You don’t need us to tell you that losing a loved one is difficult. The realization that the presence of your close friend or family member will no longer be in your life is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to go through. And on top of it all, the number of responsibilities and decisions that follow make the already-difficult time that much more challenging. We’ve all been there. Here at Berry Insurance, we’ve all experienced the deaths of our own loved ones, but we also hear from clients (way more often than we’d like to) about deaths of their family members. And while we can’t help those clients navigate the entire death and grief process, we are certainly able to provide some peace of mind and assistance with the insurance end of things. Below, we’ll outline how insurance is affected by a policyholder’s death, and what insurance steps you’ll need to take during specific scenarios. When a spouse dies: When a married person dies, their spouse is generally the one handling their affairs. Because most insurance policies are shared by a married couple, the insurance may not change much, but some factors do need to be adjusted. At the very least, if your spouse dies, you should contact your insurance agent or carrier as soon as you are able to notify them of the death so they are aware and know if they have to make any changes or review any coverages on their end. While it may make sense to assume your insurance agent should remove your deceased spouse’s name from your insurance policy once you notify them, this usually isn’t the case (at least not right away.) For auto insurance, you can remove the deceased from auto coverage (which might save you a little money), but you shouldn’t completely remove them from your auto policy until there are no longer any vehicles registered in their name. If you’re keeping your spouse’s vehicle, you will need to re-register it and re-title it in your name, then you can remove him or her from the policy. If you are selling the car, you will need to make sure it is sold and registered to the new owner before removing your spouse from your policy. If you are keeping the home you lived in with your spouse, you will need to make sure your deceased spouse is first removed from the deed to the home before removing them from the home insurance policy. Once they are no longer on the deed, you can simply remove them from your home insurance and keep making payments to the premium as usual. If you are selling the home, you would simply keep the policy as is until it is sold, then cancel the insurance policy. When you’re managing a single person’s estate: When you are managing the estate of an unmarried person (like a single parent, family member, or friend) you will need to make changes to both their home insurance and car insurance. Home insurance: If someone dies and you’re in charge of their estate, you should notify their insurance company as soon as possible. Whether the home is vacant, rented out, or occupied by the child, the policy will need to be rewritten to reflect the changes to the status of the home. Note: there is a chance the new policy will cost more under your name than it did under the previous owner’s because of new risks. For example, if the house is vacant, you can expect a higher premium due to a higher risk of theft, vandalism, and damage. If you are selling the home, notify the insurance carrier of your plans to cancel the policy. A notice of cancellation takes 30 days, so if the home sells within 30 days, you are all set. If the sale process extends beyond 30 days, you’ll need to rewrite the coverage in your name so it is covered until it sells. Car insurance: So what about their car? If you’re managing the property of someone after their death, are you even covered if you drive the car? What changes do you have to make before you sell or take ownership of the vehicle? If you (or any other driver) is listed on the deceased’s car insurance policy, of course you are able to drive the car. You will just need to contact the insurance company to inform them of the insured’s death so they can be removed from coverage on the policy. Again, if the car is in the deceased’s name, it will need to be re-registered and re-titled before you can remove them from the policy altogether. If you are not listed on the car insurance policy, you would not be covered under the car insurance policy, unless you add yourself as an operator on the insurance policy. If you plan to use the vehicle for any reason, it may make sense to add yourself as an operator. Normally, people not listed on policies can drive someone’s vehicle with permission, but since deceased vehicle owners can’t give permission, those not listed on the policy are not covered. To avoid any risks of not being covered, our suggestion is to simply not drive the car until you contact the insurance company. If you plan on keeping the car, you’ll need a new insurance policy and they’ll need to transfer registration and ownership. As someone managing the estate, you will need to provide power of attorney documentation so they can ensure you are in fact able to make insurance changes on behalf of the deceased. What about life insurance? Life insurance is also directly affected by the death of the policyholder. After all, it’s kind of the point of the insurance in the first place. Life insurance provides financial security to the family of the policyholder if he or she passes away. The funding paid out to the beneficiary of a policyholder may be used for funeral costs, debt payments, continuation of the policyholder’s income, college savings for children, and other final expenses. If you’re a beneficiary of a life insurance policy of someone who died, you might be wondering when and how you’ll receive the policy proceeds. Following the death, you should reach out to the insurance agent or life insurance company of the policy to inform them of the death as soon as you are able to. You will usually have to provide a copy of the death certificate and may have to fill out a form or answer some questions. Usually you get the option to choose whether you want to be paid a lump sum, or in installments and whether it is paid through a check or electronically. Generally, you can expect to get the payout roughly 30-60 days after filing the claim. There may be more, uncommon insurance steps you need to take This guide is by no means the end-all-be-all guide of what to do after your loved one dies. Each person is so individual and your loved one may have unique, less common types of insurance like recreational vehicle insurance, pet insurance, or flood insurance that you may need to either switch to your name or suspend, depending on what you’re doing with their property. Feel free to reach out to us for more detailed guidance of how to handle the insurance of your loved one. While we can’t make you feel completely better during this tough time, you can be sure we will guide you through the insurance process, and even take on much of it ourselves. After all the hassle of post-death tasks is complete, you may be wondering how you can ease the burden on your family when your time comes (a long time from now, of course.) Check out this article When are the Best and Worst Times to Get Life Insurance to see if a life insurance policy is right for protecting your family.
