wedding 1Planning a wedding comes with plenty of stress coupled with and equal amount of reward. There is nothing like planning for the Big Day. Of course, veteran event planners know that sometimes, not everything goes as planned. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into wedding insurance.

 

Actually, “wedding insurance” is somewhat of a misnomer. A special  event policy can be purchased for other celebrations: a milestone anniversary party, a bar or bat mitzvah, a quinceañera, graduation party or any special occasion. Special event insurance is designed to provide financial protection if you have to cancel or postpone a gathering due to adverse weather and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

 

Most policies will also cover an event cancellation in the event a death or of serious illness or injury of a main participant, as well as a missing clergy member or key vendor, such as a caterer or photographer.

 

Coverage may also be available should the bride or groom suddenly be called for military service, tuxedos or gowns become unavailable due to stores going out of business or damage to the clothing, or the necessity to cancel a honeymoon trip due to illness, bad weather or other circumstances.

 

If you are planning a backyard wedding at your home, you may want to review your homeowners or renters policy to see if any additional liability coverage is needed. Also check to see if your current coverage will cover the loss or theft of wedding gifts and wedding rings. You may need to purchase a one-time endorsement.

 

Always check with your insurance professional when you have coverage questions. Instead of guessing — maybe wrongly — you will have solid answers and can be certain that you are covered for most unforeseen (and uncontrollable) circumstances.

car vacation 1

There are a thousand details involved when planning the family vacation. Where to go, what to do, etc. Then you book the hotels, make the airline reservations, pick out the right size rental vehicle. Pack a suitcase (or two), close up your house, and head to the airport. You are finally away and ready for a relaxing vacation. You go to the rental car counter and discover you need to make one more planning decision: Should you purchase the optional insurance?

Most personal auto insurance policies also cover rental cars. That means you have the same coverage driving a rental that you do when operating your own vehicle. So your personal liability coverage is the same, as is your med-pay, uninsured motorist, etc. All coverages will transfer. Of course, that is the same for anything you may lack. If  you have homeowners or renter’s insurance, any personal items stolen from the vehicle will be covered up to the policy terms.

Of course, the rental car company is primarily (or only) interested in your comprehensive and collision. That’s what covers the vehicle you are driving. If you damage the vehicle, you are still responsible for the deductible. If you are renting an exotic vehicle, and RV, or some other non-traditional vehicle, you will probably be required to purchase the rental company’s own insurance regardless of your own policy. You may also be liable for any loss-of-use. One other caveat: Many insurance companies do not offer coverage in foreign countries.

Credit cards can offer rental car protection as well. There may be some exclusions, such as driving on unpaved roads, damage to rims or tires, or rental of full-size SUVs, trucks, etc. Some companies have a maximum days covered, and you will likely not be covered for loss-of-use, either.

The best way to relieve your anxiety (about the rental car insurance, anyway) is to talk with your insurance professional. Ask about your current auto and homeowners/renter’s policies and find out what coverage you do have. Have a great trip!

kids in hot cars 2

There is no question that a child succumbing when left in a hot vehicle is tragic. There is also no question such a tragedy can be prevented by following some basic safety instructions. No one wants a repeat of the string of child deaths last year caused by caregivers leaving their small charges in a vehicle during a warm day.

It’s not just kids being left in vehicles by their caregivers. We all know that youngsters are natural explorers and like to pretend. A vehicle provides a wealth of possibilities for fertile minds, but self-locking doors and trunk lids accidentally closed can quickly turn playtime into a nightmare.

Here are some startling facts from Kids and Cars (www.kidsandcars.org):

– The inside of a vehicle heats up VERY quickly! Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes.

– Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process OR decrease the maximum temperature

– 80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes

– A child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than an adult body.

– Rear-facing car seats look the same whether there is a baby in it or not.

– Children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their rear-facing child safety seats and become quiet, unobtrusive little passengers.

Now for some safety tips:

– Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.

– Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.

– Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop-off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts.

– Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.

– If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.

– If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.

Be safe and enjoy your summer!

road trip 2It is no secret we love our cars. Most of the nation, especially Southern California residents, loves to head out on the highway. What better opportunity to take it all in than a long weekend? If you do decide to take a road trip, be prepared to have lots of company.

The Automobile Club of Southern California (www.calif.aaa.com) projects the biggest Memorial Day Weekend travel holiday since 2005 among SoCal residents. The motorist organization expects 2.89 million Southern Californians and 4.67 million statewide are expected to take a long weekend getaway – a 2.5 percent increase over the number of 2015 travelers.

It’s the largest number of Memorial Day travelers since the all-time record of 3.2 million in the Southland and 5.18 million statewide, which was set in 2005. The good news is Gas prices are expected to be more than $1.10 a gallon less at most local stations than a year ago at this time, when the ExxonMobil refinery explosion forced the Los Angeles-Long Beach average price over $4 a gallon.

The Auto Club offers the following tips for those heading out in vehicles this weekend:

-Travel during off-peak times to avoid congestion.

-Check your vehicle’s fluid levels, belts, hoses and tires.

-Pack plenty of fluids and activities for youngsters for long trips.

