More than half of private business owners do not have a buy-sell agreement in place to protect their businesses if something should happen to them, according to a survey released recently by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Forty-four percent of owners have agreements in place for succession if they should die or be disabled, according to the 2015 MassMutual Business Owner Perspective Survey of 801 business owners taken between January and March. The study shows the need for financial guidance and preparation for business owners, says MassMutual.

“We found that business owners are spending the majority of their time working in their businesses instead of on their businesses,” says Tara Reynolds, corporate vice president, Life Company Marketing, MassMutual. “It’s never easy to think about death or disability, but in order to raise awareness about these longer-term issues, business owners need to be confronted directly with the potential risk and damage of unexpected events.”

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed say they rarely or never think about the effect of their possible disability and 59 percent say they rarely or never think about the effect of their sudden death would have on their business.

Of those with a buy-sell agreement in place, just over half say it is funded with life insurance, but only 5 percent say it is funded with disability buy-out insurance. The rest were either funded with cash flow from the business or not funded at all.

On other issues, 81 percent of respondents say keeping key employees loyal is important and nearly two-thirds say they think frequently about the issue. Ninety percent of survey respondents report offering some kind of benefits to their employees, with the top three most common ones being health care (60 percent), generous salaries (55 percent) and flexible work benefits (51 percent).

Nearly 40 percent of business owners do not have a retirement income strategy outside of their businesses and will rely on proceeds from the sale of the business or income from the business to pay for retirement.