Insurance policies can be confusing to many and you should never assume that you have the right coverage for your specific situations unless you ask your insurance agent about it. Here are some questions you should ask your agent if they apply to you:
Do I need to change anything with my insurance policies since I have added new family members to my household?
I’ve changed jobs (or finished school, started working, stopped working, or retired). Do I need to change anything with my insurance?
Do I need a different coverage if I am remodeling or adding an addition to my house?
We’re getting married. How do we combine policies and make sure we have the right coverage for our new family?
I’ve started a home based business or I’ve started working from home. Do I need any additional coverage for this?
I’ve gotten some new expensive items (jewelry, sports equipment, musical instruments, business equipment, collection, etc). Are they covered on my policy or do they need specialty coverage?
Is my pool covered? Trampoline? Four-wheeler? Golf cart? Lawnmower? Etc? What if someone gets hurt on them?
Does my policy have enough coverage if I’m in a bad car accident or if someone gets hurt on my property?
Are there any exclusions on my policies?
One of my kids will be driving soon. What’s the best way to cover them?
Does my policy provide coverage to replace my items or give me their current value?
I have this insurance policy through work or another company. Can you review it?
How much would I have in out of pocket costs if _________ happens?
What are the payment plan options? Which ones give the best pricing?
What should I do if I’m in a car accident or if something happens to my home? What’s the process for filing a claim?
How do the discounts on the policies work? Are there ways I could lose or gain discounts?
Are there any more discounts or ways to save on my insurance?
In the end, it is worth a phone call or an email to ask a question to make sure you have the coverage your family needs instead of assuming. Your agent is there to guide you to what best suits your needs.
No one enjoys having trees fall on their property or especially on their home. If a tree falls on your house, will your homeowner’s insurance cover it? Well the answer is a little complicated. Let’s run through a couple of examples:
A storm comes through and a normally healthy tree is knocked over due to high winds onto your house. In this scenario, it is likely that the removal of the tree will be covered and your house repairs will be covered as well. Your homeowner’s insurance deductible will apply. If it was a “hurricane”, you may have a different “hurricane” deductible instead of your normal homeowner’s deductible.
A tree that was unhealthy and threatening to fall down is finally knocked over by a storm onto your house. There is a chance that it may not be covered on your homeowner’s insurance since it happened after a lack of maintenance to your tree. Proper tree maintenance is vital.
A tree is knocked down by a storm, but doesn’t land on your house or other structures. It is unlikely that the removal of this tree will be covered by your insurance. However, there are sometimes exceptions for fallen trees that block your driveway or handicap accessible features. It is worth calling your agent to find out if your deductible will apply in these scenarios.
Your neighbor’s tree falls on your house. Usually this is covered by your insurance, but you will have to pay your homeowner’s deductible. Your homeowner’s insurance company may go after your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance company to pay for the damages. In some successful cases, you may be reimbursed your deductible if your homeowner’s insurance is fully reimbursed by your neighbor’s insurance company.
In all of these scenarios, there are a few questions to still answer.
Is there a cap on the coverage amount for the removal of each tree? Yes, there typically is. You will need to check out your policy for the exact amount.
Will my insurance pay to replace the trees that have been destroyed or fallen? This is dependent on the cause. Trees and shrubs do typically have some replacement coverage if destroyed by fire, lightning, vandalism, and several other perils, but not by wind or water. There is also a cap on the replacement amount per tree/shrub and a total cap. You will have to check out your policy for these caps. You may be able to purchase an additional coverage to raise the cap of how many trees/shrubs are covered and how much each individual one is covered for (before they are destroyed, of course!).
Could I be held liable if my tree falls on someone or their house? Short answer: It’s possible. Regardless, to reduce your risk, keep high limits of liability coverage on your homeowner’s policy, consider taking out a personal umbrella liability policy, and properly maintain your trees.
How should I take care of my trees? Hire a professional arborist to keep trees trimmed or to remove unhealthy trees before they fall. The cost and hassle of doing this is less than paying your homeowner’s deductible and then living through the repairs or dealing with legal implications if they damage someone else’s property. Always check the local reviews and reputation of your arborist. You will want someone experienced and reputable to take down trees or limbs near structures or power lines. Secondly, make sure that your arborist has proper business insurance, because if they cause damage to your property, power lines, or someone else’s property, it should be covered under their insurance and not your homeowner’s insurance!
