Life Insurance As A Part Of Estate Planning

We all like to fantasize about immortality: we’re invincible in those dreams, and every once in awhile we act the part in our daily lives. Although this remains the truth for most of us, the responsible ones have still put considerable time and money into planning for the future. Who will have control over the estate when you’re not able to do so yourself? What will happen to your assets after you’re gone? In order to retain control while you have the chance, now is the time to answer these questions–even if you’re still young.

Estate planning in the event of your death is not an easy process, nor should it be one. This is about your life and everything you’ve built. While your estate planning attorney goes over the ins and outs of the documents you might consider drawing up, and explains the probate process that you’re helping prepare your family for, he or she might also suggest obtaining a life insurance policy if that’s something you haven’t done already.

Even if you haven’t procured the services of an estate planning lawyer already, you’ve probably been offered the benefit of life insurance at some point in your life. Did you take it when you were first offered? The answer is all too often a resounding “no.” If that’s the case, then a good lawyer might be able to persuade you on behalf of your family. Because you now have the proper legal advice to act upon, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing exactly how much money your family can expect to see based on specific policies, and you’ll know how it might be used in the event of your death.

Without this advice, most of us decide whether or not to buy life insurance as if we were flipping a coin. After all, why spend the money if the benefit isn’t something we’ll ever experience ourselves? Most people who’ve lost a loved one without any financial support can answer that question easily enough, and hopefully you’ll never have to do the same.

When you purchase a policy, there are only a few things to keep in mind. Your lawyer will help you with everything. Who are your beneficiaries? Where are the relevant documents and policies held? These are questions that should be asked during the estate planning phase. Be sure that your potential heirs have as much information as is appropriate. Let them know that you have a policy under which they’re listed. They might also benefit from knowing specific details about the policy, such as the number, the insurer, the value, and any possible date of expiration.

Contact information is also important in order for an insurer to get in touch with a beneficiary in the event that the beneficiary either wasn’t aware of your death, or didn’t know who to contact on their own. With access to this information, your beneficiaries will likely have access to the benefit funds sooner than they would otherwise.

There are a number of circumstances that can change in life, and these can all have an effect on estate planning. Did you get divorced? Did you get married? Did you receive an inheritance of your own? Did you win the lotto? All of these factors are important when considering how to manage your affairs. Be sure that your financial and legal advisors are kept aware and up to date of these key life events.

What Is Renters’ Insurance?

Renters are often under the impression that the landlord’s insurance policy covers their belongings, which it unfortunately doesn’t. The landlord’s policy generally covers the building itself, but might not cover injuries sustained within the structure or even personal belongings. It is why renters’ insurance is so important.

Renters’ insurance covers your personal property in a rented condo, apartment, or home from unexpected circumstances like fire, theft, or sewer backup damage and actually pays for damaged or lost possessions. It can even help protect you from liability in case somebody is injured on your property.

Renters insurance has similar scope to homeowners insurance with the only exception being that it doesn’t offer coverage for the structure itself.

What Does It Cover?

Renters’ insurance provides coverage for the destruction or loss of personal belongings in case of a covered peril including: fire, vandalism, frozen plumbing system, hail, lightning, impact by a vehicle, theft, and windstorms.

Renters insurance may also provide coverage if:

You are temporarily forced to move out of your property: If your property becomes inhabitable due to damage caused by a covered peril like vandalism or fire, renters’ insurance helps cover the cost of alternative living arrangements while repairs are underway.

A person is injured in the property and is in need of medical attention: Personal liability coverage is for protecting you and other people that visit your property in case an accident occurs. It helps pay for legal fees and medical costs you might end up incurring.

Items stored inside your vehicle are lost or damaged: Depending on your specific renters’ insurance policy, you could be covered for the belongings you keep inside your vehicle. However, the coverage does not extend to system or equipment installed in the vehicle.

What Does It Not Cover?

