Sunday, June 23, 2019

Is your Car Fully Insured?

Cars are expensive and subject to damage or loss because of factors beyond your control. Ideally, you should have full coverage car insurance to ensure that you have the protection you need in case of vehicle damage, theft, or destruction. However, there is no single definition of what ‘full coverage’ is.

Every insurance company interprets it differently; when you buy car insurance, you will not find a ‘full coverage’ box you can tick. To ensure that your car is covered against any eventuality, these are the major forms of protection you need, typically treated as being part of ‘full coverage’:

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State requirements
Each state has specific minimum coverage requirements that must be met before a vehicle can be taken on public roads. They usually include bodily liability and property damage.
Comprehensive coverage
A collision is not the only way a car can be damaged. Storm damage, vandalism, hitting an animal and theft are just a few other things that could happen. Comprehensive coverage will cover all physical damage to the car caused by anything other than a collision.
Collision coverage
This covers any damage due to accident or collision, regardless of what caused the damage. This can be purchased only if comprehensive coverage is part of the policy.
Injury protection
Most policies have a set dollar amount for medical coverage and personal injury protection; it is normally set at the state-mandated minimum. Check to see if these amounts are enough – an insurance professional will be able to help you, if you need guidance. If required, the coverage limits can be increased.
You should consider purchasing as well the following as additional coverages to keep your car as fully insured as possible:
Underinsured/Uninsured motorist
This provides coverage if damage was caused by a motorist who does not have insurance.
Gap insurance
This is coverage for the difference between the actual cash value of the car and the amount still due on the financing used to buy it.
Towing
This may not seem like a major cost and is often overlooked. However, towing expenses can be very high and since the cost of the additional coverage is not great, it should be part of the full coverage car insurance.
OEM endorsement
Many car owners do not know that parts from the original equipment manufacturer may not be used for repairs. Aftermarket and used parts may be fitted to the car. Some insurance companies offer additional coverage to cover the cost of OEM parts used for repairs.
Car rental
You will need to use a rental while your car is in the shop. Check to see if your policy covers the cost of car rental.
Other options
There are more coverage options available like vanishing deductible and full glass coverage. An insurance expert will be able to tell you about them and help you pick the kinds of coverage you need.
Get the protection you need
Now that you know what full coverage car insurance is, and more importantly, what it is not, you should consult a reputed insurance agent to fully comprehend the terms of your current policy and get the additional protection you need.

How much Homeowner’s Insurance do you need?

The loss of a home can be devastating for the family and can seriously affect every member’s life and future. Homeowners depend on insurance to help them recover from damage or loss of a home. However, according to Consumer Reports, three out of every five Americans have underinsured their homes, often by up to 20%.

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That leaves them in dire straits when they file their insurance claims and find that they do not have the coverage they need to rebuild their homes and their lives. There are four main factors to keep in mind when calculating your home insurance coverage:

v  The cost of rebuilding your home
v  The cost of replacing personal property
v  Liability coverage
v  Coverage to take care of your living costs till you can return home

Rebuilding your home

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The cost of rebuilding your home will not be the same as the original amount you paid. Increases in material and labor costs, changes in building codes and the value of improvements and renovations you have made over time are a few of the factors that impact on the cost of rebuilding.

Replacing personal property

Assessing the true value of all the belongings you have collected over the years is rather difficult. Some items you think have little value may be worth far more than you may imagine, and vice versa. The only way to know how much coverage you need is to take a complete inventory of everything in your home, and check on the current prices of each.

Then remove those items that you need no longer. What remain would be what you will have to replace; their cost would be the amount of personal property coverage you need, which has limits; expensive items like jewelry, high-end electronics, etc. may require you to take out additional coverage.

Liability coverage

You could be liable for any injury that occurs on your property. Even your best friend could sue you if he faces huge medical bills because of a fall in your home. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover liability, but often the amount is not enough. In general, you should have at least $300,000 coverage; one of $500,000 would be better.