With so many different types of insurance policies existing, it is hard to think of something that you can’t insure. You can insure your home, car, motorcycle, boat, belongings, and even your life. But can you insure your neighbor’s car? Surprisingly the answer is no. You can only insure the items that you have an insurable interest in.
So what is insurable interest? Insurable interest means that the destruction of the property or the death of the person insured would cause you to take a direct financial loss. You can’t insure your neighbor’s car, because you would not suffer a financial loss over it being totaled. You also can’t insured your barely known distant relative with life insurance since their passing isn’t going to directly impact your personal finances. You can insure the home & car, and belongings in your name as if they are destroyed or damaged, you will be directly responsible for repairing or replacing them. There can also be life insurance on your spouse that you can benefit from as their untimely death would create financial hardship for your family.
Insurable interest is required so that you only benefit from insurance payouts for losses that would actually affect you financially. Insurance companies often require you to have insurable interest when you start the policy on the person or object and insurable interest at the time of the loss. For example: you owned a car and added it to your auto insurance policy, but later you sold it to your cousin. Let’s say that cousin then had an accident. Your insurance would not cover this vehicle even if you still have it listed on your policy as now it belongs to your cousin. It is your cousin who would take the financial loss, not you.
Sometimes, with families, friends, and romantically involved parties, this can be complicated. Insurance policies have listed named insureds for the policy and these named insureds are the ones that receive the funds. Usually named insureds are an individual or an individual & spouse combo.
So can you insure your child’s vehicle? If a child owns a vehicle in their name, is paying the payments on the vehicle, would suffer the damage to their credit if they don’t pay, but insure it on their parent’s auto policy, the parents receive the funds for the totaling of the vehicle. So it is better in this scenario for the child to insure their own vehicle on their own policy as they have the insurable interest and should receive the funds vehicle in a claim. Sometimes insurance companies will allow for a child/parent co-owned vehicle to be insured on a policy in either the parent’s or the child’s name. This makes it so that the loss funds can be put in both names.
In the case of romantic relationships and friendships, insurance companies sometimes do not want to insure something owned by two unrelated individuals. If they start a policy together, but part ways, how does an insurance company decide to whom the funds belong? Insuring married couples is safer as if they split, lawyers help decide to whom funds and property belong. This will vary from company to company following their rules about how they will insure co-owned items or items owned individually insured on a co-owned policy.
The best idea is to ask your insurance agent before you buy anything co-owned or buy something and expect to be able to insure it on someone else’s policy. To make sure that you will receive the funds for the loss, make sure to insure everything correctly. Provide your agent with your proof of purchase for an item showing who has ownership and let them know if you transferred ownership to someone else. For life insurance policies, make sure all of the beneficiaries are kept up to date. This way you know in the case of a claim, the correct people (you including) receive the benefit of the insurance you are paying for!
Have you ever wondered about solar panels and whether they would be a good investment for your home?
Right now in central and eastern Pennsylvania, homeowners have an opportunity to have solar panels installed on their home roof without having to pay any large upfront costs. Legacy Power is offering homeowners the opportunity to install solar panels on their roof for free and then you purchase the energy they produce for a reduced cost. Typically homeowners have seen about 20% or more in reduction of the electricity bills by getting the energy from solar panels right on their home. (Any excess energy goes into the local electricity grid, giving your community a little more green energy.) After you have had the solar panels on your home for about 5 years, you can then purchase the panels for a reduced price if you wanted to own them yourself at that point.
There is little risk in having the panels on your roof as they are insured, monitored, and maintenanced by Legacy Power (the largest solar company in the state!). If you sell your home, they often add value to your home and Legacy Power will continue their services for the next homeowner.
Homeowners may have many questions about the solar panels & their installation. These are best answered by a professional representative, but after speaking to one myself, I learned a few secrets. They will make sure your roof is the correct type and in good shape prior to installing any panels, put the panels on the side of the roof where the sun is optimal for our area (typically the southern facing side & away from overhanging trees), and they use the amount of panels needed to power your specific home. They really work to customize the experience to match your home.
