After a Hurricane: What To Do Right Now and Steps To Take In The Coming Weeks

Hurricanes represent the biggest natural disasters, in terms of the total dollar value of loss. This is not just because of the potential strength of the storms, but the population density of the costal areas affected by high winds, torrential rains and storm surge.

Nevertheless, you can rest assured that the insurance industry will be ready and able to honor their promises to policyholders.

When you are affected by a hurricane, here is what you need to know:

  1. If your house is structurally unsound or has undergone extensive damage, or is otherwise unsafe, do not try to reenter your home. Do not become a casualty yourself.
  2. Keep track of any insurance policy numbers.
  3. Report claims as soon as possible. Most claims processing centers operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The sooner you report your claim, the smoother the process will be and the faster you may receive a settlement.
  4. Before you call, make sure you have ready: your policy number, current address (where you can be reached if you cannot return home yet), phone number.

Once you initiate a claim, a catastrophe adjustor will go to your property and conduct an in-person assessment.

When possible, major insurance companies will often move disaster teams into storm-affected areas. These teams consist of administrators and specially trained catastrophe adjustors. They do this in order to ensure that claims are processed quickly, and checks issued as fast as possible so you and your community can get back on your feet.

The adjustor will compare the loss against your policy and calculate your settlement by the terms of your insurance contract, minus any applicable deductibles. They may also deduct for depreciation, depending on the terms of your contract. You will shortly hear from your insurance carrier with your settlement amount. If coverage is denied, you will receive an explanation from your carrier.

Other claims tips

  • For the fastest possible settlement, have an inventory prepared of insured property.
  • Take photos of the damage, if you can safely do so.
  • Make necessary temporary or emergency repairs. As an insured, you have a duty to make any immediate repairs or take mitigation measures that you can to prevent further damage to your property. In Florida this extends to a maximum of $3,000 worth of repairs, or 1 percent of your Coverage A limit.
  • Do not attempt permanent repairs without the authorization from your insurance company, or the work may not be fully covered.
  • Get a copy of any relevant police or fire department reports.
  • Keep receipts for additional living expenses incurred as a result of the storm.
  • Keep receipts for any repairs done.
  • Don’t throw out any damaged property until after your adjuster has visited.
  • Put together a list of questions to ask your adjuster.
  • Get written estimates from licensed and insured contractors.
  • If the actual cost of repairs/replacement turns out to be more than the original submitted estimate, call your adjustor or carrier to see whether you are eligible for a supplemental payment.
  • Review your policy and determine what is and isn’t covered under your policy. You may want to brush up on key concepts like your deductible, replacement cost versus fair value coverage, and the like. Each of these concepts becomes critically important at claim time.
  • Understand the limits of coverage. For example, hurricane/windstorm insurance does not generally cover damage from floods. For that you need coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program, or other coverage. However, if the wind tore off part of your roof, and rain soaked your drywall and did other damage as a result, then that may be covered under your windstorm/hurricane insurance policy.
  • Your insurance company will send an adjustor to your property for an in-person assessment at no cost to you. However, you don’t have to use your carrier’s adjustor.
  • Plan for the next disaster. For example, adjust coverage limits as necessary, and conduct a detailed inventory of your belongings to document future claims. One valuable resource is www.knowyourstuff.org, a free app that facilitates taking a photo inventory of your belongings and uploading it to the cloud. This can go a long way towards making the claims process smoother and faster in the future.

For more information about preparing and filing a claim, call your agent or claim center, or visit this page from the Insurance Information Institute.

Does Medicare Cover Long-term Care?

Many Americans are grossly underinsured against the risk of devastating long-term care costs. According to the 2016 annual Cost of Care Survey from Genworth, the average cost for a semi-private room in a long-term care skilled nursing facility is $82,125 and rising while the average assisted living facility costs $43,539 per year, on average. Both are enough to swallow most or all of the income produced by many pensions and other sources of retirement income.

Medicare Generally Does Not Cover Long Term Care Costs

The vast majority of long term care expenses are not covered under Medicare. Instead, long term care costs for chronic conditions not related to a very recent hospitalization and must be funded either via private long term care insurance or paid for out of pocket.

What Nursing and Rehab Care Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare will only pay for nursing home, rehab facility or custodial care under the very limited circumstances:

  • You have been admitted to a Medicare-certified nursing facility within 30 days of a hospitalization
  • You were hospitalized for not less than three days
  • You require skilled care, and not just custodial care and assistance with activities of daily living, such as assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding yourself. Examples of skilled care include specialized physical therapy or other types of therapy requiring the attention of licensed professionals.

Even if you meet all three conditions, Medicare will only cover your costs for a limited period of time. And the longer you remain in the nursing facility, the more you will have to pay out of pocket. For the first 20 days, Medicare will cover 100 percent of your costs. But for days 21 through 100, you must pay $140 per day out of pocket for long term care costs directly related to your prior hospitalization.

After day 100, you must pay all nursing home/long term care costs out of pocket.

To put things in perspective, only 20 percent of all nursing home stays last for less than three months, according to data from the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. The average nursing home stay was 2.3 years for men, and 2.6 years for women. 24 percent of all nursing home stays last three years or longer, and 12 percent last for longer than five years.

Long term care costs aren’t limited to skilled nursing homes. Most long term care insurance policies cover a broad continuum of care, from in-home care and assistance to adult day care facilities to assisted living facilities – none of which are covered under Medicare.

Long term care insurance may also cover hospice care, as well. Every company has different specific benefits and exclusions.

America’s poorest may receive some coverage via Medicaid – after spending their liquid assets down to poverty level. Generally, states will allow families receiving Medicaid benefits to keep their homes, but when the beneficiary dies, the state Medicaid recovery program will put a lien on the home and other assets, effectively seizing them and preventing you from passing these assets along to your heirs and loved ones until the state recovers what it paid out in Medicaid benefits on your behalf.

The extremely wealthy, of course, can absorb the costs of long-term care.

But for most of us in the middle, some form of long term care insurance is necessary to protect retirement nest eggs and incomes against the risk of being consumed by high costs for long term or nursing home care. However, do not rely solely on Medicare to cover long term care or nursing home expenses.

Prepare a Disaster Recovery Plan for your Business

Of the U.S. companies that are victim to a man-made or natural disaster, the Contingency Planning Research Strategic Corporation says 43% never reopen their doors and 29% are out of business within the following two years. A study by Touche Ross found that companies without a disaster recovery plan only have a 10% or less survival rate. Business owners should be seriously asking themselves whether or not they have an adequate recovery plan for disasters.

There are three crucial areas that all disaster recovery plans should cover:

1. Physical Resources

Of course, the physical assets of a business, such as equipment, electronics, office furniture, and the building itself, are things that usually can’t be quickly or easily replaced if they’re damaged during a disaster. The following are questions that an adequate disaster recovery plan should answer:

* Are there at least three days worth of emergency supplies on hand to carry the business immediately following the disaster?

* What steps can you, should you, and will you take to protect physical assets?

* How would physical assets hold up against various disasters – flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, earthquake?

* Who will assess the damage to physical assets following a disaster?

* Has a list been made to prioritize the replacement of key physical assets and what suppliers or companies should be contacted for the replacement?

* Is access available from an off-site backup system if data and electronics are damaged and how often should backups take place?

* How will important documents and records be kept secure and protected?

* Is an alternative facility an option to resume operations if the primary location is unusable and what location and type of facility would be needed?

2. Human Resources

All employers know that their employees are one of their business’s most vital assets. Therefore, employee safety and the resulting personnel issues that follow a disaster should be a top priority. The following are questions that an adequate disaster recovery plan should answer:

* Have all staff been adequately instructed on the disaster recovery plan?

* How will staff find safe shelter?

* How will contact be maintained with staff during and after the disaster?

* Are current contact numbers for all staff, vendors, suppliers, and clients available at an off-site location and how will this list be maintained and updated to stay current?

* Have staff members been identified to assume mandatory or key roles should other employees not be able to resume their roles?

* Are staff members assigned to form a crisis management team?

3. Operation Continuity

This component is about getting the business back up and running after the disaster. The following are questions that an adequate disaster recovery plan should answer:

* Does insurance, in particular business interruption insurance, provide adequate coverage?

* What amount of cash will be available for emergency contingency expenses?

* If the facility isn’t usable, then where should an alternative command center be located to coordinate the recovery?

* Is there an alternative list of suppliers to use in the event regular suppliers aren’t operational?

* What should be done for clients and customers during and after a disaster?

Employers might further assign specialized teams to be in charge of some of the tasks related to the above points. For example, a post disaster recovery team could manage recovery tasks like getting the business up and running quickly; an administrations team could handle areas like logistics, transportation, and emergency and survival gear; a public relations team could make public announcements and field inquires; a client/supplier communications team could advise vendors and clients of the business’s status; and an IT team could be responsible for software and hardware issues.

