Corporate vs. Personal Ownership of Life Insurance

A life insurance policy can be owned personally or by a company. The person to be insured can be the owner of his/her policy, or they can have a company they control be the owner. 

If the owner of the policy is to be someone other than the life insured, that owner must have an "insurable interest" in respect to the person to be insured. This means that a person cannot own a policy on someone to whom they have no relation to, or would not suffer an economic or personal loss due to their passing. For example, a husband or wife may own a policy on their spouse or children, or a company can own a policy on a key employee.

Personal ownership is when an individual is the owner of a policy. That individual may be; the insured, a parent or grandparent that owns a policy on their child or grandchild, a husband or wife that owns a policy on their spouse, a partner that owns a policy on another partner, and so on.

Corporate ownership is when a company owns the life insurance policy. For example, a company may own a policy on a key employee or on one of its shareholders or even a future shareholder. Corporate ownership of policies is very prevalent in estate planning.

As to whether the policy should be owned personally or by a company, the answer in any circumstance depends on the individual facts of the client’s situation, as well as the need for the insurance. The major reasons that factor into the personal vs. corporate ownership decision include:

It is not advisable to corporately own a policy that has, as its beneficiary, the insured's estate or his/her spouse. This approach would result in a taxable benefit for the shareholder.

The following sections provide more information about the benefits involved with personal vs. corporate ownership of life insurance. It is meant to help you understand why you would consider each option, and which one may be right for you: