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Home Owner’s Inventory

More on Home Owner’s Insurance

By Rick Kahler CFP®

In my experience, the number-one reason people engage a financial planner is to sleep better at night. That doesn’t mean planners give advice on what kind of mattress to buy. The sleep aids we provide are more about peace of mind.

Example:

For example, you may be sleeping just fine, thank you, because your home and contents are covered by homeowners insurance. A planner might disturb your sleep by helping you look at whether you’re getting the most protection from that insurance.

The first is having a detailed listing of all your home’s contents, along with proofs of purchase and serial numbers. If a fire or flood destroys some possessions, the insurance company will need a detailed list of everything that was lost.

You have that list, right? It’s safely stored in a secure location other than your home, correct? And you update it annually? Congratulations, you are one of the .01% of homeowners that do!

Now, let’s be serious. There is a high probability you don’t do this and you are not losing sleep over it. Last time you checked, the amount of insurance to cover your home’s contents seemed so high you could replace everything in your house and have enough left over to furnish your neighbor’s place.

While you may be right about that, you could be terribly wrong.

Do you know for sure?

Maybe, if you don’t have expensive artwork or jewelry, you assume your ordinary belongings wouldn’t be that expensive to replace. This isn’t necessarily the case. If your refrigerator or washer and dryer are old enough to vote, you might be shocked at what it would cost to buy new ones today. Or think about what you might spend if you had to replace all the tools in your garage at once. How can you know the true cost of replacing all the contents in your home and that your insurance is high enough to replace them? By having an inventory of them and a reasonable idea of their current replacement cost.

If that isn’t enough to disturb your sleep, consider this: A fire doesn’t burn your house to the ground, but the contents in just a portion of it are destroyed. Now you really need that list. How are you going to prove that your $5,000 upscale mattress wasn’t a generic $800 version, or that your silverware was actually made from silver, not steel? Just having enough coverage won’t help you in this situation. This may leave you thinking maybe you should have a better plan than praying, “If there is a disaster to my home, please let it be a complete one.”

***

***

The good news is there is an easy way to document everything in your home without having to make a detailed list with attached receipts and serial numbers. Simply get out your smartphone, walk through your house, and make a video recording of everything in it. In addition to filming furniture, fixtures, and wall hangings, be sure to open drawers, closets, and boxes. Capture the serial numbers of big ticket items and be sure to include the garage, all collections, china, silverware, and expensive antiques. Then store copies of the video in several places, including on the cloud and at least one flash drive located outside your home. Update your video once a year.

Assessment

If updating the contents portion of your insurance and making a video inventory don’t help you sleep better, maybe the problem really is your mattress. My advice is to do some research through Consumer Reports before you buy a new one—and be sure you add it to your home-contents video. 

Conclusion

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***

When did you last Review your Insurance Coverage – Doctor?

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Why shopping around periodically is a smart move

By Lon Jefferies, MBA CFP™  http://www.NetWorthAdvice.com

Lon JeffriesWhen is the last time you compared rates on your home and auto insurance policies – doctors and all ME-P readers? Unfortunately, a stellar safety record doesn’t always translate into lower insurance rates. Even if you think you have a good rate, shopping around periodically is smart.

A Reader’s Query

After attempting to follow my advice of maintaining an umbrella insurance policy, one of our ME-P readers contacted his insurer to add coverage. This reader was shocked when his insurer informed him that he didn’t qualify for an umbrella policy because he didn’t carry sufficient liability insurance on his auto policy. (Minimum auto liability insurance – frequently $500,000 – is required in order to purchase umbrella coverage.) Although this individual had owned his policy for eight years, he was unaware that the policy only provided $50,000 of liability coverage. This amount was clearly insufficient for an individual approaching retirement.

In addition to realizing that he was severely under-insured, this individual discovered he was also paying excessive premiums. For only $50,000 of auto liability coverage, this person was paying $914 per year. Moreover, the individual realized he was paying $351 per year for the $350,000 of liability coverage the individual had on his condo. Consequently, in total, this person was paying $1,265 per year for $50,000 of auto liability and $350,000 of home liability coverage.