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Did you know June 28th is National Insurance Awareness Day? OK, OK — we realize not everybody is as insurance-obsessed as us, and you probably didn’t know that. But here at Berry Insurance, basically every day is insurance awareness day … we practically live and breathe it. But, we understand that most of the population doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, your insurance is probably something you aren’t thinking about very often at all. However, our lives are always changing. That’s kind of the point of life. So you need to make sure you’re keeping up with those changes and adjusting your insurance accordingly. Let’s talk about why you should be reviewing your home/renters/condo and auto insurance annually, and what you should be considering when reviewing it. Reasons to review your insurance: For most personal insurance, your agent or carrier will automatically renew your policy every year. Before this renewal, it is essential you review your coverages to make sure everything from the year before is still accurate, and that you have the best coverage for the best price. Let’s dive a little deeper into why annual reviews are so important. You might not have adequate coverage A lot changes in a year. We’ll get into some of those potential changes below, but even the smallest development in your life could cause a gap in coverage. Annual reviews will examine all areas of your life to make sure you have the proper coverages and limits on your home/renters/condo and car insurance. Imagine for example, that you added a pool to your property this year. If you renewed your policy without adding coverage for your pool, a number of things could go wrong. A storm comes and damages your pool? Insurance might not cover that damage. One of your children’s friends gets hurt in the pool? You might not have the proper coverage to pay for the medical bills. Annual reviews will also identify if your life changes warrant any new types of insurance, such as life insurance. You might be missing out on savings Aside from not having the proper coverage, by not reviewing your personal insurance, you might actually be paying more than you need to for this coverage. Reviewing your current situation will help your insurance agent or carrier make sure you are paying the right price for your coverage. There are also a number of discounts you can take advantage of to save on personal insurance, so during your annual review, your agent can make sure you are getting all applicable discounts. Things that might yield changes in your policies So now that you understand the importance of annual insurance reviews, let’s go over some of the areas that will actually be reviewed. There are a number of life changes that can influence your insurance. You’ve made changes to your home or property Remodels, additions, decks/sheds/pools, kids playsets, trampolines, etc. — all of these changes could affect your insurance in a number of ways. You probably put a lot of time and money into these changes, so you’ll certainly want to make sure you have proper coverage for them. Also, items causing additional risks like pools, playsets, and trampolines need to be factored into your premium. It may seem like a pain, but if your insurance company thinks you’re more likely to have a claim due to one of these items, you may have to pay a little more. In fact, certain insurance carriers will not insure homes with trampolines because of the risk, so you may even need to change your carrier. You’ve made a big purchase If you’ve made a big purchase or inherited an expensive item, you may need to raise your limits on the personal property section of your home insurance, or schedule the item on your policy. Scheduling an item provides the security of knowing that item will be covered in full, and not limited by personal property restrictions, because oftentimes, your home insurance will limit the amount the insurance company will pay for certain categories of items. For example, if you have a $5,000 jewelry limit on your policy, but have $10,000 worth of jewelry, you can schedule the items of jewelry to ensure they would receive full coverage if there was a claim. Your marital status has changed If you get married (or divorced), that is something your insurance company should know about. Sometimes, marital status can increase or decrease your insurance rates (specifically auto). You’ve had a baby It goes without saying when you have a baby, your life changes a lot, so your insurance agent should know about it. You may want to increase your home insurance limits to include all your new baby-related belongings. A new baby is also a great time to make sure you buy life insurance to initiate a financial safety net for your family. You got a new pet Even if your pet is well behaved and wouldn’t hurt a fly, your insurance company will consider it an additional risk. Be sure to inform your agent of your new pet so they can factor it into your policy and make sure you have adequate coverage. It may also be a great time to consider pet insurance. If you work with Berry Insurance, our Chief Barketing Officer, Shredder will welcome your pet to the agency by sending a special gift. You’ve added or removed a driver Depending on their driving records and each insurance company’s individual algorithm, adding or removing a driver from your car insurance policy can affect your premium rates in either direction. You’ve added new uses to your vehicle Is anyone on your auto policy newly using a vehicle for work? Did anyone start offering ride sharing services like Uber/Lyft. If that’s the case, your car insurance policy will need to include an indication that a car is being used for business use. If not, an incident that occurs while the driver is technically working may not be covered. You’ve purchased a new vehicle Have you purchased any antique/classic cars or motorcycles? Have you purchased any recreational vehicles? (travel trailers, RVs, campers, golf carts)? While you may not immediately realize it, all types of vehicles need to be added to your insurance policy. Without being included on your policy, any incidents occurring to or from that vehicle won’t be covered. Don’t forget to look ahead: When considering your insurance plan for the next 12 months, you should also be thinking about if you’re anticipating any life changes in those next 12 months. If you’re proactive in updating your insurance, you won’t need to worry about potentially not being covered when those life changes occur. Let us do the thinking for you We know you’re busy. It might feel like trying to remember to think about one more thing every year could send you off your rocker. Fortunately, if you are one of our clients, we can do the thinking about your annual insurance reviews for you. Independent insurance agencies like us usually monitor all our client accounts and reach out to schedule account reviews. After all, we want to make sure you have the best coverage at the best price. But, if you want to get a head start and prepare for one of these reviews, feel free to download this checklist with everything you need to consider about changes in your life that could affect your personal insurance.
Whether you just bought a new home (congratulations!) or are just looking over your existing policy, you may be wondering “Why is my coverage amount more or less than my home value? How much home insurance do I actually need? Shouldn't my policy coverage just cover the market value of the house?"