-Plan your route ahead of time and bringing along a map in case you need to choose an alternate route. While GPS services and smartphone apps are helpful, they may not always be operational or accurate.

-Take care with children by properly using safety belts and car seats, and accompanying them into the restroom during travel breaks.

-Choose a well-lit, populated area for rest stops when driving at night.

Have a safe drive!

life-insurance 2

Obviously, talking about someone’s demise, especially yours, is unpleasant. But like any other long-term plan, having adequate life insurance is critical to making sure your loved ones – those who count on you for financial support – are taken care of.

To assess your life insurance needs, the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) suggests asking yourself the following questions.

Does anyone depend on me for financial support?

Whether it’s a spouse/domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or even aging parents, you’ll want to make sure they’re left financially secure. Buy enough life insurance to replace your income while also financing the expenses your beneficiaries will incur to replace services you provide within the household (e.g., landscaping, tax preparation).

Are my retirement and other savings alone enough to support my dependents?

Unless your savings and retirement benefits are substantial, the income they generate is unlikely to be enough to pay for the housing, education and other day-to-day needs of your financial dependents.

What is my plan for covering final expenses?

Whether or not you have dependents, you’ll want to be able to cover the expenses incurred by funeral related costs, outstanding taxes and debts, and the administrative fees associated with “winding up” an estate. These expenses can total upwards of $15,000, and can be defrayed by having the right life insurance policy in place.

Keep in mind there are two major types of life insurance—term and whole life. Term covers the policyholder for a specified period—usually from one to 30 years. Whole life, sometimes called permanent life insurance, covers the policyholder for as long as they live—even if it’s to 100.

“Because there are many options when it comes to purchasing life insurance,” said Michael Barry, the I.I.I.’s vice president for Media Relations,  “it is important that consumers work with an insurance professional who can explain the various types of life insurance policies—and make sure they get the best coverage for their specific needs and budget.”

open signThere are a lot of expenses tied to starting your own business. For most people, these are paid for out of savings, home equity, retirement accounts, etc. Keeping these cost under control is paramount to business survival, and while some cannot be manipulated, others can be reduced with a little planning and forethought. Insurance is one expense that can vary according to certain factors.

The key here is to understand how insurance companies determine premiums. The Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) has some good advice for every fledgling entrepreneur regarding these factors. Here is a condensed version:

Type of business — How is the business legally structured? Are you a sole proprietor or an incorporated or limited liability company (LLC)? The less you are personally liable for the better.

Location, location, location — Businesses located in high-crime areas, or in areas that are susceptible to severe weather, such as flooding or tornadoes, will pay higher rates. If you have a choice as to where to locate your business, ask your agent for several quotes for the different locations you’re considering.

Facility size and characteristics – The larger the building, the more it will cost to insure. The building material and age of the wiring, plumbing, roof, etc. is also a consideration. State-of-the-art fire alarms, sprinkler systems and proper exits can save you money.

The value of the business — When applying for Business Interruption Insurance (BI), which covers lost net profits and continuing expenses after a catastrophe, the amount of coverage and, therefore, the premium costs will be based on your estimate of the company’s future revenues and expenses.

Number and training of employees — The more workers, the higher your workers compensation premiums will be. However, providing proper job training and safety rules can help reduce the insurance costs—in many cases, a well-trained worker is less likely to have an accident.

Take some time to talk with your insurance professional about how you can mitigate certain factors that can drive up the cost of insurance. They can help you figure out ways to bring your premium down while maintaining the coverages you need.

earthquake 2

Are you ready for the big one? That question has been posed to Californians for decades. Can you answer it? If we were struck by a catastrophic earthquake — which experts predict will happen — would you and your family be OK? How about your home? Could you rebuild it?

Earlier this month, experts from around the world met at the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach. The San Andreas Fault was a big topic of discussion According to Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, it is “locked, loaded and ready to roll.”

Anyone who has lived in California for even a little time knows the San Andreas Fault is the longest – and most dangerous – in the state. A cause for concern is that the last big earthquake to strike the southern portion of the was in 1857, when a magnitude 7.9 earthquake ruptured between Monterey County and the mountains near Los Angeles. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas fault would cause more than 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in damage and severe, long-lasting disruptions, according to a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report. The Northridge Earthquake was a magnitude 6.7.

Consider taking steps to prepare for a quake. Put together an earthquake kit: water and non-perishable food for three days, plus a battery-operated radio, flashlight, and extra batteries. Visit the American Red Cross website (www.redcross.org) for a complete list of recommended supplies. Create an evacuation plan, including a specific location your family can gather. Everyone can—and should—participate in creating and practicing your plan. There are also smartphone apps that are useful in making up a disaster plan.

Remember that  damage caused by earthquakes is not covered under standard homeowners or renters insurance policies, so look into purchasing a supplemental policy for earthquake damage. Some renters believe their landlord’s insurance will cover their belongings. That is incorrect. In California, there is the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA coverage limit is the insured value of the home as stated on the companion homeowners insurance policy with a deductible of 10 or 15 percent. You should also check to see if damage to your vehicle would be covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.

