AUTOMOBILE POLICY QUESTIONS
Auto insurance is several types of coverage into one policy. Typically, your policy will include some combination of comprehensive, collision, medical, liability and uninsured motorist coverage. So what do you need? It depends on your specific situation. Liability pays for the damage you cause to others if your car is involved in an accident. It also protects you from being wiped out financially if you are sued following an accident. The greater your assets, the more you stand to lose. If you have substantial financial resources, you may need liability coverage that exceeds the coverage that you'll get from an auto insurance policy. In that case, a Personal Umbrella can provide the extra liability protection you need. Collision covers damage to your car from an accident. We can help you decide whether or not to carry collision coverage by balancing the cost of collision insurance with the value of your car. It might not be worth paying $200 a year for collision insurance on a car that's worth only $1,000. But if the car is worth $10,000, you probably want this coverage. Comprehensive coverage pays for your car if it is stolen, vandalized or damaged in some way other than in a collision. Medical coverageprovides for medical expenses to you and your passengers that are the result of an accident. The way you use your car may make a difference in the amount of medical coverage you need. For example, we might suggest more coverage for a parent who regularly takes a carload of kids to soccer practice than for a driver who expects to drive mostly alone. Keep in mind that many states require certain minimum levels of coverage. We'd be happy to talk with you about these and other factors.
Most states have insurance laws that require drivers to have at least some automobile liability insurance. These laws were enacted to ensure that victims of automobile accidents receive compensation when their losses are caused by the actions of another individual who was negligent. It is often the case that the cost of repairing the damages to an older car is greater than its value. In these cases, your insurer will usually just "total" the car and give you a check for the car's market value less the deductible. Many people with older cars decide not to purchase any physical damage coverage.
Collision is defined as losses you incur when your automobile collides with another car or object. For example, if you hit a car in a parking lot, the damages to your car will be paid under your collision coverage. Comprehensive provides coverage for most other direct physical damage losses you could incur, including theft. For example, damage to your car from a hailstorm will be covered under your comprehensive coverage.
A number of factors can affect the cost of your automobile insurance -- some of which you can control and some that are beyond your control. The type of car you drive, the purpose the car serves, your driving record, and where the car is garaged can all affect how much your automobile insurance will cost you. Even your marital status can affect your cost of insurance. Statistics show that married people tend to have fewer and less costly accidents than do single people.
HOMEOWNERS POLICY QUESTIONS
The typical homeowners policy covers the property of the insured and provides personal liability coverage for the insured. Almost anyone who owns or leases property has a need for this type of insurance. Usually, homeowners insurance is required by the lender to obtain a mortgage.
The cost to rebuild your home is its replacement value. This can be very different from theestimated market value or actual purchase price. In most cases, it costs more to rebuild the home you own than to buy a new one. This is an important insight into why your Dwelling (Coverage A) limit is so important. We'll work with you to estimate the replacement cost for your home and to adjust your policy limits from time to time as needed. It is critical that you provide us with accurate, updated information about your home and contents. If your dwelling limit accurately reflects your home's true replacement cost, some companies will pay more than the limit if a covered loss is greater than the limit on your policy. Ask us if Home Replacement Guarantee or Extended Dwelling Coverage, is available in your state. Once a review of your home and possessions indicates you are properly insured, it's a good idea to reexamine your coverages and limits from time to time, especially whenever you make additions or improvements.
