Protect Your Assets With an Umbrella Policy

It only takes a moment for an accident to happen and for your life to change. In today’s litigious world, if you’re responsible for an accident, you could find yourself being sued and your auto or homeowners policy limits aren’t sufficient to meet the damages. For that reason, we recommend that you carry an umbrella policy.

umbrella insurance policy

 

An umbrella policy is excess liability coverage over and above your other insurance, such as your auto or homeowners policies. Umbrella policies will protect your assets—including your home, retirement accounts, savings, investments, and your future earnings—from being taken in a lawsuit. Policies start at $1 million dollars of liability coverage and climb in $1 million dollar increments from there. The goal is to have enough coverage to protect your net worth. (You’ll want to discuss the amount of coverage you need with your Lakewood Financial agent.)

Protecting your assets

Here’s how an umbrella policy works: Let’s say you were judged to be liable in an auto accident, and your auto insurance carries a liability limit of $300,000. Unfortunately, the judgment against you comes down at one million dollars. If you have an umbrella policy, it should pay the remaining $700,000. If you don’t have one, any savings or assets you have will be at risk, you could have a lien placed on your home, or your wages garnished to make up the difference. 

There are many scenarios in which you could find yourself needing an umbrella policy. What if a passenger in your car is injured, you hit a cyclist, or someone trips and falls on your property and is hurt? Do you have teenagers in your household? Do you have a swimming pool, or a trampoline? These items are responsible for many insurance claims. Owning rental property also raises your liability exposure.

Can you afford an umbrella policy?

The good news is that umbrella policies are affordable, with most running just a few hundred dollars a year—a small price to pay when you consider your peace of mind.

Without an umbrella policy, your assets are vulnerable. Accidents do happen, and it makes good financial sense to protect yourself with an umbrella policy. Please contact Lakewood Financial today, and let us help you find the policy that is right for you.

Three Reasons to Choose Lakewood Financial Insurance For Your Insuring Needs

Lakewood Financial InsuranceWe know buying insurance can sometimes be a confusing and frustrating experience. Sorting through coverage, deciding what you need and finding a cost-effective policy can be challenging. That’s where going with an independent agency like Lakewood Financial Insurance can really help you. Here are three reasons to choose Lakewood Financial for all your insurance needs:

Personal service

While it might seem like a good idea to go with an insurance company with national name recognition, that’s not always the best choice, especially if you have a complicated situation, need the best price, or want to develop a relationship of trust with your insurance agent. Lakewood Financial is a local small business. We have an understanding of the area, including its special risks—like floods or hurricanes—since we live and work here, too. You are more than a policy number or email address to us.

In addition, as independent agents, we work for you, not the insurance company. We’re not captive agents of any one insurance company, so we can search for the policy that best fits your needs and budget. If you need car insurance, for example, we represent more than 40 companies instead of just one. We work hard at providing our clients with the best coverage at the lowest cost. And if you have a claim, we stand ready to help you through the process.

Convenience

Wouldn’t it be nice to buy all your insurance in one place? Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for quotes on car, life, or home insurance, save yourself time and hassle by letting us do the shopping for you. Lakewood Financial is a full-service agency. We represent multiple carriers for every type of insurance, including automobile, homeowners/renters, commercial, builder’s risk, life, umbrella, and so on.

Knowledge

All our agents and customer service representatives are knowledgeable in their fields, and are happy to answer your insurance-related questions. We also provide the Lakewood Financial Insurance Blog as a service to our clients and prospective clients. (Please let us know if there’s a subject you’d like to see covered!)

We know you have many choices of who to call for your insurance needs. Contact us today at 941-747-4600 to discuss your insurance needs, or for a free, no-obligation quote. And thank you for giving us the chance to serve you!

Insuring the High Value Home: Are You Underinsured?

home value

We often talk about homes being our clients’ most valuable assets, and advise them to make sure their homeowners insurance is adequate to rebuild the home and fully replace the contents if the home were to be severely damaged or destroyed. For some clients who own higher value homes, this is even more crucial. A standard homeowners policy may not provide enough coverage.

Are you underinsured?

Here are some special areas of concern for owners of homes valued at $500,000 and up:

Replacement cost of structure. If your home is destroyed, what would it cost to rebuild it? High value homes often have costly custom features, and the replacement cost coverage should reflect that.

High value homes often have other structures on the property which are not attached to the home, such as guest homes, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, or boat docks. You’ll want to talk to your agent about coverage for these structures.