Remember, disasters can strike with little, if any, warning. Business owners can keep themselves off the wrong side of the statistics by being prepared and being able to get themselves up and running as soon as possible.

 

Employee Healthcare Costs Are Going Up Again – Here’s What Employers Can Do to Fight Rising Expenditures

Health care benefit costs to employers are going up again – at roughly three times the inflation rate. That’s the conclusion of a new study released by the National Business Group on Health, an association of large American employers. The survey polled 133 large employers nationwide. As a group, the 133 employers were sponsoring health employer health plans to more than 15 million people.

These large employers reported that they anticipate an average cost increase of about 6 percent for 2017, compared with an annual inflation rate of 2 percent. The six percent in nominal cost increases is roughly even with premium increases over the last two years, assuming no substantial changes were made in plan design.

Corporations offering group health insurance plans seem to be having much more success in containing costs than those buying insurance in the individual market, says NBGH chairman Brian Marcotte: “Current estimates have health insurance premiums for the average public exchange plan increasing by at least 10 percent – about twice what large employers are projecting next year,” he said. “This is a clear indication that the employer-based health care model continues to be the most effective way to provide health insurance coverage to employees and their families.

What’s driving the substantial growth in health benefit costs to employers? The large employers surveyed report that the main culprit is spending on prescription drugs. 31 percent of respondents reported that specialty pharmacy expenditures was primary contributor to higher health care costs for employees – a big change from the 6 percent who reported that in 2014.

Other factors include high-cost claimants and high cost medical conditions, including chronic musculoskeletal conditions. 

What Companies Are Doing To Combat Rising Health Care Costs 

Naturally, corporations are on the lookout for ways to reduce the cost of providing health benefits to employees. Among the most commonly pursued strategies for reducing health benefit costs:

Pharmacy management techniques. Examples include requiring prior authorization before filling a prescription, imposing quantity limits, requiring less expensive drug alternatives or generics, requiring mail order fulfillment for maintenance conditions, and waiving co-pays for certain generic medications. 

Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). More than 8 out of 10 large employers currently offer at least one CDHP to plan members as of 2016, and about one in three offer no choices to employees except a CDHP.

Out of those employers who offer CDHP, 92 percent of them offer a health savings account. About a third of them link HSAs with health reimbursement arrangements. 85 percent of employers make contributions. The median contribution among these large contributors was $600 per year for employee only coverage and $1,100 for family coverage. Employers were funding health reimbursement arrangements somewhat more generously, with HRA contributions for employee coverage rising to $725 on average, and $1,325 for family plans. However, unlike HSA assets, HRA assets revert back to the company when an employee leaves service.

Cost Sharing. Overall, plan sponsors paid about 78 percent of health care premiums on employees’ behalf – an amount that has remained relatively stable over the previous five years

Telehealth. Fully 90 percent of those large employers surveyed will be making telehealth services an option in any states where it is allowed in 2017.  By 2020 telemedicine will be a reality at nearly all large employers surveyed.

Companies are also expanding wellness programs, such as offering incentives or premium discounts for employees who quit smoking or make measurable gains fighting obesity, high blood pressure and other medical conditions.

Who will Pay your Mortgage in the event of the Death of a Breadwinner?

Sadly, thousands of Americans lose their homes every year because they can no longer make the insurance and mortgage payments on their home following the unexpected death or disability of a family breadwinner.

In many cases, this is unnecessary. Term life insurance in amounts more than sufficient to pay off a home or replace most of a breadwinner’s income is more affordable now than it has been in generations. But too many American families simply don’t have enough life insurance protection to enable them to remain in their homes in the event the unthinkable happens.

While about 60 percent of Americans report owning life insurance of some kind, half of American families do not have anywhere near the coverage required to meet the needs of their families, according to a recent survey by Bankrate.

Families with children at home are especially at risk. Over a third of those households report having no life insurance in place at all. Another third has $100,000 or less – enough to replace two to four years of a middle-class breadwinner’s income, at best. That amount is almost certainly not enough to cover the need of a young family unless they were already wealthy.

Without adequate life insurance in place, the financial problems don’t end with life insurance. Many families have serious trouble meeting basic expenses after a loved one dies:

  • Car payments and car insurance
  • Utilities
  • Amassing first and last month’s rent to get an apartment
  • Burial costs
  • Medical and disability insurance premiums
  • Medical insurance deductibles and copays
  • Child care costs
  • Private school tuition
  • College savings
  • School supplies
  • …and much more.

