Prevent Homeowner Claims with This Checklist

A few simple maintenance tasks can help prevent major liability insurance claims. The following tasks, completed annually, will help protect you from several types of homeowners insurance claims, such as:

Liability

Inspect your driveway and walkways. Are these areas safe and smooth? Repair any broken, cracked, or uneven areas. This helps prevent accidents on your property. And don’t forget to fix fences and gates.

Winter weather may have taken a toll on your home’s exterior. Check hinges, latches, and locks to ensure they work. If you have a pool, maintaining these deterrents is especially important to keep your own kids or neighboring children away from the pool area and out of danger.

Fire damage

Change batteries in all your smoke detectors and ensure they’re functioning correctly. Also clean your dryer’s lint hose. Your lint trap doesn’t catch it all. You should clean the hose once each year to prevent fire. (And as a bonus, it also increases dryer efficiency.)

Moisture damage

Check the water heater, and if you notice any corrosion or leaks, get it repaired right away. As well, seams and caulking on doors and windows can crack over time and allow moisture to enter your home. This can cause further damage to its structure. Reseal or recaulk where needed.

You also should clean out your gutters and clear away all the debris left by winter storms. The gutter and downspout system protects your home from water damage by directing water away from your roof and foundation. When it’s clogged, it can’t do its job.

Theft

Overgrown bushes can block windows and create shelter for thieves. Trim the landscaping so everything (and everyone) is out in the open. Also check outdoor lighting for burned-out bulbs; ensure your home is well lit to discourage any unwelcome visitors.

If you’re worried about a homeowners insurance claim, this annual checkup can give you a safe home and peace of mind.

Spring Cleaning: Remember to Dust Off Your Insurance

With the arrival of spring, many homeowners equip themselves with cleaning supplies and tackle the accumulated winter grime. If you’re making a checklist for spring chores this month, include a quick cleanup of your personal insurance policies. This yearly review of your coverage should include:

Top-to-bottom cleaning: Review your home from shingles to cellar. Have you made any renovations or improvements since last spring? Did you add a room or remodel a kitchen? Examine your policy to ensure it offers proper coverage to rebuild your home to its current state.

Asset organization: Go through your stuff. Did you receive expensive jewelry for Christmas or purchase any other valuable items in the past year? Check to see if their total value exceeds the limits on your homeowners policy. If so, consider a personal property endorsement or floater to get proper coverage.

Car detailing: What is the current value of your vehicle? You might be able to save money by lowering your coverage. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your car is worth less than $1,000 or less than 10 times your premium, comprehensive coverage may no longer be cost-effective.

Rain forecast review: Do you need an umbrella? If your assets have increased, they might be at risk if you are showered with lawsuits. Consider an umbrella policy, which kicks in if you reach the liability limit of a standard homeowner or auto policy.

To complete your spring cleaning, consult with your agent to determine what changes, if any, are best for you this season.

Research Health Product Claims Before You Buy

If you’ve attended any type of networking event recently, you’ve probably noticed the large numbers of sales people selling health and wellness products.

Interesting, yes; but when it comes to their claims, you may want to dig a little deeper. Here are some recommendations for scrutinizing products before you purchase.

Many products’ sales brochures refer to studies that reinforce their claims. However, not all studies are created equal.

Try to determine online who financed the study as a clue to how unbiased it is. If it’s the company selling the product, or if the research was conducted by an organization in which the product’s seller has a financial interest, be skeptical. Websites from reputable education and government entities end in .edu or .gov and have the strength of a university, hospital, or government department behind them. As well, articles published in medical journals are peer-reviewed and provide unbiased information.

Distributors of many health products and supplements employ testimonials to sell their product. But, as the website of the respected Mayo Clinic reminds us, “anecdotes and testimonials are not evidence.”

One of the best ways to evaluate a product is to ask this simple question: “Is it too good to be true?” If an ad shouts “Eat five meals a day and lose 20 pounds in one week,” chances are it is too good to be true.

