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Update Outdated Documents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.

Warning for Jewelry Owners: How to Avoid Fake Gem Lab Reports

Near the end of 2019, the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) issued an alert to consumers and its industry. The AGA had learned fake gem lab reports are circulating that feature the unauthorized use of AGA’s logo. AGA’s notice is similar to an announcement the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences issued in 2018, when that organization became aware of fraudulent lab reports bearing its logo. The following tips can help jewelry owners and consumers avoid fake gem lab reports.

couple looking at watches in a jewelry store

1. An “AGA Lab Report” Is Always a Fake

Any report supposedly issued by the Accredited Gemologists Association or bears AGA’s logo is always a fraudulent report. The AGA is not a lab. The organization never issues gem lab reports.

2. Look Carefully at the Lab’s Name

Frequently, fraudulent labs try to confuse the public by using a name that’s very similar to the name of a respected laboratory. According to Jewelry Insurance Issues, a newsletter for the insurance industry, fake labs are using names such as GIE and GLA to mimic the name of the well-known and highly-respected GIA.

3. Research the Lab Report Number

Gem lab report numbers are checked easily online. Jewelry owners can enter the report number on the websites of trustworthy gem labs like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Gem Certification and Assurance Laband American Gem Society Lab. Researching the report number may reveal conclusions such as:

  • No such report number exists.
  • The number is associated with a report that describes a different gem.
  • Your report is authentic.

4. Learn Other Signs of a Fake Gem Lab Report

Reputable labs do not assign a value to the gem or carry a retailer’s logo. If either appears on the gem report, the report has not been issued by a reliable, independent gem lab. 

The Takeaway

A gem lab report from an unreliable or nonexistent gem lab is completely worthless. Jewelry owners need to seek the services of a qualified gemologist who also has insurance appraisal training. The AGA maintains an online directory of accredited gemologists that can be sorted by state.

Your jewelry needs to be appraised to be properly insured at the right value. When you purchase new jewelry or receive jewelry as a gift, you should always notify your local independent insurance agent.

Does Your Renters Insurance Cover Stolen Packages?

Most renters insurance policies cover replacement items everywhere, not just at your home. This includes items stolen off your porch or in front of your door. It also covers your laptop if your friend douses it in a latte at the coffee bar. It will even cover luggage that you may have lost on vacation.

woman receiving a package at her front door
Protect your packages with renters insurance and knowledge about your carrier’s claim processes.

However, one thing to consider is the deductible. Some deductibles are either $500.00 or $1,000.00. Since a renter has to pay the deductible, is it even worth filing a claim? If it was a $1,200.00 laptop or television, then it’s worth your time and the cost of the deductible. But if it was a $30.00 child’s toy, it may not be worth your time.

What Steps Should You Take If Something Is Stolen from Your Porch?

Research shows that over 25 million people have packages stolen every year. The majority of carriers have a package tracking system, so you can determine if it was stolen or just delayed. Along with renters insurance, you can use company claims policies to protect both your large and small deliveries. Each carrier has different rules:

United States Postal Service

USPS makes you wait seven days to file a claim. They need to know the sender and recipient addresses, tracking number, package dimensions, and a description of the package’s contents.

Always remember to insure the package. Without this step, the only thing you get back is the cost of the shipping.

FedEx

FedEx lets you or the seller file a claim. They typically cover up to the lesser of $100.00 of the total shipment value or the total amount that you insured it for. FedEx processes claims quickly, so you should receive a payment within a week of filing.

United Parcel Service (UPS)

UPS also has a claim process for lost packages. UPS has online procedures for both lost and damaged packages. You can begin the filing process if you don’t have your package within 24 hours of the anticipated delivery time.

Amazon

Amazon’s A to Z Guarantee for Buyers covers up to $2,500.00 of the purchase price. First, you must contact the seller for a refund. If they are unwilling to work with you, then you can file a claim. However, you must file the claim between 15 and 90 days from the purchase date. If the claim is accepted, you can get a full refund up to the 2,500.00 limit.

If you frequently have packages delivered to your apartment or rented home, or you’re worried about your belongings, renters insurance can help. Contact our team at Vargas & Vargas Insurance to learn more about the benefits of a renters insurance policy from a local service provider.

Tip-Top on the Rooftop

Gravity combined with water can be an enemy to your property. 

Leaking water through even the tiniest of openings in your roof follows the laws of gravity. It will fall downward causing damage on its way to the inner sanctum of your home. 