What Can Happen to Your Mortgage

With life insurance in place, survivors have choices: They can pay off the mortgage with a tax-free death benefit in a matter of days, if they choose. Or they can save or invest the death benefit and continue to make the mortgage payments to continue to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.

If the deceased was your spouse, and the mortgage is in his or her name, you have the option to simply alert the mortgage holder that the original borrower has passed away, and you may keep the mortgage as long as you can make the payments. If the mortgage is in the name of the deceased individual who is not a spouse, lender often has the ability to call the loan – that is, demand immediate payment, or foreclose on the home under a ‘due-on-sale’ clause in the mortgage contract. However, if a widow or widower is making payments on the loan, this would be highly unusual.

With enough life insurance in place, though, this is not an immediate crisis, since the survivors would have enough resources to purchase the home outright or could easily qualify for a new mortgage.

Alternatives

If you don’t have life insurance in place, or the amount is not sufficient to cover your mortgage, there are some alternatives that may help:

1.)   Reverse mortgages. If you are age 62 or older, and you have some equity in your home, you may be able to qualify for a reverse mortgage. In this arrangement, a lender converts your home equity to income, and pays you a monthly amount for as long as you remain in your home. The income is based on your life expectancy.

2.)   Retirement fund distributions. Normally, you must pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, plus any taxes due, if you tap an IRA before you are age 59½. But the law allows you to make early withdrawals penalty-free in the event you must make the withdrawal to avoid foreclosure or eviction, or to pay health insurance premiums.

3.)   Invest personal savings for more income. If you have some savings, speak with your annuity or investment advisor. You may be able to position your assets to generate some more income.

Most of the time, these are stopgap measures. They do not take the place of a well thought out and resourced risk management and insurance protection strategy for younger families, nor can they replace the failure to save money in advance in the event the surviving family member is older.

Every case is different. But if you are currently underinsured, or you believe your home would be at risk in the event of the death of a breadwinner, today’s the day to begin laying the groundwork for ensuring your family is adequately protected.

Protect Your Small Business From Crime

Small businesses face a lot of challenges – larger, more established competitors; costs; attracting and keeping good employees. Probably the last thing they want to think about is crime. Unfortunately, anyone who comes in contact with a business – employees, customers, and others – may potentially victimize it with criminal activity. Taking steps to prevent crime will help a business succeed.

Preventing employee theft starts with making good hiring decisions. Running background checks on prospective employees and contacting their references is especially important when hiring people who will handle company funds, expensive merchandise, and sensitive information.

Once employees are onboard, the business should implement controls to prevent internal theft. For example, an outside accountant should audit financial records annually. The business should limit access to digital financial records and accounting systems. Only those with a business need to have them should have access to the safe, alarm codes, and keys to certain areas.  When an employee leaves the company, change computer and alarm access codes.

Credit card fraud committed by customers and thieves can be a major problem. Small business owners should separate personal and business banking and credit to limit their exposure to fraud. Be cautious about giving out credit card numbers, both to vendors and employees. Monitor online banking records and business credit reports frequently. With customers, verify that the signature on the charge slip matches that on the card. Be on the lookout for cards that appear to have been altered.

Special attention to computer networks is essential. When hackers can break into the systems of major political parties, the networks of small businesses may pose little challenge. Every business network should include firewalls, anti-virus software, intrusion detection systems, and software to detect spyware and malware. Even these precautions may not prevent all cyber attacks, so data should be backed up regularly for access afterward.

The business should also have a stated password policy for employees to follow. Networks should force all employees to change their passwords at least quarterly; more often for those with access to confidential information. There should also be requirements for complexity of the passwords, such as number of characters, requirements for both upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, special characters, and so forth.

Some threats, such as shoplifting, are old-fashioned. Shoplifting can be reduced through simple measures such as keeping shelves full and orderly, so employees can quickly spot empty spots; hanging mirrors so employees can observe customers in all areas; keeping cash registers locked and monitored; watching dressing rooms at all times; and keeping merchandise away from exits where thieves can grab it and leave quickly.

Even the most vigilant business may suffer the occasional crime loss and crime insurance can partially offset those losses. A professional insurance agent can explain what this insurance does and how much it will cost.

Most employees, customers and computer users are honest, but small businesses must prepare themselves for those who are not. By taking these precautions, a business can avoid becoming a victim of criminals. 