Don’t fall victim to compelling copy by immediately reaching for your credit card. If you’re considering buying the product, wait a day before calling that 800 number. Conduct a brief online research session, and if you still feel that the product is legitimate after researching it, then call. You’ll be making an informed purchase.

We all want to be healthy. However, many health products (and unsupported online health advice) almost certainly overstate benefits and may actually cause harm.

Googling the product makes sense, saves dollars, and might even save your health.

Buying Life Insurance? Consider These First

Life insurance may not seem complicated, but the process can be. Here are five points to consider before purchasing a policy:

The conversation: First, discussing life insurance with your loved ones can be difficult, because you are raising the elephant in the room: your death. But if they rely on your income, this is an important conversation to have.

The role of your will: Many people believe a will can be used to dictate who receives the proceeds from your life insurance policy. But because it’s a contract with an insurance company, you will need to specify beneficiary/beneficiaries to that company.

The beneficiary: Regardless of the policy you choose, you typically need to select a beneficiary who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. That, too, can be an uncomfortable discussion. Under most circumstances, your beneficiary will be your spouse, then your children. But it can be more complicated. For example, you may not want to leave your money to minor children, in which case you may need to set up a trust.

The exceptions: In most states, you can choose the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. However, in “community property” states – currently Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin – property obtained in the marriage is owned by both spouses. In those states, if you want the beneficiary of your life insurance policy to be other than your spouse, you both may need to acknowledge that in writing.

The taxes: Finally, while life insurance proceeds are free from federal income taxes, they can be counted as part of your estate. This means they may be subject to estate tax. If you have a large policy, you may want to consider a trust that can keep the proceeds out of your estate.

Still confused? Your life insurance advisor can help.

Research Health Product Claims Before You Buy

If you’ve attended any type of networking event recently, you’ve probably noticed the large numbers of sales people selling health and wellness products.

Interesting, yes; but when it comes to their claims, you may want to dig a little deeper. Here are some recommendations for scrutinizing products before you purchase.

Many products’ sales brochures refer to studies that reinforce their claims. However, not all studies are created equal.

Try to determine online who financed the study as a clue to how unbiased it is. If it’s the company selling the product, or if the research was conducted by an organization in which the product’s seller has a financial interest, be skeptical. Websites from reputable education and government entities end in .edu or .gov and have the strength of a university, hospital, or government department behind them. As well, articles published in medical journals are peer-reviewed and provide unbiased information.

Distributors of many health products and supplements employ testimonials to sell their product. But, as the website of the respected Mayo Clinic reminds us, “anecdotes and testimonials are not evidence.”

One of the best ways to evaluate a product is to ask this simple question: “Is it too good to be true?” If an ad shouts “Eat five meals a day and lose 20 pounds in one week,” chances are it is too good to be true.

Don’t fall victim to compelling copy by immediately reaching for your credit card. If you’re considering buying the product, wait a day before calling that 800 number. Conduct a brief online research session, and if you still feel that the product is legitimate after researching it, then call. You’ll be making an informed purchase.

We all want to be healthy. However, many health products (and unsupported online health advice) almost certainly overstate benefits and may actually cause harm.

Googling the product makes sense, saves dollars, and might even save your health.

Get Help Before You Face Those Key Medicare Decisions

Are you or your spouse approaching Medicare age? Sixty-five is the magic age when you become Medicare eligible.

If you are a US citizen or permanent legal resident living in the United States for at least five years, if your spouse is eligible (usually after about a decade of work), or if you’re a government employee who paid Medicare payroll taxes, you are Medicare eligible.

But before you sign up, you should know about the three parts to Medicare: Part A, which covers mainly hospitalization; Part B, which covers primarily doctor visits and outpatient care; and Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage.

You can enroll in Part B without buying Part A, but if you purchase Part A, you must enroll in B. And don’t forget to talk to your health care providers to find out which Medicare plan each one accepts.

Finally, as Medicare will not cover all of your medical expenses, a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medigap supplemental plan may be required.