Contents coverage. Much of your investment in your home is not just the structure itself, but also in your furnishings, valuables, or special collections. Coverage for personal property is typically 50 percent of the value for which the home is insured. Conduct a home inventory to determine the value of your belongings, and discuss with your agent whether you should increase your contents coverage.

In addition, you’ll want to be sure expensive items or collections—such as furs, jewelry, art, firearms, Persian rugs, or vintage wines—are covered up to their true value. This is especially true of items that may appreciate in value. Most standard homeowners insurance policies cap value for items like this.

Liability. If you have an expensive home, you probably also have other assets you’ll want to protect. Homeowners insurance policy liability limits usually start around $100,000, but recommended coverage is higher—at least $300,000 to $500,000.  If you want more coverage, it’s wise to buy an umbrella or excess liability policy. You’ll receive broader coverage as well as higher liability limits.

Higher coverage, higher cost?

If you’re concerned about the price of higher coverages, you can save money by going with a higher deductible ($2,500 all the way to $10,000 rather than $1,000, for example). Owners of high value homes can usually afford a higher deductible if they have a claim.

At Lakewood Financial, we’ve been serving homeowners with high value homes for 14 years, and we understand their needs. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation quote.

Creating a Home Inventory

Home inventory

Could you tell your insurance company every item you have in your home right now, and how much it’s worth? Probably not—and that could hurt you if your home is burglarized, severely damaged, or destroyed, and you have to make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance. A home inventory can make the process of settling a claim easier.

A home inventory is simply a record of your personal possessions. It’s valuable to have even if you never make a claim since knowing what your belongings are worth can help you purchase the right amount of insurance for your personal property in the first place.

Creating a home inventory may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If doing the whole house at once feels overwhelming, do a little at a time, say a couple of rooms per week. (Just make sure to finish the project!) There are several different methods to compile your inventory. Choose the one you’ll find easiest—the one you’ll actually do. Who knows, your tech-savvy teenager might even enjoy helping you with this project.

Cameras, phones, or apps

Digital cameras and smartphones have made the task of creating a home inventory easier. It takes just a few minutes to take photos of an entire room. Print the photos and record important information about your items (make, model, price, etc.) on the back, or create a spreadsheet with your inventory information (click here for a free home inventory spreadsheet template). If you don’t want to print them, store your photos digitally in the cloud, burn them to a CD, or store them on a flash drive.

Another simple way to create your home inventory is to use your smartphone to shoot video of your belongings. When you shoot a video, you can also describe the items as you film them. Sometimes a video is all you need to prove you owned an item, but do check with your insurance company to see if you’ll need other documentation as well.

Using a free or paid mobile app is an increasingly popular way to create your home inventory. Most home inventory apps prompt you to list your rooms, the items in them, and other details. You can add photos as well as copies of receipts and other documents. Two free options include the Insurance Information Institute’s “Know Your Stuff” app, or the Encircle home inventory app (both have versions for Apple and Android). 

Inventory tips

When taking photos, start with a wide-angle shot from the room’s entryway. Take photos or video of each wall, as well as the floor and the ceiling. These images record types of flooring, special moldings, ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Get close-up shots of any serial numbers or other identifying tags.

Take group shots of like items, such as books, shoes, or kitchen items (open a cabinet door to record your dishes, for example).

Make sure you get photos of everything in the room.

Describe items pictured: name brand, model, model number, color, special markings or features. Note what you paid for the item and document the receipt if you have it.

Remember to inventory items in your attic, garage, or storage shed.

If you buy a big-ticket item, save the receipt and add the item to your inventory right away.

Once you create your home inventory, be sure to review it now and then and keep it updated.

Make sure your home inventory is stored in a safe place that you can access when you need it. Keep the photos, CD, or flash drive in a safe place, such as with a trusted friend, in a safe deposit box, or in a disaster-proof box in your home. You can also use your email server as a backup if you email yourself a copy of your inventory.

It does take some effort to create a home inventory, but if you lose your belongings and you don’t have one, it may take quite a lot of time and hassle for your insurance company to reimburse you adequately. We hope you’ll never have to make use of your home inventory to make a claim, but if you do, your preparation should help your claim be paid more quickly and fairly. 