Case Model

This individual then spoke with an independent insurance agent to increase auto liability coverage to an amount that enabled him to obtain an umbrella policy. This was critical, as it dramatically decreased the individual’s liability exposure, a risk an individual with accumulated assets clearly shouldn’t have. Even better, the individual was able to obtain dramatically improved rates on his policies. For a total of $1,207 (less than he was previously paying!), the individual was able to secure $1,000,000 of auto liability coverage, $350,000 of home liability, and an additional $1,000,000 umbrella policy.

policy insurance

Assessment

Clearly, it can be beneficial to occasionally review and compare rates on your insurance policies. People tend to believe that policies that have been owned for extended periods of time are efficiently priced, but it may be the opposite. If you haven’t verified that you are adequately insured and conducted a cost comparison recently, speak to an independent insurance agent and minimize your exposure with cost-effective policies.

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Conclusion

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Another Property-Casualty Insurance Claims Experience

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A Personal Scenario

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPHurricane Sandy attacked the East Coast, did her worst, and disappeared. Yet cleaning up the mess she left behind will take months and even years. And, even dealing with damage from much smaller disasters can take a long time.

As an example, in July 2011 a severe storm with baseball-sized hail moved through southern Rapid City. It only took nature a few minutes to flatten gardens, beat up vehicles, and damage buildings. It will probably take until the second anniversary of the storm to repair all the damage to our house.

Such a delay isn’t unusual. The most common reasons are finding a contractor and negotiating with your insurance company.

Reporting Claims

Moving quickly to report a claim after a disaster is important. In fact, you should probably call a contractor even before you call your insurance agent. Insurance companies are fast to respond to disasters and easily move adjusters in from other areas. Local, credible contractors, on the other hand, fill their schedules fast. We spent hours on the phone to get bids from beleaguered roofers, painters, and carpenters.

These bids were worth our time, because they showed us that the initial repair estimates from our insurance company were low—usually by 50% to 66%.

For example, our roof had cedar shake shingles. The company’s replacement estimate was for much cheaper asphalt shingles. Estimates to repair our siding and deck were also low. It took us 15 months to come to an agreement on the cost of replacing the deck. The work probably won’t be done until summer of 2013.

Switching Companies?

Does this difficulty in getting a full settlement mean it’s time to switch insurance companies?  Certainly, I thought so more than once during the negotiating process. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s important to remember that getting compensation from an insurance company is just business. And good business means not necessarily accepting the first offer. Negotiating will take time and effort, but it eventually should get you full compensation.

When you file a claim, you and your insurance company have competing interests. The company is not your advocate. You want as much money as possible from them for repairs, while they want to repair your damage for the lowest cost. There’s nothing out of place with either motivation.

Once I understood that the insurance company and I were natural adversaries, not friends, it helped me feel less victimized and more empowered. While getting the money we needed to make the repairs certainly took time and perseverance, the company readily acquiesced when we presented the facts. After all, their best interest also included keeping us as customers. We did not have to threaten a lawsuit or go to court.

Certainly, when it’s time to renew my home insurance I will ask my agent to investigate other companies. That’s just business. However, I won’t change companies just because I had to argue with this one.

policy insurance

The [Doctor’s] Claimant Role

Understanding your role in negotiating an insurance claim helps bring a healthy perspective to your relationship with any service provider. Unless they are a fiduciary to you (like an attorney, a doctor, or a fee-only financial planner), they have no responsibility to look out for you. Someone selling you something has no duty to put your interests before theirs. Protecting your interests is your duty and yours alone.

Assessment

When a natural disaster strikes, whether it’s a hail storm or a hurricane, we are certainly victims of nature’s whims. When it’s time to clean up the mess, though, we’re not victims. We’re our own advocates, with the responsibility and ability to look out for our own best interests.

Related: Dr. Marcinko Invites Mr. Wilson [CEO Allstate] to Debate

Related: As an Ex Agent – Why I’m Still Protesting My Open Allstate Home Owner’s Insurance Claim

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Appreciating Home Owner’s Title Insurance

Matters Covered and Not Covered by Title Insurance

By Staff Reporters

During the current housing market implosion it is prudent to understand that home owner’s title insurance enables the buyer of real property to take clear title of the purchased property. That means there are no outstanding liens in existence and no one has a prior claim to said property.

Covered Items

In general, items that are covered by title insurance can be determined solely from review of the property records and court records:

  • Judgments
  • Liens (Except to the extent that they have superiority, i.e., once recorded, they gain a priority ahead of things recorded prior to the lien, for example, mechanic’s liens.)
  • Deeds of trust, mortgages, and real estate contracts
  • Easements
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Rights granted in real property by divorce degree (right to half proceeds of sale of property)
  • Mineral rights reserved by prior owner or granted to a third party
  • Recorded leases
  • Latecomer’s agreements
  • Recorded no-contest agreements (agreement not to contest future imposition of taxes or assessments, usually for things like traffic, water, and sewer mitigation)
  • Deeds transferring ownership of any interests in the property
  • Whether the property has access to a public road
  • Taxes and recorded assessments
  • Condemnation actions filed with the court or property records.

