Avoid Home Buyers’ Remorse: Think Insurance

What’s on your “must-have” list for a new home? As you search for the perfect location, great schools, and plenty of storage space, don’t forget another important consideration. Insurance. With so many other items on your “wants-and-needs list,” you might overlook this particular need. It may be a costly mistake. Avoid buyer’s remorse, keep the following in mind as you choose your dream home:

  • Location: Is the home near the coast? This typically makes insurance more expensive. You may also need a separate hurricane deductible. For inland locations – is it in a floodplain? This requires separate flood insurance.
  • Age: Older homes are often quite charming. However, they can cost more to insure. Plaster walls and outdated electrical systems can be expensive to replace. Check to see what has been updated and research how these antique features may affect your insurance rates.
  • Roof: What is the condition of the roof? What type of roof does it have? If it’s been recently replaced with high-quality materials, your insurance will be much simpler and cheaper.
  • High-risk features: The gorgeously appointed swimming pool may look inviting, but it will require additional liability insurance. If the home has a pool, hot tub, or other special feature, keep this cost in mind as you consider making an offer.
  • Building codes: Not every home is built to meet current engineering standards. For both safety and insurability concerns, make sure your home-to-be complies with current codes. (Note: Your real estate agent may help here.)
  • Minimize unpleasant surprises: As you shop the market for your new home, consult with your insurance agent. He or she can help you assess any issues that may exist in the properties you are considering. And it will save you from any insurance surprises after you close the deal.

Don’t Leave Your ‘Home Alone’: You May Not Be Covered

Have you moved to a new home, but the old one is still for sale? Is your rental property between tenants? Have you left temporarily during a remodel? And, most importantly, do you know that insurance requirements are different for vacant properties?

Although many property owners don’t realize there is a difference, it’s a fact that if your property is vacant for whatever reason, you need a special insurance policy. Your options usually depend on the amount of time the property will be vacant and the type of coverage you want.

Common vacancy policies include three, six and 12-month terms. They can cover “named perils,” meaning only the types of losses listed (lightning, hail, fire) will be covered, or they can be more comprehensive. If the vacancy is short, you may only need an endorsement to cover this time period. Note that during this time your regular policy won’t apply. Typical options include:

  • Premises liability, in case someone is injured on your property
  • Personal property, if you are leaving furniture or appliances in the home
  • Vandalism, to cover damage or defacement
  • Burglary, for coverage of doors or windows broken during unauthorized entry and the theft of your personal items
  • Builder’s risk, to cover improvements and repairs during renovations

If you know you will soon have a vacant property, consult with your agent immediately. Your provider will set up a policy to protect your home. After all, no one wants to leave their “home alone.”

Are You Susceptible to a Product Liability Suit?

Does your business manufacture, sell, or distribute products? If so, you are susceptible to a product liability suit. Increasingly, consumers are bringing liability suits, and the awards are high. These days, you need product liability insurance.

Product liability insurance is a business policy that protects your company against claims for loss or injury due to defects or to the failure to provide proper warning about your products. It covers legal fees, medical costs, and awarded damages.

Product claims cover a broad spectrum, but most boil down to a few basic issues. Complaints against your products typically come in one of three forms:

  • Manufacturing or production flaw: This claim asserts that your production process resulted in a defect that makes the product unsafe.
  • Design defect: In this case, the product design itself is said to be unsafe.
  • Defective warning or instruction: This charge claims that your labels provided insufficient warning regarding risk.

It is important to realize that your business can be held responsible for a loss or injury, even if you didn’t manufacture the product. If you were part of the process of placing the product in the consumer’s possession, you can be held legally liable.

Proper protection

The coverage each business needs will vary greatly. It depends on many factors, such as the size and scope of your business, your industry, your location, and the products you produce. These factors will affect the policy terms as well as the cost of coverage.

To ensure your coverage is appropriate, provide detailed information on your business to your insurance provider. Be forewarned: some companies have underreported to save on their premiums and, as a result, have incurred penalties or found they had too little coverage.

Keep costs low by minimizing your risk. This will result in fewer claims and lower premiums. Ensure your manufacturing processes are safe, and maintain detailed records of your procedures. Test products thoroughly. Establish a quality assurance program. Keep accurate logs for all of your processes. If you use any third-party products, request and file warranties for everything.

Maintaining these high standards of safety will demonstrate to your customers and your employees that you adhere to reliable business practices and a type of goodwill that’s priceless from the perspective of today’s engaged consumers.

Regular review

The business world is a dynamic environment. Your manufacturing operations, sales processes, and products are likely to change over time. It’s wise to review your product liability coverage at least once a year. Consult with your insurance provider to see whether you should change any terms in your policy, including the limits; you may outgrow your policy as your business expands. Be sure to communicate regularly with your agent to keep your policy current with your business needs.

Planning for the future

These best business practices cannot guarantee your business will be lawsuit-free. However, they will provide the best protection possible should you ever face a claim. This allows you to operate without constantly worrying about legal disasters, and will free you to focus on other business opportunities, company growth, and your business’s continued success.