For more information on homeowner insurance, call Lakewood Financial at 941.747.4600

Why You May Need a Vacant Dwelling or Builder’s Risk Policy

Empty buildings or buildings under construction or renovation present some unique concerns. An empty home or other building can be a magnet for vandalism, and if someone isn’t living there, a small leak could easily become a big flood. Empty buildings are just as likely to be affected by fire, wind, or lightning. Standard homeowner’s or commercial insurance policies may not cover you if the insured building is vacant. Certain remodeling projects, and residential and commercial construction jobs require specialized insurance policies. At Lakewood Financial, we have the experience and knowledge to help you with your unique needs.

Here are two types of policies that might apply to your situation:

A vacant dwelling policy covers your home if it is left vacant for a certain length of time, usually at least 60 days.

A Builder’s Risk policy covers a building under construction. It can cover just the building itself, or also the materials at the job site for use in construction of the building. Coverage limits should be for the completed value of the structure, less the value of the land. The policy can be written for as short a term as one month all the way up to 6 months or a year. The policy can also be extended if construction is not finished in time, or be cancelled if the building is finished before the end of the policy term.

Let’s look at some scenarios in which you should have a vacant dwelling or builder’s risk policy:

Vacant dwelling

  • You’ve bought a home, but for some reason you can’t move in yet—you haven’t sold your old home, or, conversely, you’ve moved to your new home and need an insurance policy to cover your previous home until it sells.
  • You own a commercial building or rental property that currently has no tenant.

 Builder’s risk

  • You bought a home as investment, intending to have renovations done before selling it, and it will remain vacant until you sell.
  • You’re building a home from the ground up.
  • You bought a bank-owned home you’re renovating before you move in.

Unlike many agencies, at Lakewood Financial, we have a lot of experience working with property investors and others with complex real estate insurance needs. We understand and are familiar with the situations that require these types of policies. Please contact us so we can tailor the right policy for your unique builder’s risk or vacant dwelling needs. 

Wrap Up 2016 With an Insurance Review

Now that the holidays are winding down, you may be thinking about your goals and plans for 2017. If one of those plans is improving your financial condition, one way you can do this is to conduct a review of your current insurance coverage. Your goal is to have the right amount of coverage for your needs, at the best price.

First, look over your policies to remind yourself of your current coverage and deductibles, insurance premiums, and discounts. Then consider how your life has changed in the past year. Did you get married, divorced, or have a baby? Do any of your children now have driver’s licenses? All these changes should be reflected in your insurance portfolio. Here are a few additional specifics to consider:

Auto Insurance

Is it time to raise your deductible or drop comprehensive and collision coverage? Has your commute changed? Do you have additional drivers in your household who are not listed on your policy? Are you receiving all the discounts, such as safe driver or multi-car, that you’re eligible for?

Homeowners Insurance

If your home were destroyed, would your coverage be adequate to replace it at today’s construction costs? Do you have enough coverage for your personal possessions? You may need to increase your coverage limits if you’ve made improvements to your home, or bought or received as gifts expensive items such as computers, jewelry, or art.

If you’re thinking of raising your deductible as a way to save money on your premium, would you have the resources you need to pay that deductible if you have a claim?

You may be eligible for discounts on your homeowners insurance if your alarm system is monitored. You’ll need to provide a certificate from your monitoring company to receive the discount. If you’ve recently replaced your roof, ask your insurance agent how you can benefit from a wind mitigation report.

Flood Insurance

The entire state of Florida is at risk for flooding. Even if you don’t live in a so-called high-risk area, if you don’t have flood insurance, you might want to consider buying it.  We represent several private companies that write flood insurance policies at a competitive rate.

Umbrella Policy

An umbrella policy is additional liability insurance, beyond your home and auto insurance, which protects your assets from a lawsuit. If your assets have increased, you will want to make sure you have enough coverage, or if you don’t currently carry an umbrella policy, you might want to consider purchasing one.

Life Insurance

If you’re the breadwinner, what would happen to your family if you die? A life insurance policy is one way to provide for them after you’re gone. In addition, although life insurance is mainly intended to replace lost income, consider buying life insurance for a non-working spouse or domestic partner. It can quickly become expensive to replace the work he or she does to keep your household running.

Because insurance is an important part of your financial life, it’s good to review your policies from time to time to be sure your coverage remains in line with your assets and liabilities. Remember, if you have any questions about your policies, Lakewood Financial is here to help.

Stay Cyber Safe This Holiday Season

While you’re shopping for and exchanging gifts with loved ones, scammers and identity thieves are lurking in the background, waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers. At Lakewood Financial, we do our best to make sure your personal assets are covered by appropriate insurance. As a service, we’d like to remind you to reduce your risk of identity theft and credit card fraud by protecting your personal information with common sense precautions. To help you stay cyber safe this holiday season, here are a few tips, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and StaySafeOnline.org’s “Stop. Think. Connect.” campaign.

