforce
Retention: including a surrender of cash-value clause for a set time in the future is a way to discourage a key employee from leaving
Protection: the employer protecting itself against the impact caused by the possible early death of a key employee by assuring in the agreement a certain interest in the death benefit
According to attorney Jim Barbee “Split-dollar can be an exceedingly effective way to keep an employee until his/her retirement, provide that employee with a tax efficient retirement fund and ultimately be reimbursed for the full cost of these benefits.”
Where to Begin?
Employers need first to determine their goals. Financial advisors have the experience and expertise in strategizing these plans. Contacting one of these consultants should result in some interesting and productive brainstorming.