Why Your Company May Need Pollution Insurance

Today’s marketplace likes green practices, and most companies are striving for a smaller environmental footprint. From printing less to recycling more, businesses are looking more and more green.

However, even green companies make messes. Even if your business operations are as green as can be, you may still need pollution liability coverage. Your standard liability coverage may not cover this type of incident, so you might want to investigate supplementing it with an environmental liability policy.

The professionals at greatest risk (and therefore in greatest need of this coverage) are contractors. Most job sites pose pollution risks, despite the use of best practices. Broken pipes, leaking fuel tanks, oil spills, and other hazards happen, and they can result in contaminated soil and/or potential health hazards. But contractors are not alone. Any company, no matter how careful, can experience a fire or a spill.

This type of insurance is available to property owners, specialists, and just about any company with the potential for a pollution-related problem. Typically it covers cleanup as well as third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage resulting from a pollution or contamination event, whether it happens suddenly or over a period of time.

There also are environmental policies for specific types of businesses, such as errors or omissions policies for environmental consultants, and contractors’ policies for remediation firms. Ask your agent about the coverage and limits that are appropriate for your business. When a pollution disaster strikes, your pollution insurance could mean the difference between cleaning up and shutting down.

Do Life Insurance Needs Decline in Retirement?

Because the purpose of insurance is to safeguard our assets, our income and our bodies, we generally still need our insurance policies in retirement.

After all, when we retire, we still have homes and cars and health needs, so we need homeowners insurance, auto insurance, and medical insurance.

But do we still need life insurance?

The question is something that requires thought on your part, and probably discussions with your spouse, your children and your insurance agent. There are no blanket answers; it depends on your individual circumstances.

While working, most of us carry life insurance to provide or supplement our family’s income in case we die early. It protects our family income. But when we retire, we have no income to protect, and our children are usually grown and out of the house; the only person to worry about supporting is a spouse. As a result, our life insurance needs may be less important than they were when we were working full time.

But that said, we certainly want our spouse to enjoy the same standard of living after we’re gone as he or she did when we were alive, and life insurance may be appropriate in your situation to ensure your spouse’s financial security. Some people plan for a surviving spouse in other ways – for example, through estate planning. But many don’t.

There’s also the issue of final expenses. Even if your spouse could survive comfortably without your income, and you don’t want to leave him or her an inheritance, he or she may still need enough life insurance coverage to pay for death expenses such as funeral costs and estate taxes.

If you’re approaching or in retirement, you’ll want to look closely at your life insurance needs. While your needs may change in retirement, they likely won’t disappear – so be sure you give this issue careful attention as part of your retirement planning.

Make Your College Student’s Health Needs a Priority

Health insurance may be the last thing on your mind as you wave goodbye to your new college student. But it certainly deserves your attention.

Going away to college creates a lot of health stress, especially for new students. It’s a different environment with limited parental control.

No more healthy meals at home, and the fast food and carbohydrate-heavy diets common to campus living can exacerbate medical conditions such as diabetes. Exposure to alcohol can introduce another set of problems that could require medical attention.

In addition, when college students are thrust into this new environment, they may experience depression or other stress-related illnesses.

While some schools insist you purchase their health coverage for your student, you may not want to rely solely on that policy. Campus medical plans do offer some benefits, but the benefits may not be sufficient; some can have significant coverage limitations – such as exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions – and they often offer low payouts.

At the same time, you don’t want to be saddled with unexpected medical bills if your student becomes ill. Nor do you want your child to have anything less than stellar medical care.

Under existing law, your college student can remain on your health plan until he or she is 26 years of age, even if the college is out of state. But if you decide on a supplemental policy, contact your health insurance agent for more information on the available options.

Make it top of mind. Your new student deserves it.

Don’t Miss ACA’s Enrollment Period

If you’re considering an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plan, the open enrollment period for 2017 begins November 1, 2016, and ends January 31, 2017. If you miss this important coverage window, you cannot buy coverage from the healthcare marketplace until the 2018 open enrollment period begins in late 2017.

While health insurance is expensive, the penalty for not obtaining coverage through a qualified health plan can be substantial. In 2017 and beyond, you will pay either 2.5% of your household income or $695 plus a cost-of-living adjustment, plus $347.50 per child. The maximum is $2,085.

You likely have relationships with medical providers you trust; so it’s imperative your plan covers the bulk of your current medical providers while offering the lowest copays, deductibles and coinsurance possible.

The health care coverage you choose is one of the most important decisions you make in your life. The ACA has been helpful to many Americans who previously struggled to find health coverage. Under the ACA, for example, health insurers cannot deny you coverage even if you have a pre-existing medical condition – as long as you buy coverage during the open enrollment period.

Although you can navigate the health insurance marketplace website atHealthcare.gov, you’re usually better served if you work with an insurance agent who assists many people each year with these important selections. Agents hear from many people at this time and become busy quickly. Be proactive. Contact your agent several days (or even weeks) before open enrollment begins on November 1st to schedule an appointment.

To ensure you will have coverage and avoid penalties in 2017, you must act during open enrollment. However, if special circumstances occur such as a job loss or a divorce, you may qualify for coverage for up to 60 days after that event. In addition, you may enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid at any time.