Now that you understand the basics of what renters’ insurance covers, it is also important to understand what it does not cover so that you are adequately prepared. Whether you live in Hollywood or Macomb County, here are some basics that are not covered?:

Home Business: If you operate a small business out of your home, it does not necessarily mean that your renters’ insurance policy will cover it. You need to check with your insurance provider whether your specific policy covers your home business of whether you will require additional coverage.

Valuables: Valuables and expensive collectables like jewelry may not necessarily be covered under your basic renters’ insurance policy and might require additional coverage.

Motorized Vehicles: Ownership or use of a motor vehicle is not covered by the renters’ insurance policy even if it is parked on your property. However, personal belongings kept inside the vehicle are usually covered.

It is important to note that these are not the only things not covered by a renters’ insurance policy. So, ensure that you read through your policy thoroughly to have a better understanding of what is and isn’t covered.

The Bottom Line

It is important to understand exactly what renters’ insurance is so that you are able to decide whether it is something you want. This has been a discussion of what renters’ insurance is, what it covers, and what it does not, so that you can make an informed decision. To learn more about this type of insurance, you should get in touch with a reputable insurance provider today.

Here’s Why Dental Insurance Is Important

If you’re currently weighing up the pros and cons of investing in dental insurance, then this guide is for you. Specifically, we’re going to explore a few reasons why dental insurance is important, so you’ll soon understand why you’re making a smart decision by investing in it.

First of all, it’s safe to say that dental health care can become incredibly expensive, especially if you need to have a lot of work done on your teeth. In fact, having dental implants is one of most expensive procedures you could ever have, but the price of crowns and fillings can soon add up, particularly if you need to have several of them at one time.

Fortunately, dental insurance covers you against these incredibly large costs, so you can simply pay a monthly or annual premium that will cover you for these eventualities.

Additionally, there’s no denying the peace of mind that you will receive when you know you are protected against these big costs, because having to pay a huge dental bill can be very punishing financially if you do not have the cash available when it is needed.

Another excellent reason to invest in dental insurance will be the discounts you will often receive for routine check-ups and preventative treatments. In general, many people avoid visiting the dentist because they’re afraid of what they may find, but by having the dental insurance plan in place, you can visit your dentist knowing that you can cover any large costs that may be required for your ongoing treatment.

Ultimately, this could mean you need less work performed anyway, as your dentist will be able to keep your teeth clean and provide frequent checkups that allow your dental hygiene to be monitored.

At the end of the day, it’s clear to see that investing in a quality dental insurance plan is a very smart thing to do.

Health Insurance Spikes in Price

In the wake of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that effectively revamped the world of health insurance (many argue either for the better or the worse) and the inauguration of the Trump administration and efforts to reform or repeal it in 2017, many new developments have come about as a result – many of which the general public appears to suffer even more greatly.

For those who might be unaware, the Affordable Care Act, in principle, is meant to provide more easily accessible and more thorough and comprehensive health insurance coverage. It attempts to do this with two key changes to the ways health insurance plans are offered: it requires businesses to offer health insurance if that business employs 50 or more individuals (individuals may still defer to an open market), and it requires all health insurance providers to cover 10 health benefits in each of their plans.

The problem with this is that it also mandates all eligible citizens to have some form of health insurance, or it enforces a tax (or penalty – call it what you will) upon them. Many people who found health insurance unaffordable even after the Affordable Care Act was implemented often found that paying the tax afterward was less consequential than paying month-to-month premiums and suffering potentially high-level deductibles. This shift in responsibility for health insurance providers often led to health plans increasing in price on the open market for those who still opted to have them – or simply couldn’t afford not to have them.

Another issue is that, while many people might enjoy the subsidies that the Affordable Care Act provides as a result of the health care reform, there are those who might make a hair too much to qualify. The standards say that a person needs to make more than 400% of the Federal poverty level in order to miss out on government subsidies, and while this may sound like a hefty amount, it actually leaves a significant gap between qualifying for subsidies and being what many of us would consider “well-off.” A one-person household need only make about $48,250 per year, and a two-person household only raises that number to $65,000. Combine that with the fact that lower insurance premiums are (pardon the pun) at a premium due to offsetting immediate costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act, and you have many middle-class households spending the greater bulk of their income on nothing but health insurance.