Take some time to sit with your insurance expert and go over how prepared you are for the “big one.” Make sure everything is in order and you have a good plan of action before you need it.

swimming pool 2

The weather has been great, you are getting back in to swimsuit shape, and your backyard pool is beckoning. You are thinking about barbecues, pool parties, and enjoying a nice water-centric summer season. Of course, something like a swimming pool can have become a liability issue.

First off, be sure your insurance company knows you have a pool if you do. Not listing it on your homeowners policy will probably result in a denied claim should you file one. Where most people see the focus of great backyard parties, insurers see increased risk. That, of course, is what drives insurance rates.

If you have a homeowners or renters policy, it should cover for bodily injury of someone other than residents of the insured home if they are injured – up to the limits of the policy. The personal liability coverage should cover medical costs for the injured party including emergency room, ambulance charges and follow-up medical visits. You may want to purchase additional liability insurance; maybe up to $300,000 to $500,000.An umbrella liability policy is not a bad thing, either, say for an additional $1 million of liability protection.

Your homeowners insurance policy may cover any personal liability for personal injury to guests or visitors. However it would most likely provide very little coverage for damage to the swimming pool itself. If the pool itself is above average in cost (expensive material, special design, etc.) and/or has special features, such as a waterfall, you may want to consider a special endorsement. You may also wish to consider that most damage to the in-ground pools consists of cracking from ground movement or maintenance type issues to pool equipment, which most likely will not be covered by a standard home insurance policy.

Having a swimming pool can be a great thing, especially in the middle of a sweltering day. Inviting friends and family over can make you a very popular person. Just remember all of the potential implications of being that great friend. Talk with your insurance professional and see that an insurance claim won’t ruin your summer.

teendriver3

A good way of looking at your teenager receiving their driver’s license is less chauffeuring you’ll need to do. There can be little doubt that your eager new driver will be happy to take the family sedan out on whatever errand you need them to run. Plus, they will say, you don’t have to be bothered with dropping them off or picking them up. Great news for you, right? Of course, the cost for all this freedom – besides extra trips to the gas station – is an adjustment on your auto insurance policy.

Nearly all insurance companies require that all members of your household that are licensed drivers be added to your auto policy. If you have several vehicles, you can add drivers to individual vehicles, ideally those that are the least expensive to insure. You can also exclude drivers, but that means they are specifically not covered for anything that happens while driving your vehicle. This could also be cause for cancellation should something occur.

As far as your teen drivers go, you’ll want to let your insurance professional know when he or she gets their learner’s permit. They won’t necessarily need to be listed on your policy until they are fully licensed. If you do not have primary custody of your teen, you may not need to add them as a household driver. You should check with your insurance professional to be sure.

Another option is for your teen driver to have their own vehicle. Just bear in mind that premiums for teen drivers are high as it is. Insuring a separate vehicle may cost more than adding the vehicle (and driver) to your policy. Also check to see what sort of discounts (good student, driver’s education, etc.) there may be available.

There are systems available for monitoring driving behaviors — speeding, seat belt usage, hard braking and cornering – that can send you a notification if your teen does something he or she is not supposed to do. Technology is available that blocks cell phone calls and text messages when a vehicle is in motion. Installation of any of these systems could mean a premium reduction.

There is no substitution for discussing this new policy need, as well as any others, with your insurance professional. They are an excellent resource for all things insurance-related and can help you to find the coverages you need at a price you can afford.

single car accident 3Like other responsible drivers, you carry the appropriate auto insurance coverage. You know the state mandates a minimum level of liability coverage, but you have way more than that to cover “the other guy.” But what about your own about your own vehicle and its contents? That is what comprehensive and collision insurance is for. For this blog entry, we will focus on collision coverage.

Collision insurance covers some or all repairs or replacement costs to your vehicle due to an accident with another vehicle or if you hit another object (tree, wall, etc.), if you are in an accident with another vehicle, drive into an object such as a tree, building, or telephone pole, or other types of damage. You are not required by law to carry collision coverage, but if your car is financed, your lender will almost always oblige you to have that insurance.

If you opt not to purchase collision coverage, your lender can do it for you, something called “forced placed” insurance and charge you a premium along with your monthly payment. Collision insurance covers the vehicle, not you, and that’s what the lender is concerned with. Premiums for this type of insurance can cost up to five times more than if you had purchased collision coverage through your own insurer.

To figure out if you need collision coverage on a vehicle that is paid off, first calculate its value using a resource like the Kelley Blue Book. Then think about whether or not you can afford to replace your car on your own, remembering that the insurance company will only pay you how much it’s worth, less any deductible.

If you currently have collision insurance but are considering dropping it, you will save some on your premium. To a large extent, the cost is based on your driving history, the value of your vehicle, and the size of your deductible. If you have been in more than a few at-fault accidents, you are probably paying a higher premium for that coverage. Depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, it may make sense to reconsider.

It is always a smart move to discuss all of your coverage needs with your insurance professional. They can explain which coverages you currently have, which ones may not be necessary anymore, and which ones you are lacking.