The good news is that you can prioritize your to spend a little time on the weekend to prevent water from entering your home through your roof.

  1. Gutters.  Get ready for it. Fall is coming and and it’ll be time to clear and clean those gutters!  The thought of hauling oneself up on a ladder on a Sunday morning to claw through the muck of wet leaves and other detritus isn’t appealing.  Mostly, we think of this as a time-consuming activity that could otherwise be spent with our family. 
    In reality, frequent gutter clearing can be done fairly quickly.  It’s when we let the muck pile up that it sucks up our time.   More to the point, when you clean those gutters, you’re conducting a serious prevention campaign!  You’re avoiding the wood rot that happens from built up water that gets into the soffits of your house and under the shingles of your roof.  Once water gets in there, the damage is more severe than clearing out your gutters.
  2. Chimney caulking.  You’ll need to get up on the roof to check closely the caulking around the bricks of your chimney.  The caulking should not have broken or loose pieces and should have a uniform adhesion to the bricks.  Make sure the shingles around the base of your chimney are secure to the roof.   Check the chimney for loose mortar.
  3. Loose shingles.   Especially after a bad storm, taking a walk around your home for a visual inspection of your roof shingles, or, better yet, while you’re up on the ladder cleaning your gutters, can save you costly repairs.  Shingles should not have loose flaps or curled edges. Secure loose shingles and replace damaged or curled shingles.
  4. Overhanging tree branches and limbs.   Anything that’s too close to the roof and large enough can cause roof damage during severe weather, should be trimmed away from your roof.
  5. Ask the Pro.  It can’t hurt to have a professional roof inspection done every few years. Call us for assistance and a referral to an inspector.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

Hopefully you will never need this advice to come to fruition. 
Hopefully you’ll never have a claim. 

But this is what insurance is all about: preparation.  When you prepare for a catastrophe, an accident, a fire or a theft when you buy the right insurance coverage, you’re creating an opportunity to recover.  The money your insurance pays out in the event of a claim is paramount to that recovery. 

There’s one other step to take in your preparation. When you make a claim, often the insurance company sends out a representative to review the damage or the loss and to assess the amount of coverage that should be paid out.  This person is the claims adjustor. 

Never assume the adjustor is looking to provide you with an equitable settlement on your loss or damage.  The best way to get the best financial recovery is to prepare in advance. 

Let’s look at your homeowner’s insurance to prepare for a claim that, hopefully, will never happen.  Walk through your house like a Claims Adjustor would.  Pretend you’re the claims adjuster but with the interest in protecting YOU, the homeowner.

In the event of a theft, you want to show the adjustor the precautions you’ve taken to prevent break-ins to your home.  Is your alarm system properly installed?  Does it have independent power backup?  Are all locks, including those on windows, secure and adequate? 

For the lost valuables, did you prepare with a high-quality inventory of your precious items?  Of all your items that would need to be replaced in the event of a fire?

Do you have photographic evidence to show to a Claims Adjustor?  For very valuable items, did you get a professional appraisal and is that appraisal recent and current?

For damage to the home due to weather including flood*, can you clearly demonstrate that you, the homeowner, took all necessary precautions to protect your home? 

For example, have you diligently cleared large trees or tree limbs that could easily fall on your home?  Have you created storage solutions in the basement of your home to minimize damage to belongings in the event of a water-intrusion event?

Take an hour and do a complete walk-through of your home.  If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll dramatically improve your payout.  That will go a long way to the peace of mind you need to recover.

Call us today to learn about your homeowners insurance and how to protect yourself in the event of an unforeseen claim. Now is the time: before you need your policy to go to work for you.

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.
Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.

3 Things To Do NOW For Your Car Insurance. Number Two Will Shock You!

You’re driving around with the comfort and knowledge that you’re insured in the event of an accident that damages your car, you, or another person or their property. 

Your car needs occasional maintenance and fine tuning; so does your car insurance.  Here are 3 things you can do right now to fine tune, I mean review, with your Independent Insurance Mechanic, I mean Agent.

Improve the quality of your coverage and possibly lower your premiums NOW! 

  1. Uninsured and UNDER insured motorist coverage. 
    The two “Uns” will get you every time when involved in a motor vehicle accident. You’ll want to add this additional protection to your overall insurance policy.  The additional coverage will give you perfect peace of mind and protection against the incidents involving an uninsured motorist or a motorist with insufficient coverage to compensate you for damage to your vehicle or injury to you.