 Cautious Clicking

Be cautious about clicking links in emails, online advertising, posts, and tweets, especially when they originate with someone you don’t know. Cybercriminals often use bogus links to compromise your computer with malware. Make sure all your household’s computers, smart phones, or tablets are running the most current versions of software and apps. And if you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall.

Watch out for offers that sound too good to be true, or that encourage you to act immediately.  If you’re shopping a website that is new to you, check online reviews to make sure it’s legitimate and that previous customers have had positive experiences. Look for web addresses that start with “https,” and the “lock” icon on your browser’s status bar to indicate your personal information will be sent securely.

Be careful what you share on social networking sites. Too much information can give an identity thief the clues he needs to answer security questions that will give him access to your accounts. Don’t post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or any account numbers on publicly accessible sites.

Password Power

Create strong passwords for your accounts by combining upper and lowercase letters with symbols. The FTC suggests thinking of a special phrase and using the first letter of each word as your password. You can also substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example: “I love to fish with my dad” could become 1L2fWmD. Use unique passwords for each account, and write them down someplace secure away from your computer.

Wi-Fi Wisdom

Connecting to the Internet while out and about is a convenience—just be sure you adjust your security settings to keep others from accessing your personal information. If you must send personal information over public wi-fi, make sure to use a secure wireless network, not just an encrypted website. If  the network isn’t secure, don’t visit bank accounts or your email—you could be opening the door to cybercriminals.

Use these tips to stay cyber safe this holiday season—and all year long. If you want to know more about protecting your personal information, please visit StaySafeOnline.org.

The staff of Lakewood Financial would like to wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season!

Creating a Home Fire Escape Plan

Home firesHome fires are the single most common disaster in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. In fact, chances are 1 in 4 that a household will have a fire large enough to be reported to the fire department during the average person’s lifetime. In addition, it can take only a few minutes for a house to become engulfed in flames. You and your family need to know how to get out quickly—in two minutes or less, according to Red Cross recommendations. 

One way to reduce the chances that someone in your home will be injured or killed in a fire is to create a home fire escape plan. Here are some tips to help you draw up a plan that works for you:

  • Start by sketching a map of your home (click here for a printable template from the Red Cross). Locate and mark at least two exits from every room, if possible.
  • For bedrooms higher than the ground floor, consider buying escape ladders and storing them near windows. Learn how to use them as part of your escape plan practice(see below).
  • If your home has security bars on windows, make sure at least one window in each room is equipped with a quick-release device.
  • Include your pets in your home escape plan, by training them to come when you call them, and plan to take them with you when you evacuate. However, do not endanger yourself or other family members trying to save a pet. Place a pet alert window cling with the number and type of family pets on a front window (and keep the information current). This can save time for rescuers searching for your pets. Pet alert decals and clings are inexpensive and readily available, or click here to order a free pet safety pack from the ASPCA that includes a pet alert decal. 
  • Choose a safe location for all family members to meet after getting out of the house—a streetlamp, mail box, etc.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Practice waking up to smoke alarms, crawling on the floor to avoid smoke, and dialing 9-1-1.
  • Go over what to do if your main escape route is blocked by smoke or flames, or the doors or door handles are warm. Don’t open a door that is warm to the touch. Instead, leave through your second exit if you can. If there is no safe exit, place a wet towel under the door, open a window and signal for help by waving a flashlight or something brightly colored.
  • Remind everyone to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch fire.
  • Emphasize “Get out, stay out.” Don’t go back into a burning building to retrieve anything. Only professional firefighters should enter a burning building.
  • Discuss and explain your plan with all family members to make sure they understand what to do. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year, and practice at different times of day.

We hope you never have to experience a home fire. However, if you have a clear fire escape plan for all household members, and practice that plan, you’ll significantly reduce the chance that someone will be hurt or killed. 

Should You Drop Comprehensive and Collision Coverage on Your Older Vehicle?

While we generally don’t recommend dropping insurance coverage, there may be an instance where it makes financial sense: If you have an older vehicle and do not make payments on it, you may want to consider reducing or dropping your comprehensive and collision coverage.

First, a quick reminder of what comprehensive and collision coverage are: Comprehensive pays for things that happen to your insured vehicle other than damages from a collision—a fire, theft, vandalism, or a tree limb falling on it, for example. Collision pays for loss or damages to your insured vehicle due to a collision.

