How to Organize Your Insurance Policies to Help Your Spouse or Dependents Find Them

older couple organizing and discussing their insurance policy documents on the computer

Acquiring policies like life insurance can put your mind at ease and help you feel secure. But it’s only the start of formulating a game plan that will keep you and your family prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.  Part of your ongoing strategy must involve decisions about organizing and storing your policies so that they can be retrieved by your spouse or dependents as needed.  By following these guidelines, you can live your life without worrying about how your insurance policies will be stored and accessed.  

Choose a Secure Physical and Digital Location

Step one for organizing any insurance plan is to keep it in a safe place that only you — and others you give permission to — can open.  There’s so much personal information in policy documents that is important to protect, so we recommend using either a safe or lockable filing cabinet. Let your spouse or dependents know where the key or password is stored.  In addition to keeping the papers in a physical location in your home, consider sending a copy to a trusted lawyer or loved one who will also keep it safe.  

A digital copy can far outlast paper, which can be lost, stolen, or destroyed.  For this reason, definitely keep electronic records of your insurance policies.  Make a list of passwords for where your policies are stored on your computer, and share the information with your dependents so they can find them.  If you aren’t using software to store your insurance policy, you can scan your hard copy onto your computer.

Communication Is Paramount

While discussing your home or life insurance with your spouse and family can be uncomfortable, clear communication is going to be how you avoid any additional difficulties in case of a crisis.  Your dependents need to know which policies you have, and they should probably know the names of your agent, insurance company, and other important contacts.  Set clear expectations about how and when these should be accessed, and go over how you have stored everything.  By communicating effectively, you can avoid your family being another statistic in the millions of insurance dollars that go unclaimed every year.

Update Outdated Documents

Finally, you should keep everything up to date and know when your policies need updating.  There are many life events that can require you to update paperwork, including a new birth, a divorce, a new marriage, a change of address, business developments, and many more.  Seek advice from a qualified local insurance agent if you are unsure of when an update might be required.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we can help you with these and other questions or concerns regarding your insurance policies.  Our ultimate goal is to assist you in any way we can with top-notch insurance plans and unbeatable customer service.

How to Know If You Are Financially Ready to Buy a Condo

couple with a young child analyzing their finances before buying a condo

Besides the convenience that accompanies owning a condo, who wouldn’t appreciate the freedom from the hustle and bustle of having to take care of the land while getting to have a roof over your head? However, just because buying a condo suits your needs, and you feel the need to buy one, it does not mean you are ready to own one.  Here are pertinent questions whose answers will help you find out whether you are really prepared to buy that desired condominium:

1. Can You Afford the Down Payment?

Whether you have sufficient cash to pay off for that condo or not is important, but it’s not the only cost to consider. A good down payment amount is a must-have. You are in an excellent position to go ahead and take the leap towards owning your dream condo only if your savings match the down payment requirements that accompany the property you have in mind.

2. Are You Managing Your Debt Well?

Second on the financial checklist that determines your readiness for buying a condo is how debt-free you are. Debts will certainly put constraints on your desire to acquire that condo you crave. You will want to ensure all impending bills and maxed credit cards are brought under control to free up more income that is needed for buying your condo.

3. Are You in a Position to Handle Hidden or Unforeseen Costs?

Before engaging the seller of the property, ensure you have set aside some money for unforeseen costs and any other unconsidered charges that will arise before closing the deal. For instance, many sellers throw all kinds of fees at you. These fees might range from recording fees and underwriting fees to the appraisal fees. There is also the hurdle of moving costs and money for decorating and furnishing the new condo in line with your tastes. Also, you may need to pay property taxes upfront.

4. Have You Considered the Cost of Purchasing a Condo Insurance Policy?

When looking to buy a condo, the last thing you would want is to risk any insurable outcome forcing your hard-earned investment down the drain. From the onset, you will then need to know from who and where you can shop around for a reliable and affordable condo insurance policy.

