LLCs, Trusts, and Estates

Recently, I had a client call me regarding the purchase of a new property.

I went through the typical questions I would ask…

What’s the address?

Do you have a settlement date?

Is it a business or personal property?

How do you plan to use the property?

Who will reside at the property?

Who will own it?

It is not uncommon to get all green lights until you get to the last question. Business entities are a tricky business in the personal insurance arena. They are not impossible just tricky.

Insurance companies get a little crazy when you start talking business entities owning personal properties. A business has a different kind of exposure or risk and therefore has different insurance needs. Personal insurance policies are not designed to meet those needs and ultimately a business entity could put an insurance company in quite a pickle if a claim happens.

An LLC can sometimes be done if the LLC is formed solely for the purpose of holding a single residential property. The LLC should not conduct any other business and should not employ anyone. There may be tax benefits to an LLC but you need to weigh the tax benefits against the issues that arise when it comes to insuring the property in the name of an LLC.

Trusts can also be done but every insurance company is different. Some will name the trust as Named Insured, some as Additional Insured, some require a special endorsement for naming the trust. Only your insurance company will be able to tell you how the trust can be named.

Estates are tricky in that typically the estate was developed to hold assets for a person that has passed away. An insurance company would shy away from this type of situation because it is unknown who will live in the home, who will take care of the home, will the home be vacant, is it for sale, how long will the estate exist? The answers to these questions have an additional amount of risk associated with it and the insurance company may not want to take on that risk.

Regardless of what your plans are, you should always consult with your insurance agent on what your plans are before committing to them. You may not be able to get the coverage you thought you could or need.

Pamela

Winter Is Coming

Yes, I am a fan of Game of Thrones. It is something my husband and I were able to binge watch in the evenings over the summer and are looking forward to watching when it airs next year.

With winter quickly approaching it is time to batten down the hatches for the looming cold temperatures and wintery precipitation.

Here is a quick list of things to check off as you prepare for winter…

  • Clean out gutters of any debris for proper drainage and to reduce the chance of an ice damn.
  • Disconnect and drain all outside hoses. If possible, shut off outside water valves.
  • Repair roof damage and remove tree branches that could become weighted down with ice or snow and fall on your house or your neighbor’s house.
  • Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawlspaces with insulation sleeves to reduce the chance of freezing.
  • Clean your furnace and replace the filter to reduce the chance of fire.
  • Have your chimney and/or flue inspected to make sure no animals are nesting there.
  • Test or install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace the batteries twice a year.
  • If your house will be unattended during cold periods, consider draining the water system.

Whether you live in a single family home, condo, or apartment be prepared for the freezing temperatures and the mounds of snow and ice to come.

By following the simple steps above you can reduce your chance of filing a home insurance claim and have a cozy winter season.

You can find more information about preparing for winter by visiting…

http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/

http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather

http://www.weather.com/safety/winter

Pamela

After an Auto Accident

Auto accidents are never fun, regardless if minor or major.

My client’s can get pretty rattled at the time of an accident.

Below are some quick and easy steps after an auto accident.

  • Stop immediately, but don’t obstruct traffic. Set up accident flares or warning signs if you have them.
  • Make sure to turn off your vehicle, to guard against fire.
  • Determine if anyone is injured and assist if necessary.
  • Call the police to file an auto accident report.
  • Secure the driver’s license number, make, model and other important information of other vehicles.
  • Take photos of driver’s license, registration, and vehicles involved, including license plates.
  • Secure the names and addresses of witness or other parties.
  • Observe your surroundings to determine direction, lanes of travel, traffic, weather conditions, to provide to your claim adjustor.
  • Do not accept fault of accident or attempt to make settlement at the scene.
  • Notify your insurance agent after the scene has be cleaned up and you are safely home.
  • Always, always, keep clam, don’t argue, accuse anyone or admit guilt.

If you have any questions or concerns before or after an accident consult with your insurance agent.

Insurance agents have been involved in the claim process in a variety of situations and can provide you guidance on what to expect and best practices.

Safe driving!

Pamela

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is quickly approaching. Whether you are trick-or-treating or staying home here are some quick safety tips…

Driving Safely:

  • Drive extra slow and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

Home Safe Home:

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do no inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

Have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Pamela

Hot Topics In The Insurance Industry

Last week was pretty chaotic for me.

In all of that chaos I attended a town hall forum hosted by Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA).

For anyone not aware, we have a new Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer, as of February 2015.

The purpose of the forum was to open a dialogue between the MIA and insurance professionals doing business in Maryland.

