5 Ways to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

It turns out something as small as trimming the trees around your home can be a heroic act when it comes to preventing water damage. Who knew? We’ve compiled these five tips to help prevent water damage, but if you want to know what happens if they don’t work, our insurance agents are only a phone call away.

1. Clean your gutters

It may sound simple, but regularly cleaning out your gutters prevents buildup that may cause a blockage in the future that leads to water damage. Say you’ve got a bunch of dead leaves you’ve been meaning to clean out and then a storm comes. That spells trouble.

2. Trim your trees

Protect your roof by regularly trimming trees and watching out for stray branches that may cause a lot of damage on the way down. Also, make sure there are no easy-access branches for creatures to stumble onto the roof and cause any other types of damage.

3. Look into a French drain

Named after a man, not the cheese-loving, stripe-wearing country, it’s a trench that’s slightly sloped and diverts water away from your home.

4. Install impact-proof doors

Not all doors and windows are created equal. Impact-resistant ones can withstand high winds that have the power to cause structural damage during a storm. Investing now could save you a small fortune.

5. Update your insurance

The most important thing you can do is make sure you are up to date and covered in case disaster does strike. Not all policies protect from all kinds of water damage, so make sure you read the fine print.

Not sure about your policy? Call or email us to find out how you can better your policy. We are always here to help.

Are Electronic Door Locks Right for You?

Gone are the days of forgetting your keys. Smart locks with fingerprints, WiFi and Bluetooth systems are reimagining the way we view home safety, but are they really safe? Do they add value to your home? Are they really more secure? We’re here to dispel some myths and weigh out the pros and cons.

Are you a techphobe or a tech know-it-all?

If you struggle with each new update to your cell phone, a smart lock probably isn’t the right thing for you. If, however, you like to keep up to date with new gadgets and are the go-to call when friends are struggling to install their printers, go for it!

Do they add value?

The short answer: yes and no. They add marketability: potential buyers will want to ask about them and most likely consider them an attention grabber that they’ll remember. However, they don’t add that much more security. Burglars will most likely enter a home through forcing a door or window. In fact, camera surveillance is a much better deterrent.

What are the options?

Biometric: recognizes your fingerprints.

Key fob: similar to many offices, unlock your front door when within proximity of your pocketed fob.

Smart phone: that’s right, unlock your door from your phone! Just make sure you keep it fully charged.

Surveillance lock: code operated, takes a picture of who opens the door and can be synced with the surveillance system.

If you’re unsure whether your locking system affects your insurance policy, get in touch. We’ll help you figure it out.

The Ins and Outs of Life Insurance Taxation

Life insurance proceeds received by your beneficiaries generally are not taxable, but there are situations in which part of the payouts may go to Uncle Sam, and it is a good idea to be aware of them.

First, when the payout is to a beneficiary after someone dies, it is not taxable. This is the most common use of life insurance, so you can rest easy knowing your beneficiaries will not be hit with a tax bill.

Second, when there is a “terminal illness rider” in place and the payout is made while the insured is terminally or chronically ill, the payout is generally treated as if it were paid upon the policyholder’s death, so it is not taxable.

So when is a life insurance payout taxable?

One time is when payouts are made in installments instead of in full. Installment plans may help individuals who are at risk of spending the lump sum all at once (new sports car, anyone?). If the life insurance payout is made in installments, the death benefit is not taxable, but the interest that accrues on the payouts is.

Another time a life insurance payout is taxable is if your estate is large. In 2022, that means it is worth more than $12.06 million. If you have an estate valued above that amount when you die, any amount above $12.06 million is taxed at 40%. Only spouses are exempt, so if your beneficiary is a parent, sibling or child, he or she is subject to the tax. This can sometimes happen when a spouse beneficiary passes away before the policyholder.

If you’re concerned about the taxation of your life insurance policy or think you need a policy, you should talk to us. Call or email us for more information.

Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage: The Differences

Will you be eligible for Medicare soon? Are your friends and family trying to educate you on options? Does all the mail you receive and sales calls being made make you want to bury your head and do nothing? What are your options, and what is the difference between the plans you’re being told about?

Original Medicare When you receive your Medicare card with Part A and Part B, you are considering having Original Medicare. This allows you to go to any doctor or hospital that takes Medicare in the United States. In most cases, you will not need a referral to see a specialist.

Medicare Supplements Original Medicare pays for most, but not all, of your healthcare services and supplies needed. Supplements (Medigap), policies that are sold by private insurance companies, can help pay some of those remaining costs. Some supplements cover services that Original Medicare does not cover. Since supplements are standardized and must follow federal and state laws, you have that added protection. The cost for these plans is based on state, age and zip code.

Medicare Advantage These are Medicare-approved plans sold by private insurance companies. They are an alternative to Original Medicare and bundle your Part A and Part B. Many also include your Part D drug coverage. Unlike Original Medicare and a supplement, in most cases, you will need to use doctors and hospitals that contract with these plans and are in their network. Normally, you need a referral to see a specialist. These plans have co-pays, co-insurance and a yearly maximum out-of-pocket limit. The cost for these plans will vary, but some plans do have a zero-premium option.