With more and more healthy people opting out of health insurance to balance out the costs across the spectrum, older working class citizens and those on a fairly limited income are forced to pick up the slack and pay more out of pocket. And those costs only seem to be on the rise for the immediate future. Some may be tempted to blame the free preventive care that the Affordable Care Act provides while it also negates the possibility of being turned down for pre-existing conditions, driving many 2017to their doctors’ offices almost immediately to seek aid for problems that had potentially turned long-term. Whatever the case may be in that regard, health insurance prices spiked around 25% heading into 2017. And many speculate that with the dubbed “Trumpcare” still stalling out in the legislative process, many insurers will be hedging their bets by spiking prices again into 2018. Some have gone so far as to compare premium prices for many health care policies as being on par with mortgage payments or, as one Sharon Thornton put it, “buying two new iPads a month and throwing them in the trash.”

Texas and Insurance Law

Dating back to 2012, Texas has experienced an uprising in insurance claims relating to wind and weather damage – and many of these claims also involved adjusters or attorneys, about a 900 percent increase, according to statistics published from a state Legislature meeting with Texas Department of Insurance, among other alarming statistical increases related to insurance lawsuits released after the February 2017 meeting. This spurred the formation of the Texas Hailstorm Bill, set to take effect at the beginning of September.

One of the most impacting effects that the Hailstorm Bill will address is the high-volume of lawsuits brought upon casualty and property insurers (note that the bill does not affect claims, but lawsuits) by requiring that the insured policyholder give at least 61 days of advanced notice that a lawsuit is even being filed against an insurer. This is meant to give the insurer time to address the issue directly with a chance of settling it outside of the court system. What some may consider a detriment, however, is that interest rate payouts that normally apply to policyholders should their insurer fail to comply with Chapter 542 of the Texas Insurance Code will be heavily reduced, from 18% to 10%.

Many speculate that this Hailstorm Bill will only add headaches to the process of filing lawsuits for insurance companies that some claim are abusing their policyholders. Bob Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, believes, “it is less likely that lawyers would want to take even good cases.”

Though the new law seems to be implemented to protect insurance companies from a slew of lawsuits, Hunter believes that many insurers act appropriately anyway, thus limiting the law’s overall impact as it would only serve to protect the abusive insurers if it serves at all.

Hunter also notes, however, that there is great need for reform and restructuring beyond the Hailstorm Bill, making particular note of the National Flood Insurance Program which falls under Federal authority. He mentions the need to update flood zone maps and allowing rates to rise and meet the actuarial, something for which he holds Congress responsible.

Hunter, a former Chief Actuary for the NFIP, cites experience from the likes of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy as well. “…there will be a lot of lawsuits filed ultimately, because there is always trouble after these major events.” He says the Hailstorm Bill will only bring about a second crisis when everything has settled from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey.

Others claim that the Hailstorm Bill is a necessity to fend off suit-happy lawyers and contractors that may not get immediate attention following the devastation of weather-related events such as Harvey as well as encourage out-of-state insurance adjusters to come and work in Texas in the aftermath of the horrible event to meet with the demand of insurance claims that will need to be settled. There is also argument that Texas still maintains high standards in regard to insurance claims (as well as lawsuits, stating that policyholders may claim as much as three times the full amount of coverage following fraudulently-acting insurers or insurers that act in bad faith), and the law makes no impact on those claims being filed, nor does it impose any sort of deadlines on behalf of the first-party policyholder.

How Can We Make Health Insurance More Reliable?

The recent attempts by Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act or ACA) have failed completely even after years of unanimous Republican votes to axe the individual health insurance mandate. One thing both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is this: the ACA isn’t bad at its heart, but it isn’t working as well as promised. Something certainly needs to be done to fix the new healthcare system–especially before a new wave of attacks can perhaps dismantle it for good. But what can we do? Here are a few of the more controversial initiatives that lawmakers have come up with so far.

