A Beginner’s Guide to Corporate-Owned Life Insurance

A Beginner’s Guide to Corporate-Owned Life Insurance

Corporate-owned life insurance, also known as business-owned life insurance or simply COLI, is a type of life insurance policy that is owned and funded by a company rather than an individual. It’s typically used to protect the company’s financial interests in the event of the death of key employees, executives, or shareholders.

A brief overview of corporate-owned life insurance

A Beginner’s Guide to Corporate-Owned Life Insurance

So how does corporate-owned life insurance work? For starters, it works much the same way as any other life insurance policy. Here’s an overview of the process:

  • The company purchases a COLI policy that meets its needs and pays the premiums to keep the policy active.
  • It then designates a beneficiary for the policy, typically the company itself.
  • The premiums for the policy are typically paid by the company, although in some cases, the insured person may also contribute to the premiums.
  • If the insured person passes on while the policy is in effect, the policy pays out a death benefit to the designated beneficiary. The amount of the death benefit is determined by the terms of the policy and may be based on factors such as the age and health of the insured person.
  • The beneficiary, typically the company, can use the death benefit in various ways, such as hiring a replacement for the deceased employee or restructuring the company’s leadership.

Why take out COLI?

There are several reasons why a company might choose to purchase COLI. One key reason is to protect against the financial loss that can result from the death of a key employee. For example, if a company’s CEO were to pass away suddenly, it could be devastating for the company’s finances and operations.

With this policy, the company could receive a payout to help cover expenses such as hiring a new CEO or restructuring the company’s leadership.

COLI can also be used to attract and retain top talent. Many companies offer this plan as a form of deferred compensation for key employees, with the policy serving as a financial incentive for the employee to stay with the company.

In some cases, COLI policies may offer tax benefits to the company. For example, premiums paid on the policy may be tax-deductible, and the policy may also offer tax-deferred growth on any investment component.

Finally, COLI can also be used to fund buy-sell agreements. These agreements between business partners outline the terms under which one partner can purchase the other’s share of the business in the event of their death. This can help ensure a smooth ownership transition and minimize disruptions to the business.

Are there drawbacks?

Sure! It’s important to note that COLI can also have risks and drawbacks. For example, there has been controversy over the use of COLI to fund executive compensation, with some people arguing that it is an inappropriate use of the policy.

There have also been instances of companies misusing COLI policies for their own financial gain rather than to protect against the loss of key employees.

Finally, COLI policies can be complex, which makes it challenging for businesses to understand their terms and conditions thoroughly. This is why it’s essential for businesses to carefully review the policy and seek the guidance of a financial professional before deciding to purchase COLI.

Types of corporate-owned life insurance plans

There are many different types of COLI policies, but the two most common ones are group cover and key person insurance.

Group life insurance

This type of policy covers a group of employees rather than individuals. Group life insurance is often offered as a benefit to employees and can be an affordable way for companies to provide coverage for their employees.

Key person life insurance

This policy is specifically designed to protect a company in the event of the death of a key employee or executive. The policy pays out a death benefit to the company, which can be used to cover expenses such as hiring a replacement or restructuring the company’s leadership.


Overall, corporate-owned life insurance can be a valuable tool for businesses to protect against financial loss in the event of an employee’s death. It allows companies to financially plan for unexpected deaths, which can be especially important for small businesses with limited resources.

While it can be expensive, it is often worth the investment for businesses to ensure that they are financially prepared for any eventuality.

Even so, it’s vital for businesses to carefully consider their needs and the potential risks associated with these policies before making a decision.

Companies should also be aware of COLI plans’ legal and ethical considerations, including disclosure requirements and potential conflicts of interest.

If unsure about anything, consider consulting with a financial advisor or insurance professional to determine the best action before committing to it. 

One thought on “A Beginner’s Guide to Corporate-Owned Life Insurance

  1. lisa says:

    The concept of insurance is rooted in the principle of spreading risk across a large pool of individuals. This risk-sharing mechanism is the foundation of insurance, allowing for the equitable distribution of the financial burden associated with unexpected events. In this way, insurance embodies a communal approach to risk management, emphasizing the collective responsibility of a group to support its members in times of need.Texas Insurance

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