 

Caution: The Car You Want To Buy May Have Been Flooded

A car that has survived a flood can be a major repair waiting to happen. Water, particularly salt water, can have major effects on a car, depending on how deeply it was submerged and for how long. According to a new study, these cars are becoming more prevalent. The study, by vehicle history expert Carfax, found that the number of cars on the road with a reported history of flood damage rose 30 percent from 2013 to 2016, to a total of 271,000.

More than a third of these vehicles are in four states – Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky – though every state has some. The number has been rising as powerful storms have become more frequent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that flooding is the most frequently-occurring natural disaster.

The effect of flooding on cars can be serious. Electrical, mechanical and safety systems can be damaged. Hidden rust and corrosion can cause the car to rot from the inside. Systems can fail without warning months or years after the flood.

There are several things car buyers can do to avoid becoming the owner of a flood-damaged car:

  • Order a flood-damage history on the car free of charge from Carfax at carfax.com/flood
  • Have a qualified mechanic inspect the car for all kinds of damage and wear
  • Check under the floor coverings in the cabin and trunk for mud or rust
  • Smell the undersides of the carpets for signs of mildew
  • Check the difficult-to-clean areas under the hood and in the trunk for mud and waterborne debris
  • Check the heads of exposed screws under the hood, around the doors and in the trunk for rust
  • Check the undersides of panels and brackets for mud and debris

If these tests indicate flood damage, pass on the vehicle regardless of how attractive the price may be. The long-term repair costs will eventually wipe out any savings on the purchase price. There are thousands of quality used cars on the market. Better to leave the water-damaged cars to the junk pile.

Ten Reasons Why You Should Secure a Life Insurance Plan

We hear the stories every day. People dying suddenly from heart attacks or freak car accidents. That makes us think, what if that happened to me? Consider these 10 reasons for owning life insurance:

  1. Debts – What happens to your debts if you die right now? Existing bills, medical and funeral costs. It’s a debtor Mount Everest on which you strand your family without life insurance. Who covers the expenses you have amassed already and those you leave behind?
  2. Your family may lose their home – Will they face foreclosure? Be forced to sell? They’ve just lost you now they may lose their home, too. Who will be there to pay the mortgage when you can’t be?
  3. Family lifestyle – Most couples in this day and age must both work to sustain their families. Think of the vacations and Christmas mornings your income provides.
  4. Income for necessities – What about school for your children? Do you envision them going on to college? Who will pay when you’re gone?
  5. Your spouse’s sleepless nights – They already have to deal with an empty bed. How many sleepless nights will there be for him/her? Life insurance assures peace of mind
  6. The legalities – There may well be taxes and legal and probate costs to cover. Life insurance can leave tax-free money to your beneficiary to cover such expenses.
  7. Quality care for your kids – What about the expenses that health insurance doesn’t cover? Will they go to the better doctors? Does your son depend upon asthma medication? Does your daughter need braces? Will they one day? If so, who pays for that without you?
  8. Your extended family – With uncertain times, with retirement benefits vanishing, who will care for your parents as they are too old to care for themselves? Will you be there for them as they were there for you?
  9. The Unexpected – A young mother killed in a car crash. Six months later, her husband dies of a heart attack. They left five minor children. You may think “my spouse will take care of them” but what if he/she can’t?
  10. Pride – How do you want to be remembered? As someone who thought of his family enough to provide for them in your absence?

In closing, are you even eligible for life insurance? At rates you can afford? As we age, our health issues become paramount. Tomorrow you will be older than you are today. Tomorrow is promised to no one. The time to think of life insurance is today.

Educating Employees on the Real Cost of Healthcare

Everyone in America knows that the healthcare landscape is rapidly changing. Insurance premiums continue to increase, while employers and healthcare organizations everywhere seek innovative approaches to reduce, or at least stabilize, these costs. Most experts agree that any savings generated from managed care options have long since evaporated.

To understand why the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing, there are several factors to consider. The list includes:

  • Aggressive marketing of new medications
  • New medical technologies
  • An aging population
  • Overuse of medical services
  • Cost insulation that isolates patients from the real cost of healthcare services, and pharmaceuticals

What can be done about any of these factors? Obviously employers have little control over medical advancements or the increasing age of the U.S. population and they must continue offering medical plans to attract and retain valuable employees. Though employers may not be able to directly affect many of these costs, they can play an active role in creating an informed healthcare consumer.

High deductible plans more common than ever

In recent years, high deductible plans have focused attention on the need for consumer education.  With a “high deductible plan,” the consumer bears a significant amount of responsibility for financial decision-making.

