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Keyman Insurance Policy Explained: Everything You Need to Know

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Keyman Insurance Policy Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Importance of Keyman Insurance Policy

What is keyman insurance policy? It is a life insurance policy taken out on the most crucial employees of a business, providing financial protection for the company if those employees are unable to work due to death or disability.

Summary of Keyman Insurance Policy:
Definition: Life insurance for key employees.
Purpose: Protects business from financial loss.
Coverage: Death, disability, sometimes critical illness.

In the modern business world, the unexpected can happen. Imagine one of your critical employees suddenly becomes incapacitated or passes away. The loss could severely disrupt operations and impact your company’s financial stability. This is where a keyman insurance policy steps in, acting as a safeguard for your business continuity.

A well-chosen keyman insurance policy allows your business to cope with the financial implications that such a loss might bring. Considering how vital these policies are, ISU Armac, your trusted insurance partner in Victorville, California, offers tailored keyman insurance solutions to fit your needs. By securing keyman insurance, you protect your company’s future and ensure continued success, no matter what challenges arise.

I’m Ryan McEachron, CEO of ISU Insurance Services ARMAC Agency. With experience in the insurance industry, I’ve seen the critical role that keyman insurance policies play in protecting businesses. I’m here to guide you through understanding and finding the right coverage for your needs.

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What is Keyman Insurance Policy?

Keyman insurance, also known as key person insurance or key employee insurance, is a special type of business insurance. It is designed to protect a company financially if a key individual within the organization passes away or becomes critically ill.


Keyman Insurance Policy is a life insurance policy taken out by a business on the life of an essential employee. The business pays the premiums and is the beneficiary of the policy.


The primary purpose of a keyman insurance policy is to provide financial protection to the business. If a key person, such as a CEO, top salesperson, or lead engineer, dies or becomes incapacitated, the policy pays out a lump sum to the business. This money can be used to cover various expenses that arise due to the loss of the key employee.

Key Employee

A key employee is someone whose skills, knowledge, experience, or leadership are crucial to the company’s success. Think of a visionary CEO, a highly skilled engineer, or a top salesperson. The absence of these individuals can significantly impact the business.

Examples of key employees might include:

  • CEO or Founder: The strategic mind behind the company’s vision.
  • Top Salesperson: The individual driving significant revenue.
  • Lead Engineer: The technical expert whose knowledge is irreplaceable.

Key employees like CEOs and top salespeople are crucial to a company's success. - what is keyman insurance policy

Financial Protection

The financial protection offered by keyman insurance can be a lifeline for a business in distress. Here are some ways the payout can be used:

  • Cover Lost Profits: Compensate for the drop in revenue due to the loss of the key person.
  • Offsetting Lost Income: Replace the income generated by the key employee.
  • Pay Off Business Debt: Settle any outstanding business debts to maintain creditworthiness.
  • Recruitment Costs: Cover the expenses of hiring and training a replacement.
  • Maintain Business Operations: Keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly.

A real-world example: Imagine a tech startup losing its visionary CEO. The immediate financial impact can be devastating. With keyman insurance, the business receives a cash injection that can help it survive and find a suitable replacement.

In summary, keyman insurance is a vital tool for protecting your business against the loss of essential personnel. It ensures that the company can continue to operate and recover from the financial setbacks caused by the loss of a key employee.

Next, we’ll delve into how a keyman insurance policy works, including who pays the premiums and how claims are processed.

How Does a Keyman Insurance Policy Work?

Understanding how a keyman insurance policy works can help your business make informed decisions. Here’s a breakdown of the key elements:

Policy Mechanics

A keyman insurance policy is essentially a life insurance policy taken out by a business on the life of a key employee. The business is both the policy owner and the beneficiary. This means if the insured key employee passes away, the business receives the payout.

Premium Payer

The business pays the premiums for the keyman insurance policy. These premiums vary based on several factors, such as the insured individual’s age, health, occupation, and the amount of coverage required. For example, younger, healthier individuals generally have lower premiums.

Benefit Recipient

In the event of the insured key employee’s death, the business receives the death benefit. This lump-sum payment can be used to cover various costs, such as:

  • Loss of Revenue: The payout can help offset the loss of income that the key employee would have generated.
  • Hiring and Training: Funds can be used to find and train a replacement.
  • Debt Repayment: The benefit can be used to pay off any business debts that the key employee was responsible for.
  • Business Continuity: The money can help keep the business running smoothly during the transition period.

Claim Process

When the insured key employee dies, the business can file a claim to receive the death benefit. Here’s a simplified version of how the claim process works:

  1. Notify the Insurer: The business must inform the insurance company of the key employee’s death.
  2. Submit Documentation: The business needs to provide necessary documents, such as the death certificate and the insurance policy.
  3. Claim Review: The insurance company reviews the claim and the submitted documents.
  4. Payout: If everything is in order, the insurer will release the death benefit to the business.

This process ensures that the business can quickly access the funds needed to navigate the challenging period following the loss of a key employee.

Next, we’ll explore the different types of keyman insurance policies available, so you can choose the one that best fits your business needs.

Types of Keyman Insurance Policies

When considering keyman insurance, it’s important to understand the different types available. Each type offers unique benefits and suits different business needs. Let’s break down the main types: term life insurance, permanent life insurance, and disability coverage.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific period, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. It’s ideal for businesses with short-term needs, like covering a key person until they retire.

Lower Premiums: Term insurance is generally cheaper than permanent insurance.
Simple Structure: It’s straightforward, offering a payout if the key person dies during the term.

No Cash Value: Unlike permanent insurance, term policies don’t build cash value.
Expiration: Coverage ends when the term expires, which can be a drawback if the key person is still critical to the business.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance covers the key person for their entire life, as long as premiums are paid. It includes options like whole life, universal life, and variable life insurance.

Lifetime Coverage: Provides a payout no matter when the key person dies.
Cash Value: These policies accumulate cash value over time, which can be accessed for business needs.

Higher Premiums: Permanent insurance is more expensive due to its lifelong coverage and cash value component.
Complexity: More complex than term insurance, with various options and features to consider.

Disability Coverage

Disability coverage ensures the business receives a payout if the key person becomes disabled and can’t work. This type of coverage is crucial because a key person’s disability can be just as impactful as their death.

Financial Protection: Provides financial support if the key person is unable to work due to disability.
Business Continuity: Helps the business maintain operations during the key person’s absence.

Cost: Adding disability coverage increases the overall premium.
Complex Terms: Definitions of “disability” and payout terms can vary, so it’s important to understand the specifics.

Understanding these types of keyman insurance policies helps you choose the right one for your business needs. Next, we’ll discuss who needs keyman insurance and how to assess its impact on your business.

Who Needs Keyman Insurance?

Small Businesses

For small businesses, losing a key employee can be devastating. Imagine your top salesperson suddenly passes away or becomes incapacitated. Without keyman insurance, the financial impact could be severe. According to a report, almost all businesses (99%) have at least one key person, yet only 18% have insurance to cover them.

Key Employees

Who are these key employees? They are the driving force behind your business. They could be:

  • The CEO or founder
  • A high-performing salesperson
  • A specialized engineer or product designer
  • Someone with critical client relationships

These individuals are irreplaceable assets whose loss could cripple your business operations.

Impact Assessment

Before getting keyman insurance, you need to assess the impact of losing a key employee. Ask yourself:

  • Who drives the most revenue?
  • Who holds essential knowledge or skills?
  • Who maintains crucial client relationships?

Conduct an impact analysis. Evaluate the potential financial and operational disruptions. Consider factors like revenue loss, recruitment costs, and the effect on team morale.

Business Survival

The ultimate goal of keyman insurance is to ensure business survival. If a key person passes away or is unable to work, the insurance payout can help:

  • Cover lost revenue
  • Pay off business debts
  • Hire and train a replacement

In short, keyman insurance acts as a financial safety net, allowing your business to weather the storm and continue operations.