Condo insurance saves your money in case of any accidents and incidents in your condominium. For instance, without condo building insurance, you may not be able to replace your custom cabinets or fittings in the event of a fire. To avoid losses in terms of money or property, purchase proper condo insurance and protect yourself.

If you answered yes to these questions, step out of that bubble of uncertainty and get ready to buy that desired condo. Want to learn more about the condo insurance policy that suits you best from someone you can trust? Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance for help with all the condo insurance concerns you might have.

Do You Need Car Insurance If You Aren’t Driving Your Car?

In these times, most of us have experienced extreme upheaval when it comes to our routines. That may include working from home. You may be ordering groceries or take-out to be delivered instead of going out. This means that our cars remained parked. As a result, many car owners are starting to wonder if they should even have car insurance during these times.

man next to his car on his driveway

The short answer is, yes! Let’s explore why.

It’s Better to Maintain Coverage Than Have On-and-Off Coverage

Unless your car is completely out of commission — as in, it’s been totaled and is no longer drivable — you should keep insurance on it. The reason why is relatively simple: if you can still drive it, at some time, you probably will. That means there is always that chance that something could happen. 

Another reason is that if you cancel your car insurance, and then you end up needing it again, you will be labeled as high-risk to the underwriters. This means you may have a hard time obtaining car insurance, or you will end up paying more. So, it’s cheaper and safer to maintain insurance. 

Options for Stored Cars

If your car is locked away in a storage facility and you are definitely not going to be driving it anytime soon, meaning it will not be anywhere near any public road, you may be able to drop the coverage to comprehensive insurance only. This type of insurance protects the car from anything except a collision with another vehicle. For this reason, comprehensive insurance is sometimes referred to as “car storage insurance.”

How to Save on Car Insurance

Essentially, you do need to have insurance on your car (even if you aren’t driving that much). However, if you are concerned about the cost of premiums, it is always worth looking into different kinds of insurance and ways that you can save. Liability insurance is something that you have to have if your car is registered. But you may be able to take other kinds of coverage off of your car if you feel that you are not driving it enough to warrant having full coverage. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help answer your insurance questions and make sure you have the coverage you need. Contact us today to get in touch with a local representative.

What You Need to Know About Business Interruption Coverage and COVID-19

a carpentry business owner considering his insurance options during COVID-19 restrictions

Most businesses throughout the country have experienced some type of financial loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have chosen or been forced to temporarily close your business, you are likely searching for ways to replace your lost income in order to avoid a permanent closure, particularly if you have not been allowed to reopen yet. Although business interruption coverage applies to many events that have a similar impact on the operations of your business, it is unlikely to be a solution to interrupted business and revenue.

What Is Business Interruption Coverage? 

Business interruption insurance is a type of specialized coverage that can be added to your regular commercial insurance policy. It is intended to serve as an additional layer of assistance for businesses that must temporarily stop operating as the result of a specific event, such as a fire or natural disaster.

Business interruption insurance generally serves as a temporary replacement for income, which can be used to keep the business from being forced to permanently close after such an event. The coverage is typically used to allow the business to continue paying employees and bills until it can reopen. 

Can Business Interruption Coverage Be Applied to COVID-19 Closures?

Unfortunately, most business interruption coverage policies cannot replace the income that is lost as a result of closures related to COVID-19. Many business interruption coverage policies include a clause that specifically excludes pandemics, as the policy is intended for closures that include physical damage to the business. Although business interruption insurance policies exist to cover sporadic closures, they generally do not have the funds to replace the massive amount of income lost by nearly every business in the country during the pandemic.

However, not every insurance company excludes pandemics. We highly recommend reaching out to your insurance provider for more information about specific policies regarding COVID-19. Talking directly with your agent is the best way to get your questions answered accurately. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we prioritize providing the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the various types of insurance coverage available and how they can apply to unprecedented circumstances. Contact us today to learn more about the insurance policies we offer or to request a quote.  