Some have called for Medicare to open its gates to new recipients starting at age 55 instead of the current 65 in order to help offset some of the costs of rising insurance as people get older and sicker. This program is already extraordinarily expensive, and a lot of other lawmakers don’t want to see those costs rise even more.

Then again, Independent Bernie Sanders has called for a Medicare-for-all bill, and plans to introduce it soon. It almost definitely won’t pass, but that’s not necessarily its primary goal. Sanders is a workhorse when it comes to finding ways of increasing public awareness of newer, more progressive ideas that could benefit everyone. He believes that Americans have the right to free healthcare, and he wants more Americans to become open to the idea. That way, sometime in the future his dreams might actually turn into a reality.

One of the ACA’s most popular moves was allowing young people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance. But some policymakers want to remove that provision altogether, instead moving those same young people to an individual market instead. Even though this was good for the kids and their parents, it wasn’t necessarily good for the markets. In order to have a healthy pool for insurance markets, you need as many people buying in as possible. When kids are on their parents’ policies, that means you actually have less people buying in even though more are covered. This is something that surely needs to be addressed, and soon. The longer we wait, the more costs rise.

The ACA promised a healthy marketplace for insurance, but that promise fell through. There isn’t enough competition to keep insurance rates as low as we’d like, and so other lawmakers are trying to introduce legislation that would force insurers who take advantage of certain other programs to provide fair marketplace coverage in exchange.

Another controversial idea is allowing people to pay premiums using their HSA contributions. These HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) are often used in conjunction with insurance plans with high deductibles to help people pay them when they need to. The money they put into these accounts cannot be taxed by the government, and so it would be especially beneficial to use this money to pay premiums. The problem is, where does that leave out-of-pocket expenses for that same high-deductible account when a health problem arises?

Although some controversial plans are currently being discussed, one thing is certain: there are no easy alternatives, and the machine used to run health insurance is complex and difficult to maintain or fix.

WHAT MIGHT TRUMPCARE DO TO INSURANCE MARKETS?

It started as ObamaCare.

Now TrumpCare is being threatened, though no one seems to have much idea what it will look like. And with all the relative volatility calming down of late, would any adjustments to the Affordable Care Act send the insurance market into more chaotic turmoil?

In the aftermath of the Republican-controlled Congress failing on its best chance to repeal ObamaCare – which the GOP had campaigned on in each of the last three congressional election cycles since the CA was signed into law in 2010 – the Trump Administration has been working on moving on from ObamaCare repeal and was instead working on making ObamaCare more palatable while all the evidence shows it was collapsing in its current form.

Where legal, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is working to ease some of the regulatory burden on consumers and insurers to make the ACA truly more affordable. However, just as that happens, President Trump has been threatening to take away the federal subsidies that insurance companies receive to help mitigate the huge premium increases that have happened every year since the law went into full effect.

Insurance companies have been pulling out of the various state and federal exchanges in order to mitigate losses, and that meant several counties nationwide having either zero or one insurance company in the exchanges, severely limiting options for consumers. And now with the threat of subsidies being removed, that may send the entire insurance industry into an accelerated death spiral, as premiums would likely increase more exponentially to cover the lost subsidy money.

Would that move collapse the insurance market, or open up more competition and perhaps lower prices for insurance? And what about the insurance mandate, which Trump has said would get repealed? If insurance companies don’t get subsidies, and people aren’t going to be penalized for not buying insurance, could the insurance market survive with this stretching out of the universe of consumers?

The latest about health-care has Trump looking to move away from his campaign promise of repealing and replacing the ACA, to now talking with a bipartisan group of congressional members about a “fix” of ObamaCare – though there are no details about what that fix may entail. And of course it leads to the question of whether the law will actually be “fixed” in a way that will favor consumers, or “fixed” in favoring a certain agenda toward either more free-market insurance markets or a lurch into single-payer, socialized healthcare.