If you would like a free no pressure consultation to see if solar panels and their reduced energy cost would work for your home, please contact our friend, James White. Please let him know that you were referred by the Allstate Downey Agency and you can receive a $600 visa card upon installation of the solar panels on your home!
You take many precautions to get the best returns on your investments, minimize taxes, and protect your home & family from financial hardship. However, most people don’t think about protecting their wealth from legal judgements. Some people believe the risk is so small that it will never happen to them, but all it takes is one accident to completely overwhelm your current insurance limits leaving you with a pricy legal defense bill. Don’t think it can happen to you? Check out some local recent lawsuits here and here.
Often home insurance policies have about $100k-$300k in liability coverage & auto policies with good coverages may have between $300k-$500k in bodily injury liability along with $100k in property damage. However, a lawsuit can often quickly surpass these limits leaving you to pay for your legal defense and whatever settlement amount the court may decide on. Your home, business or real-estate holdings, future income, and non-qualified retirement assets are left to foot the bill. Although rare, the court can order up to a 25% wage garnishment until the settlement is paid off.
To cover claims in excess of either your auto or homeowners policy, you can purchase excess liability coverage through a Personal Umbrella Policy. They are called umbrellas since they cover excess liability from any policy you have under it. These could be homeowners, auto, motorcycle, boat, renter’s, landlord, recreational vehicle, and others. Another area Personal Umbrella Policies help protect families is in personal injury lawsuits, such as in liable or slander cases; for example a family member posts a negative online review that results in an alleged defamation lawsuit.
You can usually purchase $1 million in liability coverage for around $150-$400 per year depending on your risk factors. Umbrella policies usually have $1 to $5 million in coverage, but also come in larger amounts for celebrities, business owners, executives, and politicians.
Everyone has the risk of being sued over an accident, but if you have any of these risk factors, you may need an umbrella more than the average person:
You have a dog (or other large animals like horses).
You have teenage or young drivers in your household (or you are accident-prone).
You have a long commute to work or drive a lot.
You volunteer for (or are on the board of) a non-profit, or coach youth sports.
You have a pool or trampoline (or other fun structure at your home).
You (or your children) play sports in public areas.
You are a landlord or own multiple properties.
You have a boat, motorcycle, ATV, or other recreational vehicle.
You frequently entertain guests at your home.
You own a business.
You have a job that others associate with making good money.
Your income is higher than the average for your community or you live in a high income community.
Here in Pennsylvania, many homes have basements and people are looking for extra livable space. So many have finished their basements turning them into valuable living and storage space. However a question that is often brought up is, “What is covered if I get water in my basement?” Water leaking in through the foundation walls or through the floor is a common issue for some on a regular basis or during storms.
Most homeowner’s insurance will cover water damage due to sudden leaks from a pipe bursting. Slow leaks over a period of time are often excluded. So if you have a sudden pipe burst in your basement, most likely your insurance will cover the damage above your deductible amount.
Some homeowner’s insurance policies come with an additional water back up coverage add on. This allows you to have a limited amount of coverage for water and sewer damage coming from your drains, septic lines, or sump pumps. This is often a suggested coverage for an additional fee for those who have finished basements – especially ones with a bathroom in the basement!
Lastly, you can purchase flood insurance for your property whether you live in a high risk flood zone or not. For it to be considered a “flood”, water must cover the ground on your property and an adjoining property (unless you have a large property, then it has to cover two acres on your property). Flood insurance only covers limited items in a basement though. These include electrical systems, hot water heaters, heating/cooling systems, freezers, washers, and dryers. Flood insurance does not cover finished basement rooms, furniture, or anything stored in the basement though.
Generally if you have water that comes in through the walls or floor of your basement, there is a gap in coverage where often none of the water coverages available will cover any damages. If you have not finished your basement yet and have gotten water in the basement before, you may want to not finish the basement or store valuable items on the floor. If you do finish your basement, keep in mind that you take on the risks of paying for repairs yourself if you do take in water from the walls or foundation.