As you make your way through your spring cleaning checklist, don’t forget to dig out your insurance policies and look them over. Below are some of the reviewable elements of your home, life and auto insurance policies.
1. Make sure you’re not overpaying for insufficient coverage
Experts say the top insurance mistake is being underinsured, which happens when you fail to update your coverage as your property, lifestyle or needs change.
Take the time to assess those changes and determine where you need to adjust your insurance coverage. For example, if you like to entertain at home, consider increasing your liability coverage and purchasing a separate umbrella policy.
Umbrella liability policies typically offer a minimum of $1 million of additional liability protection and cost just a few hundred dollars a year.
2. Pay attention to increased rates
Insurance companies don’t always tell you how much your rates increased on renewals. While doing your spring cleaning, grab last year’s documents and compare the rates for yourself. If your rates rose by five percent or more, call your insurance agent and ask them to explain the increase.
Knowing whether the increase resulted from changes in your risk profile or from general increases in the marketplace can help you negotiate and shop for comparisons.
3. Learn how to lower your premium
You may be eligible for discounts that can lower your homeowners insurance premium. Our golden rule is to ask! You may miss out out savings if you don’t ask what is available.
4. Make sure you have enough personal property insurance
Most people do not take the time to inventory their personal possessions, and often do not have enough personal property insurance as a result. Homeowners should be careful not to overlook their belongings as a way to keep insurance costs down.
It is very likely that you have added new belongings to your home over the last year. If so, now is the time to inventory those belongings and ensure you have the right type of coverage for the actual value of your property.
Most consumers automatically accept the amount of contents coverage named in their policy. Instead, read the policies carefully to make sure there are no gaps in coverage, and check the dollar limits and excluded causes for personal property.
It is in your best interest to raise the dollar limit if necessary, as it will help you better replace or recover the value of your possessions if disaster strikes.
Having an updated list and video footage of your belongings could help you recover the true worth of your belongings.
If you have a life insurance policy, you should make sure to review its principal points at least once a year, including beneficiary, benefit amount, term, loans and cash value.
1. Update your beneficiaries
Many of us forget to update our policies when circumstances change. Life events such as marriage, getting divorced or having children should prompt you to update your beneficiaries. The beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy will trump any other documents you’ve created outlining your beneficiaries, so ensure that they match!
2. Review the term of your policy
If you have term life insurance, it’s important to know when the term ends. An annual review will prevent a term policy expiration from sneaking up on you. If you are caught unaware, you may face a major premium hike.
Some term policies may be convertible to permanent insurance on their anniversary, which others may be convertible at the end of their term.
3. Assess the amount of your policy
Make sure the amount of your life insurance policy is still appropriate for its intentions and for your financial situation.
Take time to evaluate what you intend for the benefits to cover. Are you hoping to fund your burial expenses, or provide college tuition for your children? Does your policy provide sufficient coverage for these needs? If not, it may be time to look into additional coverage.
If your personal wealth has increased significantly in the last year, you may consider more life insurance in order to protect your family from estate taxes.
1. Reassess your comprehensive/collision coverage
If you have collision and comprehensive coverage, take time to make sure the limits are adequate, or whether you still need it. If you don’t have the coverage, consider whether it’s time to add it.
If you’re driving an older car worth less than $1,000 – or less than 10 times the insurance premium – having comprehensive or collision coverage may no longer make sense. Dropping either the comprehensive or collision coverage may reduce your premium.
2. Ask about any new discounts.
Ask about any discounts that you may qualify for, such as:
For questions about your insurance or to get a quote, contact us today!
With continued flight cancellations and imposed travel restrictions, it's important to know what travel insurance covers.
As reported cases of coronavirus increase, the outbreak is stoking fears among travelers.
Several countries, including the U.S., have imposed travel restrictions that include quarantines to contain the virus. At least 73 airlines have canceled or limited flights to China. And now cruise lines have begun to take notice following a recent outbreak on a ship in Japan.
Given these developments, consumers may be wondering whether travel insurance will protect them in case they cancel their trip, become sick while abroad, or if their flight is grounded.
But consumers need to understand that their travel policy doesn’t protect them from everything. So it helps to find out ahead of time what is and isn’t covered.
Cancellation coverage? Don’t count on it
Tour operators and travel insurance brokers are reporting an increasing number of requests from customers asking to change their travel plans. Meanwhile, many U.S. airlines, including United, America and Delta, have canceled several flights to China.
Consumers may be surprised to learn that in either situation, their travel policy probably wouldn’t cover them.
Most travel insurance is designed to protect you in case you need to cancel a trip, lose belongings, or require medical attention. But for cancellations related to coronavirus, only certain reasons qualify. Here’s a breakdown.
Airline cancels flight: Not usually covered
Reimbursing a canceled flight is generally the responsibility of the airline — not the insurer. The same goes for cruise lines, rail companies, or any other transportation provider that cancels because of coronavirus or any other reason.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the transportation provider will cover all expenses. Airlines, for example, are not required to refund canceled flights and may limit the extent of the reimbursement. Fare policies vary, so it’s a good idea for travelers to review them before booking a flight.
Traveler chooses to cancel a trip: Not covered
Travel insurance will cover consumers who have to cancel their trip for reasons including adverse weather, a natural disaster, jury duty, an act of terrorism, or the travel company going out of business. But it won’t protect travelers who cancel because they are worried about the coronavirus.
Traveler contracts coronavirus and has to cancel: Covered
Travelers are protected if they have to cancel a trip because of personal sickness or injury, or the sickness, injury or death of an immediate family member.
Most standard policies will cover cancellation or interruption if the traveler is placed under quarantine, or if the destination is placed under a mandatory evacuation.
Although standard policies don’t cover all cancellations, some travel policies offer “cancel any reason” provisions or flight delay benefits that will provide reimbursement. Again, here’s where reading the fine print comes in.
Illness protection — it’s in the details
The good news for consumers is that most policies protect travelers who become sick while abroad. But the details of the policy matter.
Travel insurance is intended to cover medical costs abroad. As long as the policy includes medical coverage, the traveler is protected should he or she require medical care, hospitalization, or a medical evacuation while in a foreign country.
But travelers need to understand the stipulations of their policy from the outset. Here are some considerations:
Primary or secondary payer?
A secondary payment policy is designed to pay for costs that the traveler’s personal insurance does not cover. This may mean the traveler has to pay deductibles and co-pays out of pocket. A primary payment policy, however, serves as the first payer for any medical costs that arise.
All policies have a maximum they will pay, and many also have deductibles and other limitations.
Policies may exclude coverage for certain situations, such as risky activities. So thrill-seekers like skydivers and bungee jumpers might be out of luck.
A separate health policy, or rider, may be helpful for covering things a standard policy might exclude (like that skydiving expedition). A traveler may be able to purchase a rider to extend coverage in case of injury. A rider for foreign medical care coverage might also be useful, although those types of provisions are rare.
In most cases, a standard travel policy is sufficient. There are several types of policies with different levels and coverage for all sorts of travel. Some policies may be specific to cruises, where it may become critical to evacuate to a hospital. Other policies are geared more toward adventure travel.
Riders are meant to provide coverage that’s missing from a primary policy. So if a policy excludes coverage for dangerous activities such as bungee jumping, a traveler may be able to purchase a rider to extend coverage in case of injury.
The headlines may paint a scary picture of the coronavirus, but it helps for U.S. travelers to keep facts and figures in perspective.
As of Feb 25, 2020, there have been more than 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, 77,780 were reported in China, where the outbreak originated.
And although some U.S. airlines have canceled flights, bear in mind that almost all of these cancellations involve flights to and from China. The U.S. has temporarily barred entry for anyone traveling from China who isn’t a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or immediate family member of either.