Now that Trump’s promise of repeal seems to be off the table, TrumpCare now looks like it might be a “fixed” version of ObamaCare. The real question is whether that fix will be for the benefit of consumers  or for the government. There is no middle ground.

The insurance marketplace was just starting to stabliize after six years, but then the uncertainty of repeal now being replaced by “fix” options. With some insurance companies actually doing a little better now than before (more because of pulling out of individual exchanges to shed costs, rather than gaining more customers), more uncertainty is sure to keep the market on its toes and in continual chaos for the foreseeable future. Chaos is not good for consumers, nor for the economy.

TEXANS HOLDING HARVEY VICTIMS BACK?

Hurricane Harvey in Houston is natural, organic alliteration. So is a terrible tragedy in Texas.

The devastation wrought by Harvey in and around the Houston area was breathtaking, and the full damage may still be assessed even higher than the currently reported death and property-damage totals. But to say tens of billions of dollars is not an outrageous estimate.

Insurance companies – and the government, which supplies flood insurance – have been inundated with property-insurance claims out of Texas because of Harvey, but also are seeing additional claims start to roll in from Florida following the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma over the past week.

In Texas, lawmakers might have handcuffed Texas residents before hurricane season, as a new law went into effect at the start of September that reformed insurance lawsuits in the state. Back in the spring, before the hurricane season started or there was any indication of a major hurricane hitting the Texas Gulf coast, the Texas Legislature passed a bill limiting the interest that insurance companies would owe if they were sued regarding slow or non-payment of property-insurance claims.

The bill reduced the interest payment by 44 percent, lowering the rate from 18 percent down to 10 percent. Just before the law went into effect, a Texas lawmaker asked the governor to bring the Legislature back into special session to address the law and delay its implementation in the wake of Harvey. The argument was that insurance companies would have less incentive to pay claims promptly knowing that their interest penalties would be far less than before.

A lawyer (of all people!) was trying to encourage people who suffered losses from Harvey to file an intent to file lawsuit claim before the September 1st deadline, though not nearly enough time had passed to expect reasonable claim payments in the wake of Harvey, as it had just passed through the area and many areas were still flooded as of the end of August.

Considered an aspect of tort reform, the goal of the bill was supposed to eliminate frivolous lawsuits against insurance companies which already suffer losses by fulfilling claims and then have to invest even more money to defend themselves against impatient policyholders. With lowering the interest cost to 10 percent, they argued, would be enough to keep some plaintiffs from filing a suit for delayed claim payments because the penalty for the insurance company wouldn’t be quite as painful.

Those who opposed the bill, or are pushing for a delay in implementation currently, are looking to give Harvey victims maximum flexibility to make sure they get their claims settled as quickly as possible, and they should have the freedom and opportunity to file lawsuits over excessive delays in settling claims. After all, time is money, as they say.

As he law is now in effect, it will be interesting to see how Harvey and the law affect the numbers of insurance-claim lawsuits in the wake of the storm.  Here is hoping that the help from other private citizens will ease the burden on insurance companies, and these companies will rise up and pay their claims quickly. The longer they take and the more legal fees they rack up, the higher all of our insurance premiums will rise to cover these devastating losses.

Do College Students Need Renters Insurance?

One of the things that we usually don’t think enough about when we shuffle our kids off to college is the atmosphere in which they’re placed. Sure, we know about all the trouble they’re going to get into and we’re certainly going to be worried about the consequences (since we know they won’t be), but how safe is their living space from those who would do it harm? Do they have any protections in place in case of fire or theft or anything else on a long list of things that could go wrong in a college environment? The answer might surprise you. The dorm itself probably isn’t going to provide your children with any protections.

First of all, know the stats: Out of 100,000 college students, about 800 will report a theft overall. That’s an average. If your student is enrolled at The University of California in San Francisco, then the rate balloons to over 13,000 for every 100,000 of its students–but that’s at the high end. If your student is enrolled at another college, the rate might be much smaller.