High deductible plans typically provide coverage for disastrous events, leaving employees with the responsibility of budgeting for routine and preventative care. Communication regarding coverage and out-of-pocket expenses is a must and requires a strategy for employee education.

Luckily, most employers have free access to education resources directly through their health insurer.  In particular, pharmacy education is often integrated within a specific medical plan. For example, some insurance companies give their members cost comparison information of brand name versus generic drugs. Insurers have also created tiered pharmacy plans, which use lower co-pays to encourage members to use generic drugs whenever possible. Since an increasing proportion of health dollars is spent on developing and marketing pharmaceuticals, the situation would only worsen if not for these education efforts.

Many insurance carriers in the U.S. offer searchable online databases for their members where they can research the approximate cost of certain procedures.  Employees considering a “routine” MRI are able to view the cost of this procedure and their out-of-pocket cost potential.  While this information may not affect everyone’s decision, some will consider foregoing the procedure if they feel it is not really necessary.

Some insurance carrier representatives are opting to host health seminars and workshops for businesses and employees. Topics could range from healthy diets to disease management, as well as the value of preventative care. Employers can show commitment to these programs by making such meetings mandatory.

Repetition is the key to making health education work. Employees should have easy access to healthcare alternatives. The message needs to be communicated more often, using multi-media with clear and clever delivery.

Undoubtedly, employers will benefit from lower premiums in the future by educating employees today. When employees utilize healthcare resources more efficiently, everyone wins. Cost-effective healthcare choices will produce savings that flow not only back to the employer, but to the consumer as well.

10 Questions for Assessing Insurance Needs and Changes

When life circumstances change, insurance needs change with them. This is why agents across the country encourage Americans to review their insurance policies every year to update coverage for such changes. These are 10 important questions to consider when updating coverage.

Did marital status change? When a person gets married, it is important to add a spouse to home and auto policies. Merging two established households means adding more valuables, and these should also be properly insured. If there are a lot of new expensive valuables, they may need separate coverage. Married couples should also have adequate enough life insurance to compensate for the loss of a partner. When getting divorced, couples must update their home insurance policies to reflect who owns what and auto policies to reflect who drives each vehicle. Life insurance beneficiaries should be updated as well.

Was there a new addition to the family? If a married couple has a baby or adopts a child, it is important to update a life insurance policy to include the new child. This should be done even if the child is not named as a beneficiary. A higher coverage amount should be added to each partner’s policy to provide funds for all surviving family members, and some people may want to add enough for each child to attend college in the future. Long-term disability insurance is also a must for any couple with children.

Are there any new drivers? When a teenager starts driving or a caregiver must be added to a policy as a covered driver, it is important to review and update auto coverage. Since teens are prone to accidents, the policy should allow ample coverage for them. Teens who earn good grades are eligible for student discounts as well.

Has income changed considerably? Many people choose to decrease their life insurance when they downgrade to a job with lower pay. However, it is more important to change coverage when income increases or a new employer does not offer life and long-term disability coverage. In the case of an income increase, a higher coverage amount will compensate for new financial commitments such as a home or vehicle that survivors would need to keep up. Adding individual long-term disability and life insurance will compensate for a loss of employer coverage.

Were any home renovations made? Several types of renovations increase the value of a home. It is important to update a home insurance policy to include these. Also, consider outside structures such as gazebos and garages. Talk to an insurer before adding any non-gated pools, water slides and trampolines, which are considered hazards.

Was another home purchased? People who buy additional properties as vacation homes or part-year residences should buy ample coverage for them. Since many vacation homes are near lakes, oceans and rivers, they may also need separate flood protection. Homes that are vacant for long periods of time may cost more to insure, which is why it is best to speak with an agent before committing to buy a second home.

Were any new valuables added? An expensive wedding ring, a valuable antique firearm and a one-of-a-kind expensive painting are just a few examples of added valuables. It is important to declare these in detail to an insurance agent. They require a separate floater or endorsement policy.

Was a property lease signed recently? If a person signs a lease to rent an apartment or a home, the landlord is responsible for replacing or fixing the structure. However, renters are responsible for replacing any damaged or stolen items of their own in the property. It is important to have adequate renter’s insurance to cover all belongings.

Is there a new carpool? Anyone who joins a carpool has an added risk when several passengers frequently ride in the car. Talk to an agent about providing for the added risk.

Has anyone retired recently? Retired individuals often drive less. Report any mileage estimate changes to an insurance agent for a possible discount, and retired drivers may qualify for an additional discount.

To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent.