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Frequently Asked Home Insurance Questions Answered!
Sep 11, 2013
Many customers want to know more about the many benefits available to home insurance policyholders, so we have decided to answer some of the most common insurance questions. The answers below were provided by our expert insurance agents.
A home insurance policy can offer a variety of personal insurance coverage, which may include losses to your home, the contents of your home, loss of use of the property and the loss of the homeowner’s personal possessions. That means your home and personal property will be protected if they are damaged by fire, windstorms, hail or lightning, for instance. Also, in the event of theft or vandalism, you are covered. Liability insurance for accidents that happen at the home or at the hands of the homeowner within the policy territory may also be included.
The key to getting a great value in homeowners insurance is keeping your property well maintained and up to date. That means making sure that your heating and electrical systems and plumbing have been updated over the last 20 years. You’ll also want to ensure that your roof is no more than 20 years old, and that your electrical system has circuit breakers. It’s also desirable to have copper plumbing and central forced air heat. If your house is more than 25 years old, you’ll want to retrofit it, which includes ensuring that the house is bolted to the foundation and that the water heater has been strapped.
Many homeowners policies include both property insurance and liability coverage. You pay only one premium to protect your property and guard against liability risks. Liability insurance helps protect your property and cover your legal costs if you or your family members are held responsible for causing injuries to others, or damage to their property.
When it comes to protecting your home and caring for your family, you’ll want the right amount of insurance to help you through any catastrophic event that might strike. The amount of homeowners insurance you should have depends on what it would cost to replace the home that you are living in. That is often different from the amount you paid for your home or its market value. For your own peace of mind, it’s best to ensure that, should disaster strike, you will have enough money to rebuild from scratch and restore your property to the condition it was in before it was damaged or destroyed.
Many property owners can reduce the cost of homeowners insurance by making their home more disaster proof. Most insurance companies will charge you a lower payment if you take measures that could prevent your home from being damaged or ruined. For example, if your house has fire sprinklers or a fire alarm system, you could reap a discount on your policy. In addition, if you install protective improvements, such as hurricane shutters, a home security system or insurer-approved locks, you could see a discount in the cost of insuring your home.
Creating an inventory of your property and personal belongings is a must when you first purchase a home and secure homeowners insurance. It’s also critical that you keep your inventory up to date so that you can benefit from the full protection that your homeowners policy provides to you. Your inventory will be an invaluable tool that will help you speed up a claim settlement should you ever need to make one. Your insurance company can more easily evaluate your claim and make a settlement with a thorough, accurate inventory in hand. The inventory will help at tax time, as well, if you should ever need to document losses when you file at the end of the year.
It’s best to proceed in an organized manner when you make your inventory, so that nothing will be accidentally left out. Get started by creating a list of everything of value that you own. You’ll want to describe each item, and provide model numbers, serial numbers, place of purchase and other relevant data. Don’t forget to add your sales receipts, purchase contracts and appraisals to your inventory package. Organize clothing into categories for easier reference. It’s a great idea to take pictures of rooms and important personal belongings. It’s also effective if you videotape your home and describe the contents of your home as you walk through the rooms. Save all of your documentation on your computer drive, and also store it on a disc and keep it in a safe deposit box.
Yes, they are. Both your home and your personal property are covered. Covered personal property includes the contents of your home and personal belongings used, owned, worn or carried by you or members of your household.
Yes, it does. Homeowners insurance’s coverage extends to all your possessions no matter where they are. If you take a vacation anywhere in the world and lose a valuable item, as long as the loss is by a covered event or peril, the location does not matter. You will be compensated.
Of course, these aren’t the only home insurance questions out there, but if you have any type of insurance related problems, our agents are here to help.
Car Insurance for Your College Kid
Jul 31, 2013
When the young adult in your family finally gets a car, it’s time to start shopping for auto insurance. You’ll have several options to pursue, such as adding that new automobile to your insurance policy, or you can buy a separate one.
Once the young person goes off to college, it’s important to let the insurance agent know about the change of address. This is especially true if the move is to a different state, where insurance laws may be somewhat different.
The student might want to increase car insurance coverage or reduce it, depending on whether the plan is to go away to college, or commute to a nearby campus. There will be a good opportunity to save a few dollars if the car is staying parked at home while the student is off studying at a distant campus. If the college is at least 100 miles away from home and the car sits in the driveway unused, alert your insurance agent. You may qualify for a “resident student” discount, and that could add up to substantial savings.
For the commuting student who expects to cover a good number of miles driving back and forth to campus over the course of a school year, you might want to think about adding a bit more coverage. You will feel more secure knowing that an unforeseeable mishap, such as a fender-bender, won’t put the student’s car out of commission for an extended period of time.
Many high school students are used to getting a break on their car insurance when they get good grades. The good news for college students is that those same discounts are often available to young motorists pursuing secondary education, as well. In fact, many insurers will continue to offer discounts to college students who maintain a specified grade level up to age 25.
Each student’s situation is different, and thus requires an individual assessment to plan and secure the best possible coverage. It’s a good idea to speak with your insurance agent and discuss the options. You’ll feel more secure, and besides, you just might save some money, too.
Summer Home Maintenance
Jul 31, 2013
When summer is on the way, all we can think about is the beach and barbecues. But what about maintaining your property? Homes need different kinds of care as seasons change. Summer’s hot weather, for instance, can dry out your lawn and garden. Here are a few tips for taking care of a home during the warmest times of the year:
Sipping lemonade and watching the sunset on your deck is a quintessential summer pastime. But it’s important to remember that decks must be maintained properly to ensure that they are safe. Untreated decks can easily catch fire, especially in dry areas. Keep your deck safe and in good condition by following these steps:
• Look for the signs of stress, and replace any cracking or rotting portions.
• Construct your deck with pressure treated wood, or you must seal the wood yourself.
• To protect your deck from damage and fire, apply a fire resistant water sealant.
A backyard pool is great, but it’s not always budget friendly.
Pool owners can reduce their power bill by 40 percent if they run their filter no more than four hours per day.
Monitor water quality, and run your filter no more than needed to keep your pool bacteria and algae free.
Invest in an energy efficient pump. Variable speed motor pumps can save you a lot of money on your electricity bill.
When it’s extremely hot outside, air conditioning is a must. Unfortunately, this means bigger electricity bills. But there are ways to save money on power:
• Ceiling fans are the most energy-efficient way of circulating cool air.
• Check windows and doors for air leaks, and seal them with weather stripping if needed. This stops cool air from escaping.
• Don’t forget to take care of your air conditioner and …
• Keep the outdoor condenser unit clean.
• Clean or change the air filter at least once a month.
Follow these guidelines and your air conditioner will work well and satisfy your family’s needs in any kind of weather.
Consider changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones, which burn cooler. These fluorescent bulbs last much longer than traditional light bulbs and will add less heat to the room that you definitely don’t need at summer time.
Everyone wants a luscious green lawn, but they’re tougher to maintain in the summer. Apart from ample watering, you can use fertilizers to make grass greener and thicker.
Lawns require steady, controlled feeding. Make sure the fertilizers you opt for are made of an even mixture of granule particles so that your lawn gets the proper mixture of nutrients.
Prepare your pavement and driveway for the season and check for cracks and holes that need to be treated. By doing so, you may avoid the need for major repairs in the future. Remove any intrusive weeds with weed spray. You can buy some at your local hardware store, or try boiling water in a kettle and pouring it on weeds to kill them.
With the beginning of the warm season, pests such as termites become more of a problem.
You can shield your home against these unwanted guests by getting rid of any dead wood that is touching the ground – an environment that termites thrive in.
Last but not least, don’t forget about home insurance. If you are planning any summer renovations, such as adding a pool, make sure your insurance company is aware of it, since it can influence your premium.
8 Tips for Naming Your Life Insurance Beneficiary
Jul 31, 2013
Selecting a life insurance beneficiary is one way to leave money to someone after you are gone. But determining who to choose as your beneficiary isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to help you avoid potential problems.
1. Don’t choose a minor. Normally, insurance companies will not pay death benefits directly to minors. A court-approved guardian must be named.
You can consider naming a trustee for a minor who is the beneficiary of a trust you set up. This will help ensure the effective management of the procedure.
2. Consider who in your life can take on this responsibility. This person will be charged to administer the assets and ensure that your wishes are carried out. Consult your financial adviser about this.
3. If you have children, have you thought of what could happen if you leave more, or all, of your money to just one of them? This could create real conflict. When you name one of multiple children as the sole beneficiary, he or she is legally entitled to keep all of that money.
4. Do your research. What if your beneficiary has credit issues, mental health problems, or even drug issues?
5. Think carefully before you leave money to your estate. Your estate could be a shelter for tax planning, but there are many drawbacks:
• Executor fees could increase
• Federal and state taxes can rise
• Proceeds may be subject to creditors’ claims
6. If your beneficiary is not a U.S. citizen, you can take some steps to avoid unnecessary complications. Designate a testamentary trust under which a special qualified domestic trust is created to run the assets for a non-citizen spouse.
7. You will want to think carefully before establishing an irrevocable trust as a beneficiary. When you do, you surrender control of the trust as well as the right to change the beneficiary. Keep in mind that as soon as the trust is irrevocable, it cannot be changed.
8. It is advisable to update your life insurance policy in accordance to certain life events, such as:
• When you get married
• When you get divorced
• When you have a child
• When a spouse or loved one passes away
Be careful when naming your life insurance beneficiaries and always remember to:
• Talk to your attorney or accountant, or both, about the possible consequences of your decisions.
• Be precise and clear to avoid potential conflict.
• Review and revise your choices on a regular basis, especially after life-changing events, such as marriage, childbirth, etc.
Make the right choices to protect your loved ones with the help of life insurance.
Tips for Saving Money on Home Insurance
Jul 31, 2013
Raising your deductible is a sure way to reduce your payments for homeowners insurance. That’s because the more you’re willing to pay if you do have a loss, the less your insurance will cost. If you were to raise your deductible from $250 to $1,000, you could see your payments dip considerably. That can be a great savings to you without taking on a lot more risk. If you have a special fund set aside for emergencies, you can use that cash to pay off some of your deductible if you ever do experience a loss.
Safety improvements made to your home can add up to savings on homeowners insurance. Enhancements such as storm shutters and stronger roofs may help lower the cost of insurance. Check with your insurer first before investing in any new improvements aimed at lowering your payments.
You may benefit from lower insurance payments while providing greater security for yourself and your family if you add certain features to your property. For some property owners, adding a security alarm, a deadbolt lock or a fire extinguisher can help save money. Installing advanced security devices such as a security alarm that automatically alerts local law enforcement personnel in the event of a break-in can provide even more savings and a greater sense of safety in your home.
Periodically, look at any insurance policy riders – extra coverage – that you may be carrying and make sure that you still need them. Sometimes insured items, such as family heirlooms, might be given away to other kinfolk and you don’t need riders covering them anymore.
You may not realize it, but many discounts can be had for a variety of reasons. For example, you may be entitled to multi-policy, senior citizen, non-smoker, claim-free and marital status discounts.
Get started by creating a list of everything of value that you own. You’ll want to describe each item, and provide model numbers, serial numbers, place of purchase and other relevant data. Don’t forget to add your sales receipts, purchase contracts and appraisals to your inventory package. Organize clothing into categories for easier reference. It’s a great idea to take pictures of rooms and important personal belongings. It’s also effective if you videotape your home and describe the contents of your home as you walk through the rooms. Save all of your documentation on your computer drive, and also store it on a disc and keep it in a safe deposit box.
Receiving insurance discounts is great, but protecting your family and your property are the wonderful advantages you’ll benefit by with homeowners insurance. That means you must ensure that you have adequate liability and property coverage at all times. Consider a policy that provides replacement coverage, not just coverage that will reimburse only depreciated values of your property. Should you ever have to file a claim, you and your loved ones will enjoy the full protection that homeowners insurance can provide.
Up until around 2008, the insurance carriers, whether preferred or non-preferred, inspected the front of their clients’ properties only randomly or every three years. Some carriers would require a “walk-through” dependent upon what the “drive-by” showed. Now, insurance carriers are performing inspections EVERY year on insured properties. Trees or shrubs touching the house are a red flag and can result in a warning notice to you. Unmaintained front yards, peeling paint, roofs that need repair and replacement are but a few of the obstacles that could place your homeowners policy on the pending cancellation list. Clean, well maintained, property that demonstrates pride of ownership is what most insurance companies require. Homeowners who have broken down vehicles in their driveways or have not mowed their lawns in more than a month will find their premiums higher, and will have fewer choices in homeowners policies.
Before making an insurance claim, consider the following:
• How much is my deductible?
• Will the cost of the claim override the cost of this claim being on my CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report for the next 3 – 5 years?
• Will I be comfortable with the increase in annual premium due to the cost of this claim, especially if covering the loss yourself is relatively inexpensive?
Filing an insurance claim is sometimes unavoidable. But, that claim will remain on your property even after you have moved.
When purchasing a new home, have the realtor run a CLUE report on your anticipated purchase. If the former owner had any large losses in the past few years, you could now be responsible for those losses. Your homeowners policy will be affected. The loss stays with the structure.
Saving money doesn’t have to be hard work. Our insurance agents will answer your questions and put your mind and your wallet at ease.
Get Your Home Ready for Wildfire Season
Jul 31, 2013
Your roof should be clean and built with fire resistant materials. Roofs are often the primary place where homes catch fire. Pay attention to areas where the roof meets a dormer. It’s another danger zone where fires can start. Tile roofs are preferred over shake (wooden shingle) or composite in a “brush area.” Tile or concrete roofs also provide fire protection, and either may get you a break on your homeowner’s premium. Most carriers will not insure a home with a shake roof due to the extreme file hazard associated with them. Pay attention to the roofing material that is in place before purchasing your next home.
Use dual-pane windows. Their double sheets of glass are more heat resistant than single-pane windows. Apart from dual-pane windows, you can use tempered glass for windows and doors. Also, it’s wise to limit the size and number of windows that face areas of vegetation.
Use noncombustible skirting around homes with open foundations. Never store flammable materials under a deck. Install a metal flashing strip where the deck meets the side of the building it’s attached to. Store patio furniture inside when you are not using the deck.
When planting, use fire-resistant vegetation if possible. Cut dry grass and trees, and clean up dead leaves at least every week. Plant trees at least 10 feet apart.
Install cellulose insulation. It’s made from eco-friendly recycled paper with fire-retardant additives. It’s a great way to protect your home from wildfire while being kind to the environment.
Most insurance policies mandate a minimum 400 foot fire break around your property. Know your insurance policy. If the insurance carrier is required to clear the land around your property, the cost of that clearing will be handed back to you. Many properties in brush areas require a recurring seasonal clearing of brush. Keep this in mind if you’re considering a new home that is “secluded” or outside of a housing tract. Many homes in the mountains or hills are located in “brush area,” and fewer insurance carriers will be open insuring those homes. Carriers willing to offer you insurance will charge higher premiums and provide less coverage than they would for a non-secluded home or one outside of a brush area.
Be ready for emergencies, and plot your course of action. Become familiar with your community’s disaster preparedness plans and create your own. Identify escape routes from your home and prepare an emergency kit.
If you follow these tips you’ll reduce the risk of having a house fire. Don’t forget to carry adequate home insurance and protect your belongings against natural disasters. Contact our insurance agent for more information.
Jul 31, 2013
Sailing is a wonderful pastime for some, and a competitive sport for others. If you’re new to sailing, here are some suggestions to keep in mind before you cast off, and some tips for when you’re on the water: Safety equipment
Every state requires different boating devices and equipment, but some conditions are the same throughout the country. You can’t go boating without life preservers, emergency beacons, flotation devices and life rafts. In case you fall over the side of the boat, a floatation device could save your life. This is twice as important if you are with kids. No matter how good you are at swimming, you should always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Remember, rough waters aren’t easy to swim in.
Take sailing and safety classes
Some states require that you take a sailing course, earn a safety certificate and get a boating license. Check your state for specific rules and regulations. Boating courses can help you avoid serious accidents, and teach you what to do in an emergency. You shouldn’t operate a boat if you are ill equipped or unready. Even experienced sailors can get into trouble on the water. Be ready for all kinds of weather. Never go on the water if you expect bad weather.