3 Recommended Commercial Insurance Changes for Companies Switching to Remote Work

An increasing number of businesses are considering a permanent shift to remote work for their employees. The change is taking place in different industries, especially the technology industry. When a business switches to remote work, its potential risks and liabilities change. If your small business is considering changing to a remote workforce as a long-term strategy, start with a review of your business’s commercial insurance policies. This will help you identify potential gaps and changes in coverage that need to be addressed.

woman on a video conference while working from home

Some of the insurance implications that may arise under conventional insurance policies include:

1. Employers’ Liability and General Insurance

Coverage for your employees’ potential injuries depends on the categorization, where the injury took place, and the activity undertaken at the time of injury. Your business needs to ensure that the definition of covered employees under the employers’ liability insurance includes all employees to which the company may be found liable. Also, you need to ensure that the coverage consists of all places where your workers are located.

2. Property Insurance

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased focus on different aspects of property insurance. While transitioning to a remote workforce may create less loss as a result of property damage, you may have more devices and equipment spread across different locations. Therefore, you need to make sure that property being used by workers in remote locations is insured.

3. Cyber Insurance

The switch to work remotely can make your business more susceptible to schemes of social engineering and hacks. When your employees work from home, they adapt to different modes of communication and may create new vulnerabilities in your system. But you need to do more than allow your IT personnel to increase security in remote working environments. Consider adding more coverage, such as cyber insurance, to protect your business’s data, systems, and hardware. Your business needs to make sure the coverage matches the risks.

For more assistance choosing the right commercial insurance policies during changes to your business, contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today. We’re here to help.

What Should You Do If Your Term Life Insurance Policy Is About to End?

Do you have a term life insurance policy?  A term life insurance policy is for a specific period of time.  It will only provide coverage for a set period of time, such as 10, 15, or 25 years.  During this time, if your policy is active, and you die, the policy will pay out benefits.  But if you have a 10-year term life insurance and you die in the 11th year, unfortunately, the policy will not pay your beneficiaries. 

older couple discussing what to do about their term life insurance policy

If you have term life insurance and it is coming to the end of the policy, you can do a number of things.  These include:

  1. Convert the policy.
  2. Renew the policy.
  3. Buy a new policy.
  4. Let the policy end.

1. Convert Your Term Life Insurance

If you have a term life insurance policy, you may have the option to convert the policy to universal or whole insurance.  Depending upon the term life insurance that you have, you may have the entire policy period to convert or just a specific time period. 

For example, if you have a 10-year policy, you may have ten years to convert to another type of life insurance policy.   On the other hand, your policy may only allow you to convert in the first five years of the policy.  Check the terms of your policy or reach out to your insurance company.

The key advantage of converting to a whole or universal life insurance policy is that you often do not have to go through another health check for your policy.  The policy will convert and not use your current health condition for underwriting the policy.  This is a great feature if you have developed health conditions since you bought the original policy.

What Is Whole or Universal Life Insurance?

Before we continue, it’s important to know what whole and universal life insurance are.  Whole life insurance has consistent premiums and a guaranteed cased value accumulation.  Universal policies have flexible premiums and death benefits.  You can borrow against the cash value of either policy, and these are considered permanent life insurance.  The coverage doesn’t end when you stop making premium payments — it will extend further into the future.

2. Renew the Policy

Some term policies allow for renewing the policy.   This is known as a renewal option or privilege.  It allows the policy owner the right to renew their term life insurance policy for an additional time period.  However, if you renew the policy by extending your current policy’s coverage, the amount you pay may increase.  You can renew even if your health has changed, but you may only be able to renew the policy until a certain age.

3. Buy a New Policy

If your health hasn’t changed, you can also buy a new policy.  At this point, you can buy a term, whole, or universal life insurance policy.  You will have to go through the health check again, and you may be limited by a two-year suicide clause.

4. Let the Policy End

A fourth option is to just let the policy end.  Though this leaves you with no life insurance, it is an option.

