Important Document Organization Can Save Time, Money and Grief

Consumer Reports’ blog had a great article today about having your documents  organized in case of emergency.  I’m reproducing their included table here and linking to them.  I figure if maybe I link enough times they won’t ask me to remove it.

The  good news is that I already do most of this.  Spending so many y ears as an insurance agent I saw the value in these preparations.   Something I also recommended that I don’t see here is a written and video inventory of your possessions, including as much detail as possible (where bought, how  much paid) expecially for the big ticket items.

TYPE OF STORAGE DOCUMENT(S) KEEP A COPY? WHERE TO STORE DUPLICATE?
SAFE-DEPOSIT BOX Birth and death certificates; marriage license; adoption, citizenship, divorce papers Yes Home file
Inventory and photos of household property Yes Home file
Deeds, titles, bills of sale, car title, mortgage Yes Home file
List of location of important papers Yes Home file
HOME FILE CABINET Tax returns; supporting documents for past 3 to 7 years No
Passport No
Bank-account information Yes Friend’s or relative’s home or at your office
Insurance policies No
List of all assets, including brokerage and mutual-fund accounts, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, real property, and employee-benefit accounts Yes Friend’s or relative’s home or at your office
ATTORNEY’S OFFICE Will, durable power of attorney Yes Home file and executor or personal representative
Funeral instructions Yes Friend or relative
Living will, health-care power of attorney Yes Home file, physician, personal representative
Location of safe-deposit box Yes Joint owner, friend, or relative
WALLET Driver’s license or other photo I.D. yes Home file
Auto insurance card Yes In car
Emergency contacts No
Blood type, list of allergies, medications No

I don’t know about you, but I know it would help calm me in the time of an emergency to know that much of the information I need is safe and sound, organized and easily accessible.  And when we lose someone we love our grief is tempered slightly by the knowledge that they cared enough to prepare and make the logistics of dealing with the aftermath as easy as possible.

Go forth and organize!

Sure, We’ll Pay You for Not Delivering the Car…

My father sold my stepmother’s 1999 BMW (in excellent condition, with only 40,000 miles) to my sister and had it transported to Connecticut. Everything was going great until they got to Texas. On a lonesome highway somewhere near Abilene (Okay, I don’t know where in Texas it happened but doesn’t that sound good?) the transporter caught fire and the BMW was destroyed (along with several other vehicles).

That really stinks, doesn’t it? My Dad contacted his insurer. They’ll pay him for the car and then subrogate against the trsansporter’s insurer to get their money back, as they should.

Carey’s Auto Transport is very sorry. So sorry that today they sent my Dad an invoice for the $1320 for the transport.

You know, the transport that didn’t get to Connecticut. The one that only got to Texas…

Them are some mighty big kahunas, aren’t they? After all, they only transported it half way…

Not that THAT matters, as they DESTROYED the CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Dad was under the impression that he might have to pay them in order to get the insurance settlement. The answer to that is a big fat NO.

I’m waiting to see a copy of the contract, but even if the contract says “even if we blow up your car you still have to pay us” it would be a cold day in El Azizia before I’d write that check.

This is going to get interesting.

Why You Should Consider a Personal Liability Umbrella

My father is part-owner of an apartment complex where tenants are not permitted to have pets. The complex was sued by a woman who was bitten by a dog that was owned by a friend of a tenant, and the bite happened in a park across the street from the apartments.

No way she’d win, right?

Wrong.

It burns me. It really burns me. The woman’s attorney successfully argued that because a brochure for the apartment complex had a picture of the park and mentioned that it was across the street from the apartments that the complex made it a defacto part of the complex. The woman was award over $300,000 for a very minor bite, plus attorney fees.

It is just so wrong, on so many different levels.

But that’s a corporation, right? Not something us individuals need to worry about, is it?

I think we do need to worry about it.

We live in a litigious society (though I have high hopes that somewhere, perhaps in Utah, it may be slightly less litigious than it is here in South Florida). In the first five minutes after I met one of my neighbors she mentioned three people she was suing (you can bet she has never been invited inside my house!).

The example I gave is of a corporation that got shafted, but ordinary citizens have to defend themselves against lawsuits every day of the week.

Everyone knows about cases like these:

  • Kids Play – One person kneels behind another and a third pushes the “victim” over. In a recent case three 10-year olds were the players. One child broke his arm and the other two were sued. The case cost the kneeling boy $100,000 and the one who did the pushing $195,000.
  • The Clumsy Worker – A 40-year-old window washer broke his heel in a fall after a downspout he was holding onto broke away from the house on which he was working. Although the worker was found partially responsible, the fall cost the homeowner $1.2 million.
  • The Accidental Athlete – A 22-year old suffered permanent eye damage when he was struck by a golf
    ball. He sued claiming that the golfer who hit the ball had failed to look out for other players. The errant shot cost the golfer $160,000.
  • Not-So-Funny Ski Bunny – A professional dancer suffered permanent knee damage — an end to her
    career—when she was knocked down on a beginner’s ski slope. She offered to settle for the $300,000 covered by the defendant’s insurance, but was rebuffed. The case went to trial, where it cost the defendant $2.2 million.
  • Pool Tragedy – At an end-of-school swim party, a 16-year old dove and hit his head on the bottom of the pool. He became a quadriplegic, and the case resulted in a $1.5 million settlement against the homeowner.