Benefits of Keyman Insurance

Financial Security

Keyman insurance provides a financial safety net for your business. If a key employee passes away or becomes disabled, the payout can cover lost revenue and other costs. This ensures your business can stay afloat during tough times.

Business Continuity

When a key person leaves unexpectedly, business operations can suffer. Keyman insurance helps maintain business continuity by providing funds to find and train a replacement. This minimizes disruptions and keeps your business running smoothly.

Debt Repayment

Many businesses have loans or other financial obligations. If a key person is no longer able to contribute, these debts can become overwhelming. The insurance payout can be used to repay business debts, preventing financial strain and potential bankruptcy.

Employee Family Support

While keyman insurance primarily protects the business, it can also indirectly support the key employee’s family. By ensuring the business remains stable, the policy helps maintain the family’s income and financial security. However, for direct family support, personal life insurance is still essential.

Next, we’ll delve into the cost factors of a keyman insurance policy.

Keyman Insurance Policy Cost Factors

When considering a keyman insurance policy, understand the factors that influence its cost. Here are the key elements:

Term vs Permanent Insurance

Term Insurance: This type of policy is usually cheaper. It covers the key person for a specific period, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. It doesn’t accumulate any cash value. If the insured person survives the term, the policy simply expires.

Permanent Insurance: This option is more expensive but provides coverage for the key person’s entire life. It also accumulates cash value, which can be accessed for business needs. This can be a strategic asset for companies looking for long-term security.

Death Benefit Amount

The higher the death benefit, the higher the cost of the policy. For instance, a policy with a $1 million death benefit will cost more than one with a $100,000 benefit. Businesses should assess the financial impact of losing a key person to determine the appropriate coverage amount.

Employee Health

The overall health of the key employee significantly affects the cost. Insurers consider factors like:

  • Age: Younger individuals usually have lower premiums.
  • Medical History: Pre-existing conditions can increase costs.
  • Family Health History: A family history of certain diseases may also raise premiums.

Lifestyle Factors

An employee’s lifestyle can also impact the cost of a keyman insurance policy. Insurers look at:

  • Hobbies: High-risk activities like skydiving or scuba diving can increase premiums.
  • Occupation: Jobs with higher risks, such as construction work, may result in higher costs.
  • Driving Record: A poor driving record can also affect premiums.

By understanding these factors, businesses can make informed decisions about the type and amount of keyman insurance they need.

Next, let’s explore the tax implications of keyman insurance.

Tax Implications of Keyman Insurance

When considering a keyman insurance policy, understanding the tax implications is essential. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

Tax Treatment

The premiums paid for a keyman insurance policy are generally not tax-deductible as a business expense. This is because the policy benefits the company, not an individual. The IRS views these premiums as a cost for protecting the business rather than a direct operational expense.

However, the death benefit received by the business is typically tax-free. This means that if the insured key employee passes away, the company can use the full amount of the payout without worrying about income taxes.

After-Tax Dollars

Since premiums are not deductible, they must be paid with after-tax dollars. This can increase the effective cost of the insurance policy. For example, if a business is in a 30% tax bracket, a $1,000 premium actually costs the company $1,000, not $700 (which would be the case if it were deductible).

C Corporation Considerations

For C corporations, there are some unique considerations. If a C corporation owns the policy and pays the premiums, the death benefits are still tax-free. However, if the policy is transferred to an employee or another entity, it could be considered compensation by the IRS, leading to potential tax liabilities.

Additionally, if a C corporation has a corporate-owned life insurance policy, there may be specific tax implications related to the growth of the policy’s cash value. The growth is typically tax-deferred, but withdrawals or loans against the policy could trigger tax events.

Permanent Life Insurance Policies

For policies with a cash value component, such as whole life insurance, the cash value grows tax-deferred. This means the business does not pay taxes on the growth each year. However, if the business decides to withdraw from the cash value, it could lead to taxable income.

By understanding these tax implications, businesses can better navigate the complexities of keyman insurance and make informed decisions about their coverage needs.

Next, let’s discuss the limitations of keyman insurance.