If you are considering dropping your comp/collision, here are some factors to consider:comprehensive and collision coverage

The value of your vehicle. If your vehicle were a total loss, what would your insurance company pay you?  It’s easy to find out the actual cash value (ACV) of your car by using an online tool such as Kelley Blue Book’s “Check My Car’s Value” feature. Remember that the value of your vehicle is lower if is in poor condition (dings, dents, high mileage, worn interior, etc.).

How much you pay for comprehensive and collision. Check your declarations page to find out what portion of your premium comes from comp/collision coverage. One guideline to bear in mind is that if the value of the vehicle is less than 10 times the annual premium, you might consider dropping comp/collision coverage. Example: your car is worth $2,500 and you pay $300 year for coverage.

Your deductible. Common options range from $250-$1,000. If your vehicle is totaled, your insurance company will pay you the value of your vehicle less your deductible.  Also factor in what you’ve paid in premium for the year. In an older vehicle, it’s possible for your premium and your deductible to equal more than the value of your car.

Even if your vehicle is older and not worth that much, there are some circumstances in which you may still want to carry comp/collision, including:

  • You have teen drivers in the household. (Teens are more likely to be in an accident.)
  • You’d have a hard time coming up with enough money to replace your car if it was a total loss. (Even a small payout from your insurance company would help with replacing your vehicle.)
  • You live in a hurricane or flood prone area. (In Florida, most of us do!)
  • You live or work in an area known for high theft.

We understand economic reality forces all of us to look for ways to save money. At Lakewood Financial, we do our best to offer a wide variety of cost-effective options, and we’ll gladly discuss with you what coverage you need.

Please contact us if you have any questions about your auto insurance policy, or you’d like to get a free quote.

Haunted Hazards: Avoiding Halloween Havoc

Halloween

It’s almost Halloween! Time for jack-o-lanterns, scary costumes, bowls of candy, excited children, haunted houses, and a whole host of spooky fun. We don’t want to scare you, but do remember Halloween brings increased risk of vandalism (home or vehicle), fire, injuries (including dog bites and trip and fall), burglary, auto theft, and even gravestone theft or vandalism.

Your insurance (homeowners, renters, and/or auto) should cover any major Halloween mishaps, but you don’t want to have to make a claim if you don’t have to. Most policies come with deductibles, and frequent claims can cause your premiums to rise. To keep Halloween from becoming a horror, here are some tips to protect you, your pets, and your property this Halloween. (Did you know your homeowners policy often covers theft or damage to a gravestone?)

While driving or walking

Safekids.org reports that kids are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day. Prime time for trick or treating is between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., so take extra care if you’re driving during these hours, especially in residential neighborhoods and near driveways and alleys.

Children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision while trick or treating at night. Make sure children can see through masks (or use face paint instead), and that their clothing or costumes are visible even in the dark. Also have them carry flashlights or glow sticks. Remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing streets, and to cross at intersections rather than squeezing between parked cars.

Another Halloween danger is that of impaired or drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 52% of all fatal crashes on Halloween night involved a driver or motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 (the legal limit) or higher. Make sure to designate a driver if you’re attending a party where alcohol is served. And if you serve alcohol at your own Halloween party, you could be liable if an impaired guest leaves your party and hurts or kills someone. To be safe, monitor your guests’ alcohol intake, make sure impaired guests have someone to take them home, or let them spend the night.

Keep pets out of harm’s way

Halloween can be tough for pets. The doorbell rings constantly, even familiar people are dressed in costume, and there is an abundance of candy around, most of it toxic to animals. Be sure to keep all candy out of reach of your pets, as well as any decorations that could harm them, such as candles with open flames. On Halloween night, confine your pet in a quiet place in which he or she feels safe. That way, there will be no chance of your pet biting someone, or escaping through an open door.

Safe at home

Take precautions against vandalism, and against becoming liable for an injury on your property. Walk your property and remove anything someone might trip over. Remember, it will be dark, and some costumes make it hard to see properly.

Make sure your home is well lit.

To guard against fire, consider using battery-operated tea lights to light your jack-o-lanterns. If you do use candles, keep them away from doorways, curtains, and walkways, and don’t leave them unattended.

Park your vehicle in the garage to protect it from vandalism.

Your insurance is there to protect you, but there are things you can do to minimize the chance you’ll need to use it. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your homeowners, renters, or auto insurance policy. And have a safe and spooky Halloween!