If you have questions or concerns about the limits in your policy, ask us to show you how those amounts were calculated. This will also give you an opportunity to make us aware of any overlooked information. Be sure to read your policy carefully. Certain property, such as jewelry, and certain perils, such as earthquake or flood, is better insured separately. Knowing what is covered and for how much will help you insure properly. If there is anything in your policy you don't understand, contact your agent and ask for an explanation. At each annual renewal of your policy, you receive a new Policy Declarations page showing limits of coverage and optional coverages. Review this information. If you do any significant remodeling or add a family room, extra bedroom or bathroom, etc., tell us about these changes so your coverage limits can be adjusted to cover the improvement. Consider carefully whether your policy provides all the protection you need. Does it provide coverage for extra costs resulting from building code changes? Does it automatically increase coverage limits annually to keep pace with inflation? Does it provide additional funds if the cost of rebuilding your home exceeds the policy limits? Find out whether your insurance company will stand behind agreed upon repairs after a claim. Some companies are willing to put this guarantee in writing. Does your policy include replacement cost coverage for contents (clothing, furniture, appliances, and other personal property inside your home)? If not, you can add it by endorsement. The cost is small, the protection valuable. Replacement Cost Coverage pays for losses to your possessions at the cost of brand new items. Without this option, a covered loss to your personal possessions would be depreciated by their age and condition, reducing the size of your claim settlement. If you have an art collection, antique furniture, jewelry, or other valuable possessions, talk to your agent about supplemental coverages, such as fine arts or scheduled property endorsements, to adequately protect your investment in these items. The cost is modest for the extra protection, and often the deductible is waived. Consider whether you should have more coverage for personal property (contents) than your policy provides. Personal property coverage is usually 70% of the coverage limit for the structure. Your limit may be lower than 70%. Supplemental protection is available for a small additional premium. Prepare an inventory of personal property items, update it periodically, and keep it in a safe place outside your home, such as a safe deposit box at your bank. It will save you hours of time trying to list everything damaged or destroyed if you need to make a claim. It will also help ensure you don't forget some items. We can advise you on ways to simplify the job of preparing a personal property inventory such as videotaping each room with descriptive information on the sound track. Besides making sure you have enough protection to cover possible damage to your own home and contents, you should also evaluate your exposure to liability risks. These result from damage to the property of another, or injury to a person, not a member of your household, for which you can be responsible. In recent years it's become common for homeowners to be sued for injuries or damages to others, even when there is no evidence of negligence by the homeowner. The reality today is if you have any appreciable assets, you are exposed to the risk of being sued. Even if you ultimately prevail in court, your legal fees and the months or years of worry and uncertainty can be a terrible burden on you and your family. The Personal Liability coverage provided by your Homeowners Policy usually provides a limit of $100,000 or $300,000. We recommend increasing this protection with a personal umbrella policy. Not only will it increase your personal liability, but also your auto liability. Limits are available from $1 million to $10 million and beyond. The cost of this coverage is usually very reasonable.
Covered losses under a homeowners policy can be paid on either an actual cash value basis or on a replacement cost basis. When "actual cash value" is used, the policy owner is entitled to the depreciated value of the damaged property. Under the "replacement cost" coverage, the policy owner is reimbursed an amount necessary to replace the article with one of similar type and quality at current prices.
There are a number of factors you should consider when purchasing any product or service, and insurance is no different. Here is a checklist of things you should consider when you purchase homeowners insurance. Determine the amount and type of insurance that you need. The coverage limit of your house should equal 100% of its replacement cost. If your policy limit is less than 80% of the replacement cost of your home, any payment from your insurance company will be less than the full cost to replace your home -- you'll have to pay the rest out of your own pocket. Also, decide if the personal property and personal liability limits are adequate for your needs. Determine which, if any, additional endorsements you want to add to your policy. For example, do you want the personal property replacement cost endorsement, an earthquake endorsement or a jewelry endorsement? Once you have decided on the coverage you want in your homeowners insurance policy, consult us. We will be able to help you determine if there are any gaps in coverage you might not have been aware of, explain the details of the policy's exclusions and limitations as well as recommend an insurance company that will live up to your expectations.
There are a number of things you can do to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance. The easiest thing to do is get a comprehensive review of your policy and needs from your local agent. It is not surprising to find quotes on homeowners insurance that vary by hundreds of dollars for the same coverage on the same home. When you shop, be careful to make sure each insurer is offering the same coverage. Another way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to look for any discounts that you may qualify for. For example, many insurers will offer a discount when you place both your automobile and homeowners insurance with them. Other times, insurers offer discounts if there are deadbolt exterior locks on all your doors, or if your home has a security system. Be sure to ask us about any discounts for which you may qualify Another easy way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to raise your deductible. Increasing your deductible from $250 to $500 will lower your premium, sometimes by as much as five or ten percent.
[Note: this answer is based on the Insurance Services Office's HO-3 policy.] The dwelling and other structures on the premises are protected on an "all risks" basis up to the policy limits. "All risks" means that unless the policy specifically excludes the manner in which your home is damaged or destroyed, there is coverage. The policy limit for the dwelling is set by the policyowner at the time the insurance is purchased. The policy limit for the other structure is usually equal to 10% of the policy limit for the dwelling. Losses to your personal property are covered on a "named perils" basis. "Named perils" means that you have coverage only when your property is damaged or destroyed in the manner specifically described in the policy. The policy limit on the coverage is equal to 50% of the policy limit on the dwelling. Limits for the coverage for the additional expenses that the policyowner may incur when the residence cannot be used because of an insured loss is equal to 20% of the policy limit on the dwelling. The coverage limit on personal liability is determined by the policyowner at the time the policy is issued. The coverage limit on medical payments to others is usually set at $1000 per injured person.