If your term life insurance policy is ending or you would like to make changes to it, contact us or give us a call!  The team at Vargas & Vargas Insurance can help you figure out what is best for you and your situation.

What to Do During and After a Hurricane

woman looking through the window at home as a hurricane approaches

Hurricanes can pose a serious hazard for people and properties in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. Floods, heavy winds, and other severe weather factors can cause damage quickly. Read this short guide about how to stay safe and protect your property both during and after the next hurricane.

What to Do During a Hurricane

During a hurricane, it is important to avoid going outdoors or driving because the winds and flooding can be dangerous. If you must be out in the storm, then it is important to:

  • NOT drive around road barriers
  • NOT walk through flowing water
  • NOT drive through flooded roads

Also, continue monitoring the media for any emergency information. Look for credible emergency information shared by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and other government agencies. Also, you need to follow instructions given by the public safety officials.  

If directed to evacuate, you need to do so immediately, and take only your essential items and any pets, if possible. Given that conditions change fast, you need to be ready for evacuation to different places as directed and if necessary.

What to Do After a Hurricane Has Passed

After a hurricane has passed and you had evacuated, return home if authorities say it is safe to do so. Continue to listen to news reports to know if the water supply is safe. Before local authorities declare your water supply safe, you need to boil the water before drinking or using it for food preparation.

As soon as it’s safely possible, check your home for any signs of damage. While checking your home, you need to:

  • Repair leaching systems and damaged septic tanks to minimize potential health risks.
  • Hire a qualified electrician to assess any damages to electrical systems.
  • Have a professional check your wells for contamination.
  • If you suspect there is a gas leak, go outdoors immediately and contact a licensed professional to check it out.
  • In case your home or property is damaged, document the damage by taking videos and photos and contact your insurance company.

Also, report any power outages to your utility company. If you’re waiting for the power to return, be careful to only use grills and generators outside because their fumes contain dangerous gases.

Try to avoid entering floodwaters in and around your property. Seek the services of a professional cleaning and repair company to clean and disinfect your home. Check on neighbors and friends, especially the elderly and those who live alone.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you protect your home, property, and family. Call us today to learn more about hurricane-related coverage, flood insurance, and safety tips to help you get through the storm.

3 Things to Consider When Choosing Between Whole and Universal Life Insurance

family with a second expected child in their kitchen

Whole life and universal life insurance policies have similarities and important distinctions. Both are types of permanent life insurance, which means they provide coverage for your entire life as long as premium obligations are met (which is different from term insurance). Also, you can build cash value in either type of policy. Here’s what you need to consider to choose the coverage that’s the right fit for you.

1. Your Budget

Would fixed premiums or adjustable ones be a better match for your budget needs? Whole life insurance has fixed premiums. After you pay the initial premium on a universal life policy, you decide how often and how much to pay your premiums as long as you meet the policy’s minimums.

2. Your Risk Tolerance

Your investment in a whole life policy has low risk. The cash value accrues interest at the rate set by your insurer. Some whole life policies are eligible for dividends. You can choose to reinvest your dividends in the cash value or to have them sent to you. Dividends may also be put toward premium payments.

Selecting universal life, on the other hand, requires a higher risk tolerance. The rate of return on the policy’s cash value is not guaranteed. Rather, returns go up or down with market conditions. Some universal life policies are linked to the performance of a specific index like the Nasdaq 100.

3. The Needs of Your Loved Ones 

Since whole life provides a fixed death benefit, it’s easier to plan for the future of loved ones who depend on your support. Fixed benefits may be particularly helpful if your loved ones include an aging relative, a child with special needs, or anyone else who won’t be able to develop their own means of support. 

Universal life allows you to pick between a fixed death benefit and a benefit you can adjust up or down. This feature is beneficial if your personal circumstances change. For example, a married yet childless adult may initially choose a smaller benefit since it’s likely that only one person — the spouse — depends on the insured’s income. Should this couple have a baby, the insured person may want to increase the death benefit because more people rely on the insured person for support. 

