Diamonds Are A Girl’s Bestfriend!

It is that time of year where many of my client’s will give or receive a very sparkly gift from Santa.

I can’t deny that I get a little excited when a client calls to provide the specifics on their new diamond encrusted whatever.

That being said, now is also the time to start talking about insurance for those beautiful items.

I recommend everyone have at least some type of jewelry schedule or jewelry insurance. It should be a given when talking about homeowners insurance.

There are two ways to do a jewelry schedule, a blanket or an agreed value. Blanket requires less effort but agreed value will provide more definitive coverage.

If you are unsure which direction you should go you need to look at your jewelry collection.

Go home and pull out all of your jewelry pieces and lay them out on the bed. Decide which is your most inexpensive piece? Which is the most expensive piece? What items do you wear regularly? Do you keep any of the items in a safe? Knowing what you have will help you decide what is more important.

You can even do a combination of blanket and agreed value. The one thing I don’t recommend is no jewelry schedule.

Keep in mind that if you have no jewelry schedule, coverage will be found under your homeowners insurance. The missing item would be subject to the policy deductible. The minimum deductible with most insurance companies is $1,000. Also, you have to account for any limitation in the homeowners policy for lost or misplaced jewelry. The policy may limit coverage to $2,500 or $5,000, less the policy deductible. That can really hurt when your heirloom engagement ring disappears.

Before you go and buy your next piece of jewelry go get some type jewelry insurance in place. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pamela

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Thanksgiving Day Safety

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Probably thanks in no small part to the fact that turkey is one my favorite foods. Needless to say I will be getting my fill in the coming days.

However, the Thanksgiving Holiday has one of the highest counts of home fires than any other day of the year. Statistics show that home cooking fires are 3 times more likely to happen on Thanksgiving than any other day.

Below are some quick tips to reduce your chances of a home cooking fire this Thanksgiving…

  • Never leave your food unattended while cooking.
  • Use a timer and routinely check whatever you’re cooking.
  • If frying or deep-frying, keep the fryer outside, away from walls, and free from moisture.
  • Never use a glass casserole or lid on the stove or burner, as it may explode from the heat.
  • Ensure that pot holders and food wrappers are a safe distance— at least 3 feet—from warmed surfaces.
  • Position pot handles to the back of the stove to avoid anyone bumping into them.
  • Avoid dangling accessories or loose clothes while cooking.
  • The stove will be hot, keep children 3 feet from the stove at all times.
  • Be sure electric cords from electric knives, coffer makers, plate warmers, and mixers are not dangling off the counter in reach of children.
  • Never douse a grease fire with water, as the fire can thus spread. Turn off the burner, smother the flames with a lid, or douse with baking soda or a fire extinguisher if it’s getting out of hand.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen, and know how to use it.
  • Ensure your smoke alarms are connected and working.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving Holiday!

Gobble! Gobble!

Pamela

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

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

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

What the heck did I sign up for???

So I have been blogging for a couple weeks now. I am finding the process a little challenging. I have no experience with blogging and I’m a little anxious but I feel an immense need to do this.

Every time I post I question if I am doing this right. I am going with the theory, “Fake it ’til you make it” or maybe I am hoping after doing this for awhile I will finally feel comfortable doing it and things will take off. Who knows!

I have several reasons for blogging…

  • I want to enhance my relationships personally and professionally. I am naturally reserved and shy. I want to change that. I have a freak flag and I would like it to be easier for me to share it with others.
  • I want to grow professionally. I am branching into sales. Something I have been dancing around for several years now. I am not sure that I am good at sales but I have to try. No risk, no reward, as they say.
  • I love meeting new people and developing a long term relationship with my connections. It’s what makes my job fun.
  • I want to share what I know about my field. So little is known about the insurance industry but honestly it is very complex. And quite frankly I am a geek about insurance.

There are many other reasons but these are the big ones for me.

I thought blogging would be so easy before I began. What could be so hard about having a conversation with the internet?

As I continue this journey I want to hear from everyone. I want comments and I want feedback.

Otherwise how will I know that I am doing this right?

P