Living costs

How long will you be away from your home – from the day you move out to the day you return? What would be the additional expenses you will incur during that period – temporary accommodation, food, transport and so on? That is the amount of coverage you need for living costs; if your policy does not cover this aspect, ask the insurance company how you can get this coverage.

Expert advice is essential

Each of the factors listed above does affect the amount of coverage you should have. It is indeed complex and getting right the amounts is never easy; leaving something out or underestimating costs can have serious consequences. At the same time, you do not want to pay for your insurance more than what you really need to.

The points listed above give you an idea of the issues involved. It would be better to contact an experienced insurance professional who will be able to guide you on the right coverage, by providing options you may not be aware of.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

How much Life Insurance do you need?

The only certainty in everybody’s life is death, which will occur eventually, and simply you have no control over it.  However, one thing over which you can surely have some control is to make provisions for your family today, taking into account the reality of the future inevitable.

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It is in this context that life insurance becomes very important. However, having life insurance is not enough; you must have enough of it to fulfill the responsibilities you leave behind.

So how much life insurance should you have? There is no set minimum amount or formula to calculate it. Circumstances are different from person to person and from family to family. However, your insurance plan should cover a few basic liabilities:

Mortgage

Probably for most people, a mortgage is the largest single ongoing financial burden. You must ensure that your family will not bear an extra monetary burden in case of your sudden demise. Mortgage lenders will normally demand that you take a life insurance policy that will cover the repayment. If you do not have coverage for your mortgage, the repayment must be factored into your policy.

Loans

In addition to mortgage, you may have other loans and debts you need to repay. In some cases, the lenders may have required you to take an insurance cover for such repayments as in the case of a mortgage. If you have no such coverage, you should add that liability to your life coverage.

Childcare and education

Every parent knows how expensive it is to raise children. If your children are old enough to identify what they want to do in life, you can calculate how long they will need your financial support and how much. Adding that to your coverage is easy.

If it’s too early for them to know what they want to do, calculate the cost of their remaining years in school, the college years and perhaps one or two years of specialization, research, etc. You will have to cover that amount in your policy.

Income replacement

The cost of living is not static – it rises with time. Your life insurance must ensure that your spouse and other dependents are able to enjoy the same quality of life even after your demise. In order to provide for them to continue to live in the same comfort zone, you can think of an Income Replacement Life Insurance policy.

Other liabilities/responsibilities

No two financial situations are identical. Add up all other financial outflows that will continue after your time, and ensure that your coverage is enough to take care of those costs. In addition, there may be factors like a spouse having a regular income that could reduce the amount of the coverage you require.

These are just general guidelines. Calculating the amount of life insurance you need is not as simple as it may appear. This is one area where you must be sure that you have taken all the right steps. It would be better to consult with a reputed insurance broker who will be able to help you find the right coverage at the right cost.

Impact of 2018 Wildfires on Home Insurance Rates

The steady increase in the incidence of wildfires in California over the years has seriously impacted on home insurance rates in the state. In 2018, there were over no less than 8,000 wildfires across California. The total loss caused by these fires is estimated to be in excess of $18 billion.
                                        
That kind of payout is something the insurance industry cannot afford. The only way to remain viable for them is to raise insurance premiums. This will surely impact on both businesses and homeowners.

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Premium rates expected to rise

The quantum of rise in insurance rates is not yet clear, but it may be huge. In a report issued last year, before the occurrence of the worst wildfires, the California Department of Insurance (CDI) made a prediction: homeowners who pay currently $800 a year for coverage might be charged up to $5,000.

One reason for this increase, besides the actual insurance payouts of last year, is the increasing number of homes in the Wildlife Urban Interface; these are areas, where forests and brush lands touch housing tracts. As they are both the most desired and the most vulnerable locations, the large rebuilding costs must be factored into the insurance rates.

Furthermore, builders say that labor shortages and the rise in material prices keep pushing up steadily construction costs.