There were several topics discussed…

  • When sending special notifications to Maryland policyholders to educate them on insurance, what notices should we include? What does the policyholder need to know? How do we help them make an informed decision when managing their insurance needs?
  • Water back-up and water damage came up. Water back-up is the #1 home insurance claim across the country, and that will not change in the future. Do policyholders know what water back-up is, and what is flood? What kind of coverage are insurance companies providing to policyholders? What needs to change
  • Maryland has experienced a variety of weather events lately; hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, etc. Weather events are creating a lot of claims, which in turn causes issues in rating and premium structures. MIA wants to know what insurance professionals feel is reasonable to help curve this cause of loss and create better rating structures in the future.
  • With all of the technology today, Cyber Security is becoming very important for businesses. What are insurance professionals doing to reduce their chance of a data breach? Are policyholders, specifically businesses, purchasing cyber security insurance?

There were many other topics discussed but these are the big topics for the forum and are a serious concern for the insurance industry. Some of these topics are even being discussed at the federal level.

MIA is dedicated to helping Maryland policyholders navigate the insurance market and help them make an informed buying decision.

My policyholders get frustrated every day with insurance related issues; from claims, to billing, to coverages, to premium. I myself get frustrated every day on behalf of my policyholders.

There are individuals out their working hard to provide the appropriate types of insurance and help consumers make sense of insurance. They are also trying to be fair and do what is right for the greater good.

Whenever you have a concern about your insurance you should always reach out to your insurance agent to discuss it.

You can also find more information by visiting MIA at, http://www.mdinsurance.state.md.us.

Insurance is not easy, so ask a professional.

Pamela

Child Safety Seat and Your Auto Insurance

This weekend I went out and purchased another carseat for my soon to be 2 year old.

The carseat took up a good bit of my time this weekend. Between picking it out, unpacking it, setting it up, to installing it in my vehicle. As anyone knows with young kids, carseats are giant pain in the…

When I got into the office Monday morning one of my clients had an auto accident over the weekend. The client wanted to know what to do about the carseat that was in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

I reviewed their policy which provides coverage for the carseat. This little policy review led me on a excursion to look into more information on replacing carseats after an accident and auto insurance.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has guidelines as to when you should replace a carseat after it has been in an accident.

Check it out here… NHTSA Child Restraint Guidelines

My research then led me to another website which is chocked full of more useful information. It provides links to carseat manufacturer information and their recommendation on replacement after an accident.

Go here… Carseats for The Littles

The big pieces of information I got when I initially looked into a carseat when I was waiting for my bundle of joy to arrive was that carseats expire, there are important recalls you should stay on top of, and you should get professional assistance when picking and installing a carseat in your vehicle. The topic of replacing the carseat after an accident never really came up.

It’s good to know that some insurance companies will pay to replace the carseat if your vehicle is involved in an accident. Keep in mind that your policy may have a limitation on how much it will pay for a carseat, and a deductible may apply.

If you do have a carseat in your vehicle make sure you know when to replace it, and make sure you talk to your insurance agent about whether your policy covers the carseat after an accident.

If you do need to replace a carseat after an accident, make sure you take a picture of the carseat before you remove it from the vehicle. Also, make sure to cut the straps on the carseat so someone else does not attempt to use a compromised carseat.

Have a safe drive home with your little one!

P

Occupied… Rented… Unoccupied… Vacant…

I have several clients right now that have properties up for sale. All of them hope to have a favorable offer and sell the property quickly but that is not always possible.

As winter starts to approach the real estate market starts to cool down a little. So for clients hoping that their property will sell they may face the prospect of holding onto it through the winter season.

This type of situation begins the conversation I must have with clients that are facing the unknown but hoping for the best.

Are you still living at the property? Is it occupied? Do you plan to rent it? Is the home vacant? Does any one visit the property? What is your plan? When do you feel you can rent it or sell it?

Some of these questions can be challenging for a client.

Here is a brief definition of each scenario…

Occupied: It’s occupied by you or by another immediate member of your household; spouse, daughter, son, etc.

Rented: The property is rented out to an unknown individual or distant relative either temporarily until the home sells or permanently. There is a written lease agreement of some type. However, most insurance companies ask that the property be rented on an annual lease agreement.

Unoccupied: No people live at the property. It may be fully or sparsely furnished. It may only house a few items or used for storage. Any one that visited the property would be able to tell the home is not furnished for daily use. This type of scenario may lead an insurance company to believe the property is vacant.

Vacant: The property is absent of people and all contents. No visitors or occasional visitors. This is a big red flag for insurance companies and could result in swift termination of the policy.

If a client holds onto a property that is unoccupied or vacant they run the risk of not having coverage when a loss happens. The policy will specify what occupancy is acceptable under the policy. The policy will also define when coverage starts to fall away if the property is unoccupied or vacant.

No one thinks it will happen to them but during the cold months the number one cause of loss is frozen pipes bursting. If pipes burst when the home is unoccupied or vacant the claim may be denied.

I understand the strain my clients are under when they are forced to hold onto a property longer than they wish. That being said there are insurance products out there to address each of these situations.

Always err on the side of caution and call your agent to discuss your situation.

P