Personal property (except property that is specifically excluded) is covered anywhere in the world. For example, suppose that while traveling, you purchased a dresser and you want to ship it home. Your homeowners policy would provide coverage for the named perils while the dresser is in transit -- even though the dresser has never been in your home before.
RENTERS INSURANCE POLICY QUESTIONS
If you live in an apartment or a rented house, renters insurance provides important coverage for both you and your possessions. A standard renters policy protects your personal property in many cases of theft or damage and may pay for temporary living expenses if your rental is damaged. It can also shield you from personal liability. Anyone who leases a house or apartment should consider this type of coverage.
A renters policy provides named perils coverage. This means that the policy only pays when your property is damaged or destroyed by any of the ways specifically described in the policy. These usually include: * Fire or lightning * Windstorm or hail * Explosions * Riots * Aircraft * Vehicles * Smoke * Vandalism or malicious mischief * Theft * Falling objects * Weight of ice, snow, or sleet * Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam * Freezing * Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current * Volcanic eruptions (but this doesn't include earthquake or tremors) Renters coverage applies to your personal property no matter where you are in the world. This means you're covered when you are on vacation as well as at home.
Owners of apartment complexes buy insurance policies for their liability and to cover their buildings and personal property. However, these policies do not cover any of the tenant's property or liability. By requiring their tenants to have renters insurance, the apartment owner is assured that the tenants will not mistakenly believe the apartment complex owner's policy will provide coverage for a tenant's property or personal liability. Although this type of requirement benefits that apartment complex owner, there are benefits to the renter as well. We recommend that you purchase renters insurance regardless of what your landlord requires.
Standard renter's policies cover only you and relatives that live with you. If your roommate is not a relative, each of you will need your own renter's policy to cover your own property and to provide you liability coverage for your own actions.
LIFE INSURANCE POLICY QUESTIONS
There are several different types of life insurance. The most common include: Term Life Insurance: Provides life insurance protection for a specified period of time. If you do not currently have life insurance, term can be a good place to start. It's generally less expensive than permanent life insurance, and is available in varying term periods with fixed premiums from a one-year (annual renewable term) to 20-year period (level term). Furthermore, term insurance is sometimes convertible to permanent coverage, providing you with flexibility as your needs change. Whole Life Insurance: A form of permanent life insurance that remains in force during the insured person's lifetime, provided premiums are paid as specified in the policy. Whole life insurance can build cash value. Universal Life Insurance: A form of permanent life insurance characterized by its flexible premiums, flexible face amounts and unbundled pricing structure. Universal life can build cash value, which earns an interest rate that may adjust periodically, but is usually guaranteed not to fall below a certain percentage.
Life insurance is a crucial step in planning for your future. Not only can life insurance fulfill promises made to your family if you are no longer around, there are several life insurance policies that provide benefits while you are living. The need for life insurance is dependent on your own personal and financial needs. We can assist you in determining what type and amount of life insurance is appropriate for you. Generally, you should consider life insurance if: * You have a spouse * You have dependent children * You have an aging parent or a physically challenged relative who depends on you for support * Your retirement savings are not enough to insure your spouse's future against a rising cost of living * You have a sizable estate * You own a business There are benefits of life insurance other than providing for your loved ones in case something happens to you: * The cash value earned and borrowed from a permanent life insurance policy can be used to help with large expenses, such as a college education or down payment on a home. * The growth of a cash-value policy is tax-deferred -- you do not pay taxes on the cash value accumulation until you withdraw funds from the policy. * Life insurance can be used to cover funeral expenses and pay estate taxes -- consult your tax advisor agent for more information. As your life changes, your life insurance coverage may need to change as well to adapt to your current needs. Some life changes that may require a policy "tune-up" include: * You recently married or divorced * You have a new child or grandchild * Your health or your spouse's health has deteriorated * You are providing care or financial assistance to a parent * Your child or grandchild requires assistance or long-term care * You recently purchased a new home * You are planning for a child or grandchild's education You are concerned about retirement income * You have refinanced your home mortgage in the past six months * You or your spouse recently received an inheritance While a "Rule of Thumb" suggests that an adequate amount of life insurance is equal to 6 to 8 times annual earnings, there are many factors should be taken into account when determining the right amount of life insurance for you and your family: * Income sources (and amounts) other than salary/earnings * Whether or not you are married and, if so, what is your spouse's earning capacity * The number of individuals who are financially dependent upon you * The amount of death benefits payable from Social Security and from an employer-sponsored life insurance plan * Whether any special life insurance needs exist (e.g., mortgage repayment, education fund, estate planning need, etc.) Calculating the correct amount of life insurance to buy is not as simple as it appears. We recommend contacting us for help determining the right amount of coverage. As independent agents, we are unbiased advisors that will help you avoid buying too much, show you appropriate optional coverages for your need and recommend a company that will best serve your interests.