Difficult to control the rise

Many residents are hopeful that the state government will be able to do something to control the rise in the rate, using the authority of the CDI. The CDI has the power to slow down the implementation of the increases, reduce them or even reject any proposed increase.

However, this is very unlikely to happen. If it were to occur, insurance companies could refuse to insure property in wildfire-prone areas or even stop selling policies in the state. Wildfires can destroy a community in a few hours. In contrast, the problem of insurance rate increases is a long drawn out one. Approval for increases can take months, and this timeframe could be extended, if citizens’ groups challenge them.

What you should do

The cost of insurance will inevitably go up. It is important that homeowners prepare themselves for this reality. The right way is to have a current valuation done of the home along with the valuables in it. The cost of major repair or even complete rebuilding must be taken into account. That is what you will have to insure your home for if you desire full protection.

There are other issues too you need to consider, for example, the cost of temporary accommodation and incidentals like food etc. if your home is not fit for occupation. Do you want your policy to cover these aspects as well? With the frequency, variety and severity of natural disasters on the increase, you do need full protection.

Contact an experienced insurance broker who has the expertise to help you though the maze of the rate increases. You need to find at the earliest the most cost-effective coverage to keep you and your family totally protected.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What to do if your Life Insurance Policy has Lapsed

All insurance policies, including life insurance ones, are contracts between an insurance company and the person buying the policy. Being a contract, there are actions that both parties are obligated to take. The insurance company will pay the money due under the policy, if a claim meets the requirements of the policy.

The policyholder is obligated to make regular payments, as defined in the policy. If payments are not made, the policyholder has not met his obligations and that in turn releases the insurance company from its commitment to pay if a claim is filed. This is known as a ‘lapse in coverage’. If this happens, the policy will have to be revived to enable again the protection the policy provides.

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The grace period

All States in the country require insurance companies to provide for what is called a ‘grace period’, if the premium is not paid on time. This is to help prevent lifeinsurance policies from lapsing every time there is a few days’ delay in paying the premiums.

This period is normally 30 days and the delayed payment will be accepted without the need for further underwriting. If the policyholder dies during this time, the coverage remains intact. When the grace period is over without payment of premiums, things get complicated.

Reviving a policy

Once the grace period is over, reviving a policy is not easy. Underwriting is usually required. If the period of the lapse is between one to six months, limited underwriting is usually enough. This is normally restricted to answering a few basic health questions and attesting that there have been no significant changes in the policyholder’s health from the time the policy was first underwritten.

If the lapse is beyond six months, things are much more complicated; complete underwriting procedure has to be carried out as when the policy was first taken. An important point to be noted is that the claim is very likely to be rejected, if the company discovers any false information in the claim during the limited or full underwriting process.

Why not take a new policy?

A frequently asked question is why not take a new policy if the old one has lapsed for so long that complete underwriting is required to revive it.  The answer is simple: even if the policyholder’s health is the same as it was when the lapsed policy was taken, the premium on the new one will be higher. This is because it will be based on the age at which the policy is issued. This will obviously be more for a new policy.

Get professional help

The specifics of reviving a lapsed life insurance policy will vary from one insurance company to another. The best course of action, in the case of a lapsed policy, is to contact your insurance broker for guidance. They will be able to help you revive the policy in the quickest, simplest and most cost-effective manner you can ask for.

How to File a Life Insurance Claim?

If you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, it means that the policyholder cared enough about you; you are now left with financial resources to help you overcome the obstacles that life will present. The policyholder wanted you to have this money, and there is no reason to feel guilty about claiming it. There is also no reason to feel stressed about filing the claim. It is typically a simple process and can be easily completed.

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Filing a life insurance claim

This involves a four-step process:

1. Contact your insurance agent. Even if this is not the person who sold the life insurance policy, he does know the procedure. He can give you competent guidance, and answer any questions you may have.

2. Get a copy of the death certificate of the policyholder. This can be obtained from the policyholder’s doctor, the doctor present at the time of death, or the funeral director.