Limitations of Keyman Insurance

Keyman insurance is a valuable tool for protecting your business, but it has its limitations. Here are some crucial points to consider:


When a key person retires, the keyman insurance policy does not automatically adjust. The business has a few options:

  • Stop paying premiums: The policy may lapse, or it might continue to provide benefits if it has a cash value.
  • Continue paying premiums: The business can keep the policy active, and in the event of a claim, the business would still receive the benefits.
  • Change the insured: If a new key executive is hired, the policy can be switched to the new employee, subject to underwriting.
  • Assign the policy to the retiree: The retiree would then own the policy and could receive the benefits.

It’s essential to consult a tax advisor before changing the policy’s ownership, as this might have tax consequences.

Job Change

If a key person leaves the company for another job, the policy remains with the business. Here’s what can be done:

  • Stop paying premiums: Similar to retirement, the policy can lapse or continue based on its cash value.
  • Change the insured: The policy can be assigned to a new key person, subject to underwriting.

Keyman insurance does not cover the financial loss if a key person simply decides to leave the company.

Non-Crucial Employees

Keyman insurance is designed for individuals whose absence would significantly impact the business. It cannot be purchased for employees who are not crucial to business operations. This means:

  • Non-essential staff: Employees whose roles are easily replaceable do not qualify for keyman insurance.
  • Support staff: While important, support staff typically do not meet the criteria for keyman coverage.

Independent Contractors

Keyman insurance is only applicable to employees, not independent contractors. This includes:

  • Freelancers: Individuals hired on a project basis.
  • Consultants: External advisors who are not on the company payroll.

Businesses relying heavily on independent contractors need to explore other risk management strategies.

Understanding these limitations helps businesses make informed decisions about their keyman insurance policies. Next, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about keyman insurance policies.

Frequently Asked Questions about Keyman Insurance Policy

What is the meaning of Keyman insurance?

Keyman insurance is a life insurance policy taken out by a business to protect against the financial loss that could occur if a key employee dies or becomes disabled. The employer is both the policy owner and the beneficiary. This means the company pays the premiums and receives the benefit if the key person passes away or is incapacitated.

How does a key man policy work?

A key man policy functions similarly to a typical life insurance policy but with a business-centric twist. Here’s how it works:

  1. Policy Mechanics: The business identifies key employees whose loss would significantly impact operations.
  2. Premium Payer: The company pays the insurance premiums.
  3. Benefit Recipient: The business is the beneficiary and receives the payout.
  4. Claim Process: In the event of the key person’s death or disability, the company files a claim to receive the insurance benefits.

This payout can be used to cover lost revenue, hire and train a replacement, or pay off debts. Some policies also include a disability rider, which provides benefits if the key person becomes disabled and can’t work.

What are the disadvantages of key person insurance?

While key person insurance offers vital protection, it has some limitations:

  • Retirement: The policy doesn’t cover the planned retirement of a key employee. Businesses need other strategies for succession planning.
  • Job Change: If the key person leaves the company, the policy is no longer valid. You can’t transfer it to the new employer.
  • Non-Crucial Employees: It only covers employees critical to the business. Support staff and independent contractors are not eligible.
  • Cost: Premiums can be high, especially for older employees or those with health issues.

Understanding these drawbacks helps businesses weigh the pros and cons of keyman insurance effectively.


Keyman insurance is more than just a policy; it is a safety net for your business. It ensures that your company can withstand the financial impact of losing a key employee. Whether you opt for term or permanent life insurance, having this protection in place can provide peace of mind and financial stability.

ISU Armac specializes in helping businesses like yours navigate the complexities of keyman insurance. We offer tailored solutions that fit your specific needs, ensuring that your business remains secure and operational even in the face of unexpected challenges.

If you have any questions or need personalized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you protect what matters most.

Ready to protect your business? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you secure the right key employee policy for your needs.

Understanding the importance of keyman insurance can make all the difference for your business’s future. With the right policy, you can ensure business continuity, financial security, and peace of mind. For more information, contact ISU Armac and let us assist you in finding the perfect solution for your business.