Travelers planning a trip to the Western Pacific region may want to give more thought to their insurance coverage. For travelers who are headed anywhere else in the world, chances are they’ll be in good shape with a standard policy.
The key is for travelers to determine their actual risk, understand what they are trying to cover, and then find a policy that accomplishes that.
4 Things to Consider When Changing Your Auto Policy
Whether you are adding a vehicle or a new driver, updating your address, or considering a new insurance provider entirely, the process of making changes to your auto policy can be intimidating. Read on for things to keep in mind when adjusting your auto policy.
1. Let Your Independent Agent Do the Work for You
As with any important decision, consider talking to a local expert who can help you navigate the decisions involved in switching to a new car insurance company. While paying the lowest possible rate may seem attractive at first glance, any responsible agent will explain that getting the coverage you need should be one of your top priorities.
For example, if you frequently drive with your dog in the backseat, you might ask your agent whether or not your dog is covered in the event you are in an accident. A professional independent agent can recommend an auto insurance policy that automatically covers any potential pet medical bills if you get into an accident. Not all insurance companies include this coverage. This is an example of how protecting what matters most to you is more important than the savings you get from buying insurance online. The foresight to look ahead and anticipate coverage needs is one of the many benefits of working with an independent agent.
2. Ask the Right Questions About Insurance Carriers
It’s important to balance between being price-conscious and making sure your insurance needs are met. To ensure you receive the correct coverage to meet the needs of you and your family, ask these questions when you speak with your local independent agent:
3. Mind the Policy Gap
Timing is everything as you don’t want to be without coverage between policies. Fees might be involved if you change insurance providers mid-policy term, or discounts may be offered if you shop for a renewal prior to your expiration date, so you’ll want to plan your insurance switchover accordingly.
Failure to avoid a gap in coverage can have serious legal and financial repercussions, especially if a disaster strikes when you’re between insurers. Additionally, a lapse could mean that insurance carriers will charge higher premiums in the future.
4. Follow Through
Once you’ve switched, make it a point to stay in contact with your local agent. Make sure that your previous policy has been canceled. Avoid billing mistakes and credit bureau issues by obtaining written confirmation from your previous insurer that your policy has been cancelled.
If you are moving to a new state, plan to visit with your insurance provider. Because insurance laws vary by state, you’ll want to complete changes prior to your move.
With the right insurance carrier watching out for you, making the switch should be a straightforward process. And, Theodore & Associates is always here to help!
As a homeowner, one of the most important aspects of your home isn’t something you use daily. And it isn’t something flashy you show off to friends. It’s your homeowners insurance policy, and it protects you in more ways than you may think, helping you rebuild your home or repair damage that results from a covered loss.
But, that’s not all. It can also help cover the costs of a lawsuit, help you pay for somewhere else to live when your home is uninhabitable, and much more.
Home insurance is typically very comprehensive, but all policies have exclusions and coverage limits. It’s vital to know what those are so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Fire damage? Typically covered. Flood damage? Typically not.
With this guide, you can begin to understand what a typical home insurance policy covers. Just keep in mind that coverage varies from carrier to carrier, region to region and even policy to policy. Only your individual home policy can tell you the coverage you have and that which you don’t. For an even better understanding of your home policy coverage, review it with one of our agents.
What Home Insurance Covers The typical homeowners insurance policy has six types of coverage. They are commonly known as:
Remember that, despite having all of these different types of coverage, you’re only covered up to the dollar amounts that you select and only for covered losses, as outlined in your policy. Typically, you can change these policy limits at any time if you’d like to purchase more coverage. This is a good idea if, for example, you’ve recently added on to your home, acquired some pricey personal belongings or made other updates to your property. If needed, you can also reduce your coverage, though always ensure you are adequately protected.
What Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover
It’s just as important to know what your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover as it is to know what your home policy does cover. For starters, your policy does not cover any damage or repairs costing less than your deductible. It also does not cover any costs that exceed the coverage limits outlined in your policy. You are solely responsible for excess costs, unless you have an umbrella policy to provide additional liability coverage for a covered loss.
More than likely, your policy also does not cover routine maintenance and repairs, as well as damage due to animals, termites, floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, sewer backups, and other incidents. These are often considered non-covered losses. If you experience a non-covered loss, as outlined by your policy, you will be responsible for the costs.
What Home Insurance May Cover
Outside of the typical home insurance coverage, optional or separate coverage may be available from your carrier or from a different carrier. For example, you may be able to purchase earthquake or flood coverage separate from your homeowners policy.
Other coverage options are add-ons to your existing homeowners insurance. These can include identity protection and equipment breakdown coverage, which covers the cost to repair or replace a range of appliances and other equipment, such as pool equipment, in your home. If this sounds similar to an extended appliance warranty, it is. The difference is that you can insure an array of appliances at once through this optional coverage rather than purchasing a separate warranty for each one.
This guide is a starting point for understanding your home insurance policy. Your own policy may vary greatly from the descriptions above depending on the state where you live, your carrier, and the coverage you have selected. So take a close look at your policy by reviewing your documents or viewing your coverage online. Or, even better, sit down with one of our insurance agents who can explain your coverage in detail, as well as discuss whether your policy provides adequate protection for your home, property, and belongings.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
You devote months to planning, working out every detail for what should be a perfect event. Unfortunately, even the best planned events are at the mercy of the unexpected. Like a flood that ruins your venue. Or a caterer who inexplicably goes bottom up. And chances are, you'll still be on the hook for all or most of the costs. Thankfully, special event insurance can help protect what you've invested in your event should the unexpected put a dark cloud over your big day.
WHAT IS SPECIAL EVENT INSURANCE?
Special event insurance helps cover financial losses that may occur when an accident, extreme weather, illness or a problem with a key vendor puts a stop to your private event. Policies often cost less than you might expect and typically offer two types of coverage:
Event cancellation coverage reimburses you for lost deposits and other charges when unforeseen circumstances cause you to cancel or postpone your function. This type of coverage may extend to special gifts, attire (lost wedding bands, for instance) and damaged photo and video files. It does not, however, cover a change of heart.
Event liability coverage helps protect you from financial loss if you're held responsible for an accident that hurts someone or causes property damage at your event. You may even be covered if one of your guests creates havoc. Many venues now require you to have liability protection before you can even book there.
WHAT TYPES OF FUNCTIONS ARE COVERED?
Events that are covered by special event insurance include but are not limited to:
WHEN SHOULD I BUY SPECIAL EVENT INSURANCE?
It's a good idea to purchase a policy as soon as you begin making deposits, because unexpected issues can crop up at any point. That said, you need to buy event cancellation coverage at least 14 days before your function date and liability coverage at least one day prior. You can buy both up to 24 months in advance.
No one wants to think about something unpleasant when planning an important day, but it's nice to know there's a policy that can help protect you from the unexpected.
Call Theodore & Associates today to talk about how you can help safeguard your big day!
That oh-so-covetable experience of taking a dip in your very own pool? Millions of American households enjoy it, at least when the weather’s nice.
With the summer heat ratcheting up, you may be coming down with a serious case of pool envy, obsessed with having a pool right outside your door for cooling off and entertaining friends. A swimming pool can even increase the value of your home. But, will it increase your homeowners insurance rates too?
Before you dive in and add a pool to your property or buy a home that already has one, here are three important things to keep in mind:
Above all, ask us questions. Against which risks is damage to my pool covered? Is the pump covered too and under what circumstances?
Working closely with someone who understands your property and the local zoning laws is one of the best ways to fully understand how a pool may affect your homeowners insurance rates. We can help you find the right balance of coverage for your specific situation and help ensure your relaxing oasis isn’t an unmanageable risk.
Looking for a Homeowners Insurance quote?