In certain circumstances, it may be advisable to purchase life insurance on children; generally, however, such purchases should not be made in lieu of purchasing appropriate amounts of life insurance on the family breadwinner(s). It is of utmost importance that the income-earning capacity of the primary breadwinner be fully protected, if possible, through the purchase of the required amount of life insurance. This should be done before contemplating the purchase of life insurance on children or on a non-wage-earning spouse. Life insurance on a non-wage-earning spouse is often recommended for the purpose of paying for household services lost due to this individual's death. In a dual-earning household, it is important to protect the income earning capacity of both spouses.
The face amount under mortgage protection term insurance decreases over time, consistent with the projected annual decreases in the outstanding balance of a mortgage loan. Mortgage protection policies are generally available to cover a range of mortgage repayment periods, e.g., 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. Although the face amount decreases over time, the premium usually remains the same. Further, the premium payment period often is shorter than the maximum period of insurance coverage -- for example, a 20-year mortgage protection policy might require that level premiums be paid over the first 17 years.
Yes. An existing policy, either term or cash-value life insurance, can be used for many purposes, including paying off an outstanding mortgage loan balance in the event of the insured's death. Although a lender may offer a mortgage protection term policy to you, the lender rarely requires it. Credit life insurance is frequently recommended in conjunction with the taking out of an installment loan when purchasing expensive appliances or a new car, or for debt consolidation. Is credit life insurance a good buy? Credit life insurance is frequently more expensive than traditional term life insurance. Further, if you already own a sufficient amount of life insurance to cover your financial needs, including debt repayment, the purchase of credit life insurance is normally not advisable due to its relatively high cost.
GENERAL INSURANCE POLICY QUESTIONS
When you apply for an insurance policy, you will be asked a number of questions. For example, the agent might ask your name, age, gender, address, etc. In addition, you will be asked a number of other questions which will be used to determine how likely you are to make a claim. When an insurance company is deciding whether or not to offer automobile insurance to a potential customer, it will want to know about the person's previous driving record, whether they have any recent accidents or tickets, and what type of car is to be insured. Insurance companies have different programs for different customers. Adults with good driving records will generally pay less for auto insurance than will a young driver with traffic tickets. In order to determine which program you qualify for, an insurance company needs basic information about you. In addition to your age, gender and driving experience, information about the vehicle you drive, and how you drive it, is also needed to determine a fair price. For example, a large luxury car costs more to repair or replace than a sub-compact; and, someone who commutes 30 miles each way is more likely to be in an accident than someone who rides the bus to work and drives only on weekends.
The personal umbrella liability policy is designed to increase your liability protection. This single policy acts as an "umbrella" over all of your other personal liability policies -- home, auto, boat, RV, etc. -- so you have a higher personal liability limit than what would otherwise be available. In certain circumstances, an umbrella policy may provide personal liability coverage that is otherwise excluded from your other policies. For example, an umbrella policy provides coverage anywhere in the world, whereas your auto policy usually provides coverage in the US and Canada only.
It used to be that the only people who needed personal umbrella liability policies were wealthy individuals who had sizable amounts of personal assets that would be at risk in a lawsuit. However, in our very litigious society, even individuals with modest incomes and assets are often subjects of large lawsuits. Since they are even less able than a wealthy individual to pay large damage awards, they recognize the need to have coverage limits greater than what can be obtained from their homeowner or auto policies.
That is more then just a catch phrase. Our business is structured around consumers that shop for consumers. We have established relationships with many companies that offer our customer the best rate for their risk. Our goal is to provide the correct amount of coverage at the most competitive price.