Then there are the car accidents where someone is seriously, permanently injured, or the damage to the house down the street when your kid throws three dozen eggs at it on Mischief Night.

Horrible things. Such tragedies.

If I’m responsible I want to have the money to help people who are hurt – it’s the right thing to do. And if it’s a frivolous lawsuit I want to be able to defend myself without going bankrupt. We think that because we’re right, morally right, common sense-ally right, we’ll win. Not necessarily. Very not necessarily. And that’s shocking, isn’t it?

Whether I’m responsible or not I don’t want to have to give up everything I own to defend myself or pay a judgment. The way I see it we’ve worked way, waaaay too hard to stay out of debt and build up our savings and a few assets to give it all away to someone else. So, that’s why I think I’m finally going to buy a Personal Liability Umbrella.

A Personal Liability Umbrella policy provides an extra layer of liability coverage (usually starting at $1 million) over and above what the limit of liability on each of your underlying personal liability policies (i.e. homeowners, personal automobile, boat-owners, motorcycle, etc).

The policy covers “personal injury” liability such as bodily injury, property damage, sickness, disease, disability, mental anguish, false imprisonment, wrongful entry, libel, slander, humiliation, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, etc. The coverage is often broader than what would be covered on your underlying policy, as a typical Homeowners policy covers only “bodily injury” and “property damage” liability. So, if for example you are sued for making an allegedly libelous statement about someone in the newspaper, that would be excluded by your underlying Homeowners policy, but covered by the Personal Liability Umbrella policy, up to the limit of the policy.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of a Personal Liability Umbrella is the coverage for the cost of defense of lawsuits. In addition to the $1 million liability, most Personal Liability Umbrella policies also pay for defense of suits that are not payable by the underlying policies, all expenses incurred by the insurance company, all costs taxed against the insured, premiums for appeal bonds, reasonable expenses incurred by the insured at the insurance company’s request, and interest on unpaid judgments.

The cost? About the same as one hour of an attorney’s time per year. One hour.

So, who should have one?

  • Do you own your home or condo?
  • Do you have children?
  • Is there a teenage driver in the family?
  • Do babysitters or cleaning people work in your home?
  • Do you have a swimming pool?
  • Do you ever leave your home in the care of a housesitter?
  • Do you regularly ferry other people’s kids around in your car?
  • Do you have a dog, snake, ferret or other pet?
  • Are you active in sports, such as golf, biking, skiing, or mountain climbing? Do you own a boat?
  • Do you own rental property?

In most cases, the more often you answer yes, the more likely you need an Umbrella policy. But for some people, one “yes” answer is all it takes. For example, lots of people who can’t sell their homes in the current market are renting them to others. I would absolutely, positively not even consider renting out any property I own without having an Umbrella in place.

Talk to your insurance agent for some more info. Most companies will only write the policy if you have your home and/or auto insured with them. And I may have to increase my auto coverages to qualify for one (my company requires that my auto liability limits be $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident), but that’s okay.

Now I won’t have to worry if someone leaves my house with a cup of hot coffee in their crotch, spills it and sues me. Because, you know, I was really losing a lot of sleep worrying about that.

The preceding information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

Did you like this article? Be sure to check out my other articles on insurance:

Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have

Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart

Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them

Procrastination is a fifteen letter word

Procrastination is something I keep putting off getting a handle on.

The funny thing is that I absolutely hate having things hanging over my head. I can’t stand having dishes sit in the sink. If I need to purchase a gift I usually do it weeks in advance – and the wrapping is almost always done at least a few days ahead of time. Pay a bill? Almost always done days or weeks in advance, and always, always on time.

Lord knows I get angry with my husband for putting things off to the last possible moment. It drives me nuts.

Yet there are things that I let wait and linger and float somewhere in my consciousness for days, weeks, months or years.

Today I called my insurance company to ask why two claims hadn’t been paid. One was from January. The other was from 2005.

Gawd, that was embarrassing to type.

It’s not that I hadn’t thought about it. Once a week or so. It’s just that I was either too tired, or too lazy, or too busy. Or I just wasn’t in the mood for a fight.

So, I gave my insurance company a nearly $500 interest-free loan.

Until today.

Remind me not to do that again, k?

Except that there are lots of things still hanging. I can barely see the sky.

Sigh.  There’s always tomorrow.

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