  2. Your collision deductible based on the year of the vehicle. 
    As your car gets older the value decreases.  Too often you’re carrying insurance coverage based on the original value of the car when you first insured it. When you discuss your insurance with your Independent Agent during your annual insurance review, be sure he reconfigures the  current coverage to reflect the current value of the car.

  3. Personal injury protection, also known as PIP coverage.
    This is a component of auto insurance that covers medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault, and often includes lost wages. Depending on the state in which you live, PIP is either an available option or a required policy add-on. It is often called “no-fault” coverage because its inherent comprehensiveness pays out claims regardless of who is at fault in the accident. Don’t get caught without this insurance because you didn’t know it was OPTIONAL vs. MANDATED by state.

Call us today to learn about these coverages and more. Now is the time: before you need your policy to work for you the most. Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Summer Preparedness Part 2: Your Household

Bags are packed; the car is loaded. And away we go!
What fun we’ll have on our vacation.

Pump the brakes!

We don’t want to be a party-pooper, but we want to remind you that while your home is unattended, if something goes wrong while you’re away, you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise upon your return.

Prepare your house while preparing for vacation.  Create a checklist and check off these important items before you leave the house.

Plumbing
It’s always useful when doing a plumbing inspection to run all the faucets in your home at the same time.  Flush all the toilets and work your way from the bottom (basement) of your house up to the top floor(s) checking pipes and surrounding areas. 

Close valves and turn off water supplies to the entire house or to your least-used pipes, such as to the washing machine and water heater.

Consider also turning your water heater to “low” or “vacation” mode. 
Why burn up fuel heating water you’re not using while you’re away from home? Check drains for clear drainage to prevent any backups from unexpected water surges, especially your storm drains.

A quick inspection of all pipes and plumbing systems alerts you to any potential problems.  Do a quick check for leaks, the kind of small leaks you might be missing during your normal day-to-day living, but the kind of small leak that could become a big leak while you’re away.

Electrical
Unplug extension cords.  Unplug appliances. 

Storms can cause electrical surges that can damage your connected appliances, or worse, cause a fire.  Also, look for loose wall plates, loose plugs or any other potential hazard that could create an electrical event and maybe a fire.

Air quality 
How’s the air in your home?  Is there any chance that dampness in the air could create a mold condition while you’re away? Are all the windows closed? 

If you have a dehumidifier, set it up in strategic locations around the house in the weeks before your vacation.

Thermostat
Set the thermostat to a temperature, hot or cold depending on time of year, that doesn’t use unnecessary energy while you’re away.

Technology 
There are smart home devices including security units you can quickly and easily install to help protect your home from interior and exterior threats while you’re away.

Smart locks, home monitoring systems, and apps for your smartphones that allow you to monitor your home from the beach hundreds of miles away are all worthy investments for your holiday peace of mind.

Mail
With a quick visit to your local post office to fill out of a simple form, your mail is held by the Postal Carrier until after your return from vacation.  If you get newspaper delivery, notify your carrier of your pending holiday to hold deliveries while you’re away. Piles of mail and newspaper deliveries attracts vagrants and burglars.

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

How Much is Your Property Worth?

Some possessions in your home are more valuable than others.  These items can be a curated collection, such as fine porcelain figurines, baseball cards or comic books.  Other valuable items can be heirloom jewelry or fine art pieces, including paintings, sketches, and sculptures.

The value of these special items is not defined only by a monetary figure.  There is also the intrinsic value, the emotional value to you.  There is a fond family memory surrounding a particular heirloom object. What about the satisfaction of assembling learning about a particular collection of items, such as sculpted glass paperweights or famous autographs. This can be appraised but cannot be monetized due to the emotional value they hold.

Your homeowners insurance likely only covers a minimal amount of these valuable items, not necessarily covering the true market value in the event of a calamity that damages or destroys these valuable possessions. 

These special items need to be appraised by a professional to create a monetary record of their worth.  The expense of such an appraisal is well worth the cost in the event of a claim against your Homeowners Insurance and your desire to obtain the proper recompense for the damage or loss to these valuables.

There are two avenues to obtain an appraisal of your valuable items.  The first, and possibly less-costly, is to obtain an appraisal through a recognized expert.  For example, a jeweler can complete an appraisal of your heirloom jewelry items.  Likewise, an expert in art, or objets d’ art can be consulted to provide an appraisal opinion for other items you may own.  