We understand how choices can be difficult, so give us a call, and we will do our best to educate you so you can make your individual decision.

Traveling? Here’s a Quick Guide to Medical Travel Insurance

Are you planning a fall trip to see family or friends? How about a holiday cruise? Should you consider travel insurance for any unexpected emergencies? Let us review a few things to keep in mind as you review your travel budget.

What is the advantage of travel medical insurance? Peace of mind. When you are seeking additional supplemental coverage, travel medical insurance can help fill in those gaps for unexpected needs. This may save you money out of pocket in an emergency. Why not focus on enjoying your trip?

I have medical insurance, so isn’t that enough? Many health insurance policies cover you while you are in network and within the United States. Medical emergencies are just that: emergencies. You don’t want to worry about where you need to go, if you are covered and what your cost will be when seeking help.

Is travel medical insurance expensive? The truth is no. Typically policies can be found for under $100. Prices will vary based on the length of your trip and whether your policy has a deductible before coverage begins.

What would be considered an emergency? An emergency can be something as simple as a broken bone, but it could also mean a heart attack or stroke. You may need emergency transport. These are services you do not want to pay for out of pocket.

When seeking a trusted partner for your domestic or international travel medical trip protection, we are just a phone call away so you can focus on your vacation.

The 3 Most Common Small Business Insurance Needs

Broadly speaking, all businesses should have basic commercial coverage, including property insurance, which covers damages to business property, and liability insurance, which covers damages to other parties. But depending on your sector, additional specialized coverage may be warranted. Below are some options.

For any business that has employees: Workers’ compensation insurance protects against employee injuries that occur on the job. Most states require businesses with employees to carry some type of workers’ compensation insurance.

For any business that has equipment: Mechanical breakdown insurance insures against the breakdown of equipment, such as boilers and other machinery. But it’s not just industrial equipment that is covered: mechanical breakdown insurance also covers fire damage to office equipment, such as computers.

For any business that transports property: It’s called inland marine insurance, but it’s not about boats: it covers damages to goods (or their theft) when transported over land or while temporarily warehoused. For example, if you’re a dry cleaner, this insurance would reimburse you for customers’ clothing that is damaged while it’s being transported from your dry-cleaning facility to your storefront.

For any business that can’t be out of business temporarily: When you experience property damage or loss, you could be put out of business for a while. This insurance reimburses you for various expenses (from salaries to rent) and losses (such as net profits) that would have been experienced during that period.

For any construction business: If you’re constructing a building, consider builder’s risk insurance. It protects against damage to buildings while they are being constructed.

For any business that benefits from old building codes: Ordinance insurance, also called law insurance, reimburses you for the expenses associated with demolishing and rebuilding to code when your building has been partially destroyed.

For any business with windows: As oddly specific as it sounds, glass insurance covers broken windows. (They are expensive!)

For any business that could make mistakes: Errors and omissions insurance covers accidental mistakes that hurt a third party, such as an accountant failing to file a tax return on time or a notary public completing notarizations improperly.

For any business that uses cars: If you use vehicles, from cars to trailers, consider a commercial automobile policy. It will provide coverage if your vehicles are stolen or damaged or if the driver injures a person or property.

For any business with directors and officers: Directors’ and officers’ insurance, as the name suggests, covers the costs of lawsuits against directors and officers.

For any business that leases property: If you have a lease, consider a commercial renter’s policy. It covers damages to any improvements you make to your space as well as damages the negligence of your employees cause to the space.

For any business worried about natural damages: Property insurance will cover the costs of rebuilding but not of removing the debris. Debris removal insurance will cover this, though.

We can help you review your current insurance coverage and determine what special coverages you may need. Call or email us today.

Who Needs What? Insurance to Consider by Industry

What insurance do you need for a small business? We get this question often, but there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. That’s because the coverage you need depends on the type of business you have and the state in which you operate. But generally speaking, all businesses should consider these three types of insurance.

General liability insurance.  This type of insurance helps protect your business from claims that it injured someone else’s property or body. If you operate a hardware store, for example, and an employee spills paint on a customer, this coverage can help pay for their damaged clothing and even medical expenses if an injury occurred. And many small business owners get policies that include product liability insurance, which helps protect their companies from claims of bodily injury or property damage that their products cause.

Business income coverage.  This type of coverage helps your business when it is interrupted. In other words, it can help replace lost income if you can’t operate because your property was damaged by a fire, storms, a robbery or other incident.

Property insurance.  Commercial property insurance helps protect your building (whether you own or rent) and your equipment. If someone breaks into your building and steals your business computers, for example, commercial property insurance can help cover the replacement costs.

We’d love to see if we can help you find the right mix of insurance for your business. Call or email us today to schedule some time with us to review your policies to ensure that they meet your needs.