Most students who report a crime at college report theft. Stolen goods account for 41 percent of all claims. Another 12 percent of lost goods are taken by electrical failure, while 12 percent are destroyed by water. 6 percent of lost goods mysteriously disappear. It is college after all.

It’s also worth mentioning that these are only reported thefts. Your kids might not feel inclined to report any wrongdoing on campus for a number of reasons. Let’s say they’re smoking marijuana in the dorm–they might not feel like chancing a visit from the police. If they’re keeping fluffy the kitten in the dorm against college policy, then no one’s getting past that door without breaking in (again). Then again, if your kids don’t even know their valuables are protected by renters insurance, then they’ll be less likely to report a crime.

That’s why you might consider making sure your child is insured while in college. If you do decide to insure, however, then make sure you tell them about it. Otherwise it might not even matter.

You’ll also be happy to know that even at college your child might already be covered by your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. Your policy could cover a child living on-campus, but chances are it won’t cover a child living off-campus. If your kid gets his or her own place, then they’ll probably need a separate policy. Be sure to check. Insurance agencies are only willing to extend coverage so much, and surprise surprise: most people are less likely to consider filing for insurance if a student is living on-campus.

You should also take into consideration the worth of everything that your child brings to college. Computers, media, cash, jewelry, clothing, etc. It might not seem like much when you pack it into the car every semester, but the monetary value of those things can add up surprisingly fast. Is a renters insurance policy worth the added cost? It just might be. If you’re not sure, you can always research the statistics specific to your child’s school and make the decision for yourselves.

Do I Really Need Health Insurance?

Good health is a right bestowed on us by our Creator.

Health insurance is there to help cover many of the expenses that come with what we sometimes need to keep ourselves healthy. But with the American health-insurance market in a shambles by many reports, the question does arise: Do I really need health insurance after all, or am I better off paying the “tax penalty” for not having coverage according to the Affordable Care Act?

There is an expectation for everyone to have health insurance, but whether you need it individually depends on your situation.

First of all, health insurance does not guarantee you health care. It is not a voucher for health care – you can always get health care whenever you need it. The key word here is “insurance” – which means it exists to pay for major costs that might otherwise bankrupt your family yet is deemed necessary for your health (major surgery such as a transplant, cancer treatments, etc.).

Before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, many people had two kinds of policies that fit the bill in protecting families from huge expenses from major doctor and hospital costs – the Health Savings Account, and a catastrophic-coverage policy that covered major medical events and emergencies. Thanks to the ACA, these types of policies have been greatly restricted and even eliminated in some markets.

If you are currently sitting down and thinking about or discussing health coverage and whether it is a need in your household budget, consider asking yourself some questions:

  • What is your annual household income?
  • Do you have debts (including a mortgage)?
  • Do you have a medical history?
  • Do you have an emergency fund of savings (four to six months of expenses)?
  • Do you have children? How many, and ages?
  • What is the health history of your children?
  • Do you have a religious or moral objection to health insurance?
  • What is the value of your assets?

There is a lot of commentary that health insurance is a necessity, even for regular checkups and routine follow-up exams. Believe it or not, cash can go a long way to keep medical costs down, and regular office visits and check-ups are not so expensive as to challenge family budgets. Whether you need insurance depends on your personal situation based on the questions above.

While insurers are required to pay for follow-up care as well as annual checkups, you don’t need insurance for those events. Some compare health insurance to car insurance, which is only similar in that it is supposed to protect your assets from large bills or lawsuit judgments. But if you have a large enough income, sizable savings and a lot of assets, you could be considered “self-insured,” which means you won’t need health insurance. Also, if you use alternative methods of health care outside of modern medicine (such as acupuncture, chiropractic, Christian Science or other faith-based healing treatments), you won’t necessarily need health insurance either, as many of these alternative providers don’t take health insurance or their treatments are inexpensive and can be covered in family budgets.

Insurance comes down to your household and whether you want to protect your “stuff” in order to keep your family healthy. This is something that will involve an honest discussion with a financial planner who can walk you through your financial situation and can help you determine if the government-compliant health insurance is truly necessary.