3. Contact the insurance company that issued the policy. Such information is usually available on the policy document. There will be a clearly defined procedure for informing the company of the death of the policyholder. If you have any doubts over it, or if anything is unclear, contact the company for clarifications, or ask your insurance broker for guidance.

4. Submit the death certificate to the insurance company, without which the processing of the claim cannot begin.

Procedures for processing claims may vary from company to company. However, this is all that is usually required in general.  The next stage is deciding on the mode of receiving the money.

Receiving the payment

When a claim is filed under a life insurance policy, the beneficiary usually has a few options available on receiving payment. Again, the options will vary in degrees from one insurance company to another, but in general, they are as follow:
  • Lump sum payment: All the money due to a beneficiary will be given in one single payment, after which nothing further is due from the insurance company
  • Scheduled payout: A specified part of the money due under the policy is paid at a future scheduled time as defined by the beneficiary.
  •  Life income: The beneficiary receives a monthly payment for the rest of his/her life. The quantum of the payment is based on the value of the insurance policy and the life expectancy of the beneficiary.
  • Specified period income: The beneficiary receives a regular monthly payment for a predefined period of time.
  • Joint and last survivor income: If the policy is a joint one, the surviving insured person will receive a fixed monthly payment for the rest of his/her life. In some cases, there is the option to give part of the money available to a third party.
Filing a life insurance claim is designed to be simple and easy. However, this needs to be done by a beneficiary who is greatly affected by the bereavement of the benefactor, a dearly loved one. That is why seeking the help of an experienced insurance professional is the right course of action. They will give all the relevant information, and guide properly in claiming the insurance benefits due.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Do You Have The Personal Liability Insurance You Need?

There is a widespread assumption that only those who are wealthy and have business interests need to worry about personal liability issues. The reality is very different. Society has become increasingly litigious, and you could suddenly be faced with a liability claim that could bankrupt you.

From a visitor’s suffering an injury in your home to serious but unintentional damages you could have caused – the areas of what a person may be held liable for keep expanding rapidly. Your homeowners insurance and auto insurance may provide you with some degree of liability protection; however, this must be clearly mentioned in the policy.

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The eligibility should not be taken for granted. It is advisable to contact an insurance professional to check on the amount of liability coverage you currently have.

A common mistake

A common mistake people often make is to presume that their current assets are not enough to warrant paying for liability insurance. The problem is that if a liability claim against you is upheld, you may lose part or all of your savings, investments, home, other property and so on.

Moreover, your future earnings may be garnished and assets may be impacted. Personal liability insurance protects you when you are at fault. Furthermore, your coverage will pay for your legal defense, in case you are falsely accused of an injury or loss.

How big is the risk?

The risk is greater than you may presume. It is an old truism that “most accidents occur at home.” To put that into perspective, the National Safety Council says that in 2013, one in sixteen persons suffered an injury at home that required specialist medical treatment.
If that one person happens to be a visitor in your home, you would be liable to pay for the accident.  Looking at it from a different angle, one in fifteen homes has an injury-related insurance claim each year.

Customer attitude is a major reason why the issue of personal liability coverage is ignored more often than not, or the coverage that may exist is too low to safeguard against a crisis. For instance, when buying a car or home, your focus is primarily on damage or loss; the liability aspect is rarely given the thought it deserves.

Liability could arise anytime from anywhere. For example, suppose that your child hits a ball in a game that flies through an open car window; the driver ducks the ball, loses control and suffers an accident; the liability could be massive, although it was inadvertently caused.

Protect what you have

A liability claim upheld against you could wreak havoc on your life. A reliable protection is in the form of personal liability insurance.  Liability is a complex legal matter and that is the reason why you hear about a very large number of court cases.

Personal liability insurance too is a complex matter. It is important to have the right amount of personal liability coverage; it is equally so to know what your coverage includes and excludes. The best person who can help you get the right coverage is an experienced insurance agent.