Contact us to get the coverage that’s right for you, whether you have a pool or not!
For more information, visit Safeco Insurance®.
Home improvement: It’s a never-ending process for many people, and for those of us who aren’t necessarily handy, it can be a hassle, too.
But there are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can handle to make your home safer – whether you’re handy or not. And you won’t have to break out the power tools (or any tools at all in some instances) or worry about getting in over your head.
You need running water in your home – but not water running in your home, if you know what we mean. Even minor leaks can cause major problems, from higher water bills to damage requiring costly repairs (maybe even the kind you can’t tackle yourself). Here are some easy ways to make sure your water stays where it should:
Keep Your Family (and Your Guests) On Their Feet
Millions of Americans – many of them older adults – are injured in falls each year. About 2.5 million were hurt in 2013 alone, according to the National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look around your home. Should you make some of these fixes?
Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. But helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:
Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a kitchen remodel or finishing the basement. Making your home safer, in fact, just might be the best improvement of all.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Everyone knows why life insurance is important, but many of us choose to ignore the reality of what would happen if we were to die suddenly without the proper protection. The results could be devastating for your surviving family members, leaving them with a large bill for your final expenses, or even worse, loss of the family home because they can no longer cover the mortgage.
If you don’t currently have a life insurance policy, you are not alone. According to Life Insurance Statistics and Facts, which is a report put out by the life insurance industry, about 43% of the population don’t own a life insurance policy in any amount. Unfortunately, the study found that most of us are in desperate need of a life insurance policy. Nearly 1/3 of Americans would feel the loss of the primary earner in the household within the month.
We gathered a few stories to highlight the importance of life insurance. While these stories are fictional, they are based on very common situations.
Mary and Steve have a 24-year-old daughter named Amy who took out $150,000 in private student loans to fund her law school degree. Her parents co-signed the loans, wanting to give Amy a shot at her dream career.
Amy graduated from law school, joined a great law firm, had a baby and started paying off her student loans. When she died at the age of 34 from breast cancer, her parents suddenly became responsible for about $120,000 (the balance on her loans) and their 2-year-old granddaughter.
Because they co-signed the loans, Mary and Steve were responsible for repaying the loan balance. In some cases, the loan documents may include an acceleration clause that will bring the entire balance due at death. Mary and Steve could not afford to pay off the loan and had to sell their own home to settle their daughter’s debt.
While no parent ever wants to take out a life insurance policy on their own child, if you have co-signed their loans, and paying off the balance of those loans would be financially devastating; a life insurance policy can protect you from financial ruin.
A 30-year term life insurance policy on a 25-year-old woman (Amy’s age when she graduated from law school) would be very affordable and would have saved the day for Mary, Steve and their granddaughter.
1. Insurance Through Work Isn't Enough
Scott and Trish were happily married with two kids. Scott had a great job that he loved and was pulling down $150,000 a year. His employer provided two years' salary in life insurance, which Trish (who handled the finances) thought was sufficient until she talked to a friend of hers who was an insurance agent.
Her agent friend warned her that any coverage through work is always a nice bonus, but it’s never a good idea to rely on it. In the event that Scott were to quit, be fired or be laid off, his life insurance coverage would go away, leaving them completely exposed, and if 10 years had gone by, coverage would be much more expensive because Scott was now 10 years older.
Most insurance experts recommend keeping your life insurance separate from any coverage offered by work. Consider work-related life insurance icing on your insurance cake.
Trish took her friend's advice, and purchased a $750,000 term life insurance policy with a 25-year term. This coverage level would give her enough money to pay off their mortgage, put the kids through school and give her a bit of breathing room if the worst were to happen to Scott.
2. Don’t Leave Your Kids Holding the Bag
Kelly, a single mother, always thought it would be a good idea to buy life insurance to protect her children, but something always seemed to get in the way. Money was tight, or time was tight and she just never got around to it.