Count on boat limits
Every boat has its own safety limits based on the weight and size of the objects inside. Find out what your safety limits are. They will determine how much weight and how many people you can have on board. Never overload the boat – it could cause you to capsize. Be sure to learn the distance it takes for your boat to come to a complete stop. It can save lives.
Make sure that passengers behave
Safety is everybody’s responsibility. Before leaving the dock, make sure everyone knows where all safety equipment is located and what protocol should be used if you hit rough waters. Also, try to limit onboard alcohol consumption. The more inebriated a passenger is, the more disoriented he or she will be in an emergency.
Take it slow
Safe navigation includes keeping your speed under control. Don’t speed up if you are not sure you can maneuver your boat. A lot of accidents happen when people try to show off. Prevent accidents by keeping an eye out for any possible obstacles.
Check your health insurance. Waterways are powerful natural resources and can be dangerous, even if you are sailing safely. Sometimes you can’t prevent injuries. So, be prepared. Accidents happen, but you can lower your risk by boating safely and responsibly.
Remember, just as in driving your personal vehicle, operating a vessel while under the influence is against the law. Operate your boat with a clear mind. Leave the partying to those not responsible for the safe operation of your vessel. DUI’s are just as prevalent on the open waters and marinas as they are on the streets and highways. Be responsible.
Speed Limits inside the breakwaters
Remember to obey the speed limits while inside the breakwaters. Usually 5 – 10 knots is customary. Remember the right of way rules for boating. Courtesy on the water and inside the breakwater is essential for good boating etiquette.
Rental Car Insurance: To Buy or Not to Buy
Jul 31, 2013
Most auto rental companies will sell you insurance coverage on the car you hire. But deciding whether or not you need it, let alone the type and quantity of coverage you should purchase, can be puzzling.
Tips to help you choose
Chances are you use a credit card when you rent a car, and most major credit card companies offer free car rental insurance when you use their card to pay for your rental. But you may wonder whether or not the free insurance provides adequate protection.
It seems like a no-brainer to let your credit card cover your car rental. But before you turn down the rental car company’s offer, make sure you know what you’re getting. Find out exactly what protection your credit card company’s insurance offers you. You can then compare it to what the rental car company insurance covers.
Cover all your bases
Credit cards offer only one type of coverage: a loss and damage waiver, also called a collision damage waiver. This waiver covers the cost to repair a damaged car or the replacement of a totaled or stolen car. It does not cover anything else. This is not liability insurance and doesn’t cover you for damage, injury or death that you cause.
Some credit cards may offer supplemental protection for a fee. If your card doesn’t offer a supplemental plan, check your personal auto policy to see if liability protection is included for car rentals. Otherwise, you might consider the coverage offered by the car rental agency for liability because your credit card won’t provide it.
Know your coverage
Just because your credit card offers loss and damage coverage doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for you. Some cards offer better protection than others. It pays to call your credit card issuer beforehand and find out how much the protection covers, if towing or out-of-use fees are included, and what restrictions may apply.
Consult your personal auto insurance carrier
Many personal auto policies also cover your rental car. Depending on which state you reside in, the carrier that you are insured by and the strength of your personal auto policy’s coverage, you may already be fully covered. Keep in mind that even if you are fully covered by your current personal auto policy, you would still be responsible for the cost of the deductible should you be involved in an at-fault accident. With rental car coverage, your deductible is usually waived. Do the research – it pays.
Renters Insurance Checklist
Jul 31, 2013
Those who rent rather than own their house or apartment can enjoy the benefits and protections of renters insurance. Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance helps shelter you from loss and liability and offers you peace of mind.
Three kinds of Protection for you
• Coverage for personal possessions, whether in your house, apartment, condo or personal vehicle.
• Liability protection
• Additional living expenses, should you have to relocate while your dwelling is being repaired. This also includes clothing, food and incidentals, if needed.
The following checklist can help you choose the right coverage when you are shopping around for renters insurance or speaking with your insurance professional.