If this seems confusing, it is. So, as you approach 65 (or if you become disabled, which may trigger Medicare coverage), contact your insurance agent to find out how to enroll in Medicare. He or she can help you consider your options and ensure you have the best coverage at the best price.

Having an agent who understands the ever-changing insurance market – and knows which insurers may have the best plan for your circumstances – can help you better understand Medicare and ensure you choose your benefits wisely.

I’m Being Sued – Now What?

We live in a litigious society. The court system sees over a hundred million lawsuits every year.

If your business is involved in one, ensure you take proper steps to navigate the process. Some suits are easily dismissed, while others can cripple your company: the median cost for a business liability lawsuit is around $54,000, and contract disputes are typically closer to $91,000.

With these figures in mind, your essential first step is to obtain proper insurance coverage and have it in place before a suit occurs. The policies that are most applicable in the event of a lawsuit include general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and professional liability insurance. But if a suit exceeds your policy limitations, the addition of an umbrella policy may save large out-of-pocket expenses, and maybe your company.

Next steps

Supposing you have solid insurance coverage and are hit with a lawsuit. The next steps are:

Contact your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney already, get one, and review the lawsuit with him or her. Ensure your attorney has all the information needed to accurately and effectively represent you.

Contact your insurance provider. Do this right away, as many policies require you to forward suit papers promptly to your carrier. As you did with your attorney, ensure the details are clear. Verify what coverage you have to determine if the type of suit you are facing is covered under your policies.

If you are concerned your policies might not cover the suit, talk to your agent about the options available to you and to confirm whether the specific circumstances of your case will fall under your policy. Don’t make assumptions about coverage. Check dollar limits as well. This will help you develop a good understanding of how much, if anything, the suit will cost you out of pocket.

Typically, if the suit falls under your policies, the coverage will pay for attorneys’ fees and costs of any settlement.

Decide how to proceed. With professional advice from both your attorney and your insurance provider, determine how to respond to the complaint.

Respond to the complaint. Do this in a professional and timely manner.

Partner with your insurance carrier. Most suits, especially workers’ compensation cases, require investigation. Cooperate with all carriers involved to ensure the case moves along as smoothly as possible. You may need to provide documentation, employee files, or other information. If you receive requests, inform your insurance agent and attorney, who will take care of these requests as appropriate; don’t provide documents to anyone else.

Throughout the process, your insurance provider is a strong ally. Don’t miss out on the advantages this partnership offers. Keep your lines of communication open, and allow your carrier to assist you as you go through this difficult event.

If you are not currently facing a lawsuit, don’t wait until one occurs. Contact your agent to discuss your current policies.

Then make any changes necessary to ensure you’re solidly covered.

Which Policy Is Best for Your Business? It’s a Trick Question!

Which Policy Is Best for Your Business? It’s a Trick Question!

Jeff is a small-business owner looking for the right insurance coverage for his company. Kelly is a CEO with facilities nationwide who needs hefty policies to insure her business. Don, an entrepreneur hoping to get his woodworking business off the ground, wants to know he has the right insurance in place.

Quick quiz: Which do they need – “commercial insurance” or “business insurance?” Hint: it’s a trick question.

The answer: In fact, both terms refer to the same thing. Both commercial insurance and business insurance make up the category of insurance that provides coverage for business owners and their businesses – large or small.

Because these two terms can be used interchangeably, and because they’re widely considered to mean separate things, confusion abounds; many business owners labor under the false impression that they need one or the other (or both).

Misconceptions and the upshot: Some believe one applies to small businesses only; others think liability or workers’ compensation fall under one or the other of these categories. The result is that many owners who are considering possible insurance options for their companies are missing a bet; they may be inadvertently overlooking some excellent providers and policies.

Whether your company is big, small, new, or established, you are eligible for the full array of options available in commercial/business insurance. So when the time comes to pick the right insurance option for you, consult your agent. He or she knows your company and can help you select the policy that’s best for it. … Whatever it’s called.