The second method is to engage a Certified and Licensed Appraiser.  Typically we think of appraisers as professionals in the real estate trade, to appraise homes.  But Appraisers are trained in specific valuation methodologies.  There is a regimen that Appraisers follow to assemble a high-grade valuation of your personal property.  This regimen is based on professionally-accepted standards necessary for an appraisal to be certified.

While the cost of the latter valuation method may be higher than that of an expert opinion, you may want to incur the higher cost to provide your insurance carrier with the best possible valuation.   If you are using an expert opinion, be sure the documentation they use is acceptable to your insurance carrier.  You don’t want to find out that your carrier will not accept valuation documents when filing a claim.

Call us today to discuss how to appraise the true value of your treasured possessions and how to understand your coverage. That’s what happens when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

The Two Most Effective Steps When You File A Claim

Your Insurance is in place to protect you from risks that may affect your wealth and your health.  When an incident occurs, you’ll want to file your claim in order to receive payment for your loss as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Luckily, there are two easy steps to ensure a smooth claim process.  Best news of all, you can manage these two easy suggestions in a short time, maybe even while you’re binge watching whatever is the latest and greatest on Netflix. 

#1: Paperwork

Gather your insurance policies to an easy-to-find (and easy to remember) location.  You might want to consider scanning your policies to PDFs and saving those on your Smartphone, home computer, or Cloud Storage. 

If you’re saving paper or scanning to PDF, be mindful with how you label each document.  Using the Insurance Carrier’s name along with the purpose of the policy is helpful.  For example, “ABC INSURANCE Homeowners Policy.” 

Use different color post-it notes strategically placed on each paper document to easily flip through multiple policies. If you’re storing PDFs on a computer or Cloud drive, create different folders for each policy and be sure to “rename” each PDF for easy search.  In a pinch you’ll want to quickly locate “XYZ MUTUAL INSURANCE 2017 PONTIAC.”

#2: Photos

Smartphones make it easy to snap photos of your belongings around your home or to grab a quick photo of damage to your vehicle after an incident. Be sure to have the date stamp feature enabled.

In your home, while running your vacuum around or changing the bed linens, snap photos in each room where you have valuable belongings.  Take a photo of the entire room, too, with different angles. Capture clear, up close photos of individual valuables. 

Upload your photos and save to your home computer or Cloud Storage. Or both.

We’d be honored to spend a few minutes with you to discuss how to organize your files, review to see if your valuables are insured properly or to prepare the step-by-step of the “what to do” and “what not to do” after a claim.

When you’re organized in advance, your claim can be processed efficiently. This gets you paid faster in order to begin the repairs.

You can call us now for a free educational moment or to review your existing insurance policies to be sure you’re covered for every eventuality. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

What Happens When the Main Condo Furnace Fails and There is Damage To Your Unit

If your Condominium unit gets its heat from a main furnace controlled and maintained by the Condominium Management, but it’s not part of your unit for which you are responsible, you may have some interesting insurance challenges should the furnace fail during the cold winter months; and you experience damage inside your unit.

When you own a Condo you are covered by two different Insurance policies.  The “Master Policy” for the Condo Building, generally covers all the common areas of the Condo.  It does not cover the inside of your Condo unit.

You insure the interior of your unit with your own insurance policy, typically called a HO-6 policy.  This insurance very much resembles renters’ insurance for apartment-dwellers. The premiums for an HO-6 policy are typically reasonably affordable.  These policies insure you for any claims you may have inside your Condominium unit.

But what happens when the main condo furnace goes out and you have damage in your unit?

We recommend the following as your logical course of action:

1.       Immediately contact the Managing Agent and inquire about filing a claim against the Master Insurance Policy for the Condo.  You should expect that you’ll run into some resistance here from the Insurance carrier for that Master Policy. They’ll attempt to direct you to your own HO-6 Insurance policy since the damage is inside your unit.

Remember, that damage was caused by the main furnace failing.  Stand your ground.

2.       Assuming you are successful in filing a claim against the Master Policy, you still may need to file a claim against your HO-6 policy for the finer points of items that would not covered at all, or not covered to the full extent of value for your precious belongings inside your Condo.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late.

We’re happy to provide a free consultation to review your existing Master Policy and your HO-6 policy.  We want you to know the extent of your existing coverages for your protection and to help assure you of any additional coverages you may need.

The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.