Years later, Kelly purchased a small home; her daughter was then 18 years old and her son was 14. While she didn't exactly live paycheck to paycheck, her budget was pretty tight and didn't allow her much room for savings.
One night while driving home from work, Kelly was struck head-on by a distracted driver. She died instantly. While Kelly’s children were forced to deal with the tragic loss of their mother, they also had to face the fact that she left behind only a few thousand dollars in the bank and no life insurance, leaving them essentially broke after covering the cost of a very basic funeral.
That is why life insurance is important. Nobody knows what is coming around the corner. If you die unexpectedly, you can leave your spouse or children in a very tight spot.
Term life insurance is extremely affordable. A 20-year policy with a death benefit of $500,000 for a healthy female can cost as little as $25 a month.
3. Life Insurance Can Save a Business If a Key Employee Dies
John started a tech company when he was 20 years old. Over the years he grew it into a multi-billion business that was consistently on the cutting edge of technology, introducing many industry-disrupting inventions. Even though John now employed thousands, he was very hands-on and had personally come up with most of their major breakthroughs.
John’s board of directors was concerned that if something happened to John, the company would suffer a tremendous financial loss. The board felt that a key man insurance policy was needed. A key employee life insurance policy is put in place to protect a business from losses if an invaluable employee dies.
The company decided to take out a very large life insurance policy on John, over his strenuous protests. John felt that he was in fine shape and would live to a ripe old age. Unfortunately, John was wrong. He suffered a major heart attack and died a few years after the policy went into effect.
Sales and the stock price immediately plummeted after his death, and the death benefit from the life insurance policy kept the company afloat for the next 12 months while the new CEO rebuilt investor trust and got the company back on track.
4. Stay-at-Home Parents Need Insurance Too
Mike and Stacy have been married for ten years, and for most of that time, Mike has been lucky enough to stay home with the kids while Stacy has been the primary breadwinner. While Stacy earns a good living, she would struggle to cover the cost of a nanny or other childcare provider if something were to happen to Mike.
Mike provides a variety of services to the family. He takes care of childcare, transportation, managing the household and their finances. He also deals with repairs and maintenance for their home. Mike also earns a small income doing handyman services around the neighborhood.
They decide that in the event something happened to Mike, a life insurance policy would ensure that Stacy would have enough money to hire the necessary help or take a few years off to stay at home as the family learns to cope with the loss.
Sarah purchases a 20-year term policy with a death benefit of $750,000 that will give her the financial means to replace the services Mike provided for the family as well as cover the cost of sending the kids to college.
5. Life Insurance Can Ensure Your Business Survives
Todd and Chris started a business together and over the years it grew into a successful enterprise. Their financial advisor recommended using whole life insurance policies to make sure that if one partner died, their family would be taken care of, and the business would survive the loss.
Todd purchased a $1 million whole life policy on Chris (and made the payments) and vice versa. Years later Todd was killed by a drunk driver. Chris received the death benefit from his life insurance policy on Todd, which he used to buy Todd’s share of the business from Todd's family.
This arrangement allowed Todd's family to be fairly compensated for his half of the business, while also allowing the business to survive without taking the major financial hit of paying off Todd's family.
This is called a buy/sell agreement and is a fairly common arrangement for small business partners.
Top Reasons Why Life Insurance Is So Important
Hopefully these stories have shown you just how important life insurance and "insuring your love" is for the special people in your life. If you still have doubts, here are some reasons why life insurance is a necessity, not an option:
Where Can I Get Life Insurance?
If any of these stories struck a chord and you are considering a life insurance policy, you are in the right place. Theodore & Associates can help you assess your specific risks and financial goals before recommending a policy. Whether you need a term policy, a permanent policy or a combination of both, our agents will do all of the legwork for you, gather quotes, and present you with a variety of options that will provide the protection that you and your family need.
Start protecting your family today, contact Theodore & Associates now.
For more information, please visit Trusted Choice here.