Not-Covered Items

Generally, items that are not covered by title insurance cannot be determined by reviewing the property records and court records:

  • Zoning laws, restrictions on the use of property
  • Building codes, setbacks, lot coverage, construction standards
  • Wetlands regulations
  • Storm water drainage permits
  • Flood plain, location of property in relation to flood plain
  • Unrecorded leases
  • Use permits
  • Hazardous materials, environmental contaminants
  • Subdivision regulations
  • Shoreline Management Act
  • State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)
  • Persons claiming an interest in the property, through adverse possession (both ownership of the property and easement rights)
  • Compliance of the property with recorded restrictive covenants.

Additional Extended Coverage Policy Items

Coverage extends beyond basic coverage. This covers items that show up during an inspection of the property:

  • Additional matters include those that the title company can determine from either an inspection of the property or a review of a survey showing all improvements to the property and the location of all easements.
  • Mechanic’s liens filed after the date of the policy, but that take priority prior to the date of the policy
  • Encroachments (the buildings on the property that overlap the property lines or buildings on adjacent property that overlap onto the client’s property)
  • Persons claiming an interest in the property through adverse possession (both ownership of the property and easement rights).

Additional Matters Covered by Endorsement

  • Compliance with subdivision laws (Guarantees that the property constitutes one or more legal lots)
  • Zoning laws.

Assessment

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Conclusion

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Understanding Automobile Insurance

A Review for Physicians

By Gary A Cook; MSFS, CLU, ChFC, RHU, CFP® CMP™ (Hon)

insurance-book7

Like the Home Owners policy, automobile insurance comes in a package (commonly called a Personal Auto Policy, or PAP) containing declarations, forms and endorsements.

These are: Liability Coverage, Medical Payments coverage, Uninsured Motorist coverage, and Coverage for Damage to your auto.

Important Elements

The important elements of automobile coverage are:

  • The vehicle or vehicles is covered, whether owned or leased
  • The insured – the covered driver
  • What is covered?
  • What are the limits of coverage – for both property and liability?

Exclusions

What are the exclusions – for example, the business use of a vehicle may not be covered under the personal policy? Other coverage for example includes a friend driving your car, or, coverage driving a rental vehicle. The medical payments coverage outlines the limits of liability for medical services needed as the result of an accident.

PULP

The final area of common personal coverages is the Personal Umbrella Liability Policy. To say that our society has become very litigious may be a gross understatement. The umbrella liability policy transfers the risk of losing substantial assets or future personal income to pay legal obligations resulting from an adverse judgment. The umbrella policy originated to provide risk protection against catastrophic legal claims or judgments. Typically, coverage limits begin at $1 million with upper limits of $10 million, and some unique situations, more. The term “umbrella” arises from the contract language that reflects that the individual carries the appropriate underlying basic coverages (homeowners or automobile) and that this coverage is triggered after the limits of the base contracts are exhausted.

Provided Coverage

An important element of this policy is that coverage provides for protection for the named insured, spouse, and family members living in the household.  This coverage should be very important to those households with teenage drivers.  Organizations may also obtain the protection of an umbrella policy, with certain limitations and exclusions. Unfortunately, “failure to render proper professional services” is very frequently a common exclusion, though some insurance companies will cover this loss exposure with an increased premium.

biz-book2

Other Policies

Other common policies available include: Watercraft and Airplane coverage, Title Insurance, Flood Insurance (offered by very few private insurance companies), Renters Insurance (which covers the contents), and Condominium protection (like homeowners, but has language for common wall risks).

Personal Legal Expense Protection

Finally, there is the issue of the taxation of premiums and claim payments. Premiums for personal property and casualty coverage are not deductible. Therefore, only under unusual circumstances will any benefits received from the coverage be considered taxable income.

fp-book2

Assessment

However, the benefit payments may be considered capital gain if they happen to exceed the insured’s basis in the property. Uninsured losses are generally deductible under the current Internal Revenue Code.

As usual, specific questions concerning the taxation of premiums or benefits should be directed to your professional advisors.

Conclusion

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