Coverage for personal property
One of the first questions that arise when it’s time to buy renters insurance is how much is needed? You’ll probably want to have enough to replace all of your most important possessions in the event of theft, fire or other covered disasters. You’ll want coverage for clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, kitchen utensils and even linens. Keeping an inventory of your possessions is highly advisable, and that includes a list of the things you own, a description of them and their cost. An accurate and up to date inventory will make the process go much faster should you ever need to file a claim. A rule of thumb when calculating the amount of Personal Property Coverage needed is to envision your dwelling, and then turn it upside down. Everything that falls out of your dwelling is your personal property. Do the same with your vehicle or vehicles. Keep in mind that, should your personal auto be broken into, the cost of replacing stolen items in that vehicle is not covered on your personal auto policy. Your tenant or renter’s policy would pay. You might be surprised at how many individuals are unaware of this fact.
Replacement cost vs. actual cash value coverage
Insuring for actual cash value means your insurance company will pay to replace your possessions minus a deduction for depreciation. A replacement cost policy pays the cost of replacing your possessions without a deduction for depreciation. It’s a good idea to consider which of your possessions will depreciate quickly, and make your choice based on the cost of replacing those items.
Liability insurance coverage
Renters insurance liability policies protect you against lawsuits involving damage or injury to others caused by you, your family members and even your pets. Consider whether the amount of liability coverage provided by your policy is sufficient to protect your assets. In addition, most renters policies have no-fault medical coverage as part of their liability protection. Medical payments can be provided to someone outside your family who has been injured on your property and requires a physician’s attention.
Additional living expenses
If you need to move elsewhere because your home was destroyed in a disaster covered by your policy, renters insurance can provide additional living expenses. Living expenses include your hotel bills, temporary rentals costs, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.
Questions that Bother U.S. Immigrants
Jul 31, 2013
Immigrants residing in the United States often have many questions about navigating the systems and rules of this country. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding health insurance and health care:
Will the hospital still help me if I don’t have enough money to fully pay my bill?
There are many immigrants who can’t pay for health insurance or health care without help. But hospitals have emergency medical care provisions. This means that emergency rooms are bound by law and ethics not to turn away patients in need, regardless to their inability to pay for services.
Can I get health insurance for my parent?
Many immigrants want to bring their parents to live in America, and when they do, securing health insurance for them is frequently a concern. It’s possible to add a parent to your own health insurance as a dependent, but that depends on the plan you’ve purchased. Refer to your summary plan description. This document spells out your health insurance rights and tells you how your health plan works, what benefits it provides, and how benefits may be obtained.
What should I do in case of pregnancy?
The State Medicaid Manual, developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, includes provisions for child delivery. Although the emergency exception allows women to obtain critical reproductive health care when it is urgently needed, the care available may not provide an all-encompassing program of reproductive health services.
It’s highly recommended that you obtain maternity coverage with your health insurance policy to ensure that good prenatal care is available to you. It’s better to apply for a health insurance plan that offers maternity coverage well before becoming pregnant.
The amount of coverage available differs according to which plan you enroll in and your state of residence.
Can a green card holder apply for Medicare?
In most cases, a new immigrant or a recent Green Card holder may not qualify for Medicare Insurance due to specific and strict eligibility criteria. A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident aged 65 years or older usually qualifies for Medicare. One of the eligibility criteria is that the person or spouse must have worked in the U.S. and paid Medicare taxes for a minimum 40 quarters.
What do PPO and HMO mean?
HMO usually means that you agree to use a specific team of health care professionals. In most cases you select one doctor, from a list of the members, who will serve as your primary care physician. This physician now coordinates all of your health care, which means that he or she treats you directly and, when necessary, manages your referral to specialists.
PPO in most cases means having the ability to use any doctor or facility you choose, although the benefits are higher when you use one of the physicians or facilities that belong to the chosen PPO organization. All doctors and hospitals within a PPO network have agreed to accept a discounted fee for their services from the plan.
It’s not easy to adjust to life in a new country. But our insurance agents will always give you a hand and offer their professional assistance. Remember, it pays to find the right health insurance for you and your family.
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