Your local independent insurance agent can answer questions and help you choose the right type of policy for you and your loved ones. Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today for friendly, helpful service.

What Is Personal Property Insurance?

Personal property insurance is part of a home insurance policy. It provides coverage for the items in your home that are damaged or lost due to events, called named perils, such as fire, lightning, smoke, theft, and vandalism. In this article, we’ll discuss what types of coverage you can have and what you need to know as you shop for a policy.

couple playing on an insured piano in their home

Personal Property Types of Coverages

There are two types of personal property coverage:

  1. Actual Cash Value (ACV)
  2. Replacement cost value

An actual cash value policy is where an agreed-upon amount is decided upon when drafting your policy, which is the replacement value of the item minus depreciation. This amount is what you will be paid if the property is damaged or stolen. The insurance company will reimburse the agreed upon actual cash value in qualifying circumstances. 

Replacement value is the second type of coverage. This coverage allows you to replace the item with another item of “replacement value.” In other words, it covers the cost of replacing the item with another similar item — a TV for another TV, for example. To get reimbursed by your insurance company with this method, you must generally buy a replacement item and submit your receipts to the insurance company for payment.

Personal Property When You Have a Home, Condo or Renter Insurance Policy

Personal property is covered differently depending upon whether you have traditional home insurance or condo or renter’s insurance. Home insurance will usually cover your personal property for an aggregate amount of up to 50% of the dwelling amount, or the amount your home is insured for. So if your home is insured for $240,000, your personal property will be insured for $120,000. If you’d like to have more insurance for your personal property, you may have the option to choose more than 50%, but with a higher premium. 

Renter’s or condo insurance provides coverage amounts a bit differently. You will be able to pick the amount of insurance you want based on your estimate of coverage needed. This amount will depend upon what you own and how much it is worth. The coverage amounts vary by the insurance provider and by the specific type of policy offered.

More Valuable or Expensive Personal Property

If you own items that are more valuable, such as antiques or collectibles, you might invest in additional insurance for this coverage. You may hear terms such as floater, endorsement, or scheduled personal property. These actually refer to additional coverage that you may purchase to cover valuable items that might not be covered specifically under your home owner’s insurance coverage limits.  

Contact us and let us help you with your personal property insurance needs. Vargas & Vargas Insurance provides friendly assistance with all of your coverage needs.

Condo Owners Need More Coverage Than the Master Policy

Although most new condo owners are added to the property’s master policy upon purchase of the unit, the claim that this policy is all owners need is misleading. You may have been told that your unit’s coverage under the master policy prevents you from having to purchase separate coverage, but the policy is only meant to protect the property, not your personal possessions. If your condo is only covered under the master policy, now is a good time to purchase additional coverage that meets your needs. 

couple researching condo insurance as they move into a new condo

What Is a Master Policy? 

A master policy is the most basic type of insurance used by condo owners. It typically covers damage to the building itself, as well as common areas and liability for the condominium association. However, unlike other policies, your master policy does not cover your belongings or personal liability. The master policy provides the necessary protection for your condominium association. But only being covered under the master policy is not sufficient to protect yourself. 

How Should I Cover My Condo?

Every condo owner’s coverage should be comprised of both the master policy and individual condo insurance. Condo insurance is similar to regular homeowners insurance, but it is designed to meet the unique needs of shared property ownership. It covers owners’ belongings and personal liability, as well as additional coverage for the building itself. Upgraded features may also be covered only by condo insurance, as many master policies only cover standard features.    

What Happens If a Claim Is Made?

If a claim is made for something that happens within your unit, you will generally be defended by your private insurance company, not the master policy. Your insurance company will cover the necessary funds, minus the deductible. If you are only covered by the master policy, you will likely be responsible for the claim.  

Your master policy should work together with private condo insurance to provide the best possible protection, rather than being considered the only insurance you need. In order to adequately protect yourself and your belongings, select a condo insurance policy that effectively fills in the gaps of your master policy.  At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you find the right coverage.