Customize your coverage with home insurance riders

If you have valuables in your home like jewelry or artwork, you’ll likely need an insurance rider (also known as an endorsement or scheduled personal property) added to your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Most homeowners insurance policies have limited coverage on high-value items, so insurance riders provide the protection you need if your items are damaged, lost, or stolen.

Here are a few things in your home you might find worthy of added protection:

  • Artwork, antiques, and collectibles – Standard homeowner coverage limits are typically set around $2,000 for artwork and other special collections. If you’re a collector, get an appraisal to determine your collection’s value. 
  • Firearms – If you have a high-value firearm or gun collection, you may want a rider. Your insurer may request serial numbers and other specifics for each gun and will likely require that guns are stored securely. 
  • Electronics – Coverage for your computer equipment, high-end cameras, and gaming systems may be limited. Standard coverage is generally $5,000 or less. If you’re a true technophile, add up the value of your electronics and check it against your policy limits. 
  • Jewelry – A standard homeowners policy may cover about $2,000 for jewelry. If you have a larger collection or want to protect a piece against damage, loss, or theft, a jewelry rider might be right for you, protecting your valuables when standard coverage does not apply. If you lose your wedding ring in the garden, for example, that loss is typically not covered by a standard policy.

The best insurance coverage begins by talking with your agent about what kind of coverage makes sense for you. Find a trusted insurance agent today to start the conversation. 
A special note on depreciated and replacement value: Some policies may insure your household items at their depreciated value, or what something is worth at its current age. With this type of policy, if your 10-year-old bedroom set is lost in a fire, you would not receive the full amount you paid at the time of purchase. 

Other policies provide replacement value. That means you’ll receive the full cost to buy a new item of similar quality. Talk to your agent and find out what type of coverage you have. You may be able to purchase a rider that offsets depreciation.  

Also, some policies require an appraisal in order to get a rider on high-value items. Keep an up-to-date home inventory, and store copies of your receipts and appraisals in a secure, off-site location like a safe deposit box or the cloud

Winter car seat safety: 5 tips to keep kids warm

Winter is a tricky time for parents of children who use car seats. According to safety experts, bulky winter clothing like jackets and snowsuits should not be worn in a car seat. That’s because puffy winter gear creates enough space under the car seat harness to allow children to slip through during a car accident.

Skeptical? Watch the video from an official crash test lab in Michigan. A dummy, which appears to be securely strapped in, flies from its harness in a simulated 30-mile-per-hour crash.   

Most winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness. Wondering how to know whether your child’s coat is safe? Consumer Reports offers a nice explanation on how to check if your child’s winter coat is too bulky to use in a car seat. 

Since winter is here but the coats are off limits, here are some tips to keep your children warm and safe in their car seats:

  1. Keep the carrier warm. Store the carrier portion of the car seat in the house so it stays warm. That way, your child will lose less body heat in the car. 
  2. Use hats and mittens. Keep kid’s extremities warm with hats, mittens, and booties. These don’t interfere with the car seat straps and help hold in warmth. 
  3. Layer. Dress your child in a thin, tight-fitting fleece jacket over other flat base layers like a sweater and long-sleeved shirt. 
  4. Cover after. Add a swaddling blanket or slip the child’s coat on backwards after they’ve been strapped in. You can also buy hooded car seat ponchos that drape over the top of the seat. A general rule of thumb is that kids need one more layer than adults to stay warm.
  5. But cover carefully. Don’t use aftermarket products that could interfere with the car seat’s tested safety operations. Avoid any bags or covers that add a layer of fluff under the child’s body. Shower-cap style covers are best because they don’t obstruct the harness routing or add bulk under the straps. 

And remember, keep an emergency bag in your car with extra blankets and winter clothes in case you get stranded on the roadside. 

‘I Resolve’: A New Year’s Insurance Checklist

It’s that time of year again when many of us look at our lives with renewed energy and fresh eyes. As you make resolutions to improve your overall wellbeing this year, take some time to include an insurance review. It’s a quick and important investment in your financial security. 

Ideally, you’ve kept your insurance agent up-to-date on any significant home improvements you made in the last year, but take a moment to review anything you might have forgotten. Consider whether any life changes or home business practices could impact your insurance, too. 

  • Significant home improvements, such as a kitchen remodel, bathroom, or addition that could impact your home value
  • The entire roof of your home was replaced
  • New safety features such as a sprinkler or alarm system
  • New swimming pool, wood burning unit, or a dog
  • New boat, camper, snowmobile, ATV, or other recreational vehicle
  • New jewelry that was acquired which may need to be scheduled on the policy
  • Any business conducted from your residence
  • Any tenants or short-term rental practices

Now is also a good time to update your home inventory with any notable purchase (jewelry, furniture, antiques, art, electronics, etc.) you made in the last year. If your household inventory has significantly increased in value, you may want to adjust the limits on your policy. 

Drivers and Families
Changes in your personal life or family structure can impact your home and car insurance needs. Review the following list and identify any changes that occurred in the past year:

  • New driver in the house
  • Child left the house/went to college
  • New car
  • New job that changes your regular driving habits

Ask your insurer if any cost savings are available if you sign up for autopay or pay in biannual instead of monthly installments. Review your deductible too. If you have a good emergency fund, you may feel comfortable increasing your deductible in exchange for lower rates on your insurance premiums. 

Business Owners
When was the last time you updated your insurance policy? If your business has grown or evolved since then, you may be exposed to added risk.

  • Employees – Has your workforce increased? Are you using more contractors? 
  • Sales – Have annual sales grown? If yes, consider whether your liability limits are high enough to cover your current exposure.
  • Services – If you’ve expanded into new service lines, you may need to add new endorsements to your liability policy. 
  • Drivers - Check safety records and licensing for all the drivers in your business. Tell your agent if drivers are frequently using rented vehicles.
  • Contracts – Have you engaged in any new contracts that could affect your liability? Review the “insurance and indemnity” sections with your insurance agent. 
  • Property – An increase in equipment could impact your commercial property policy. 

A quick conversation with your insurance agent never hurts. Even if you haven’t experienced any significant changes in the last year, your agent can help determine if a new insurance option might better suit your needs.

Contact your insurance agent today to review your coverage and mitigate risk. Or find your local SECURA agent and find out if a SECURA policy might be right for you. 

Three ways to take a Home Inventory

The new year is a great time to take stock of your household belongings and update your home inventory. If you experience a fire, theft, or other significant loss, the insurance company will ask for a list of your belongings. This can be hard to remember, particularly during a stressful time. 

A full home inventory makes your claims process easier if you have a loss. 

Here are some different methods you might use:

Video Records
Use the video feature on your smartphone to walk through your home room-by-room and pan over your belongings. Include an audio commentary noting any significant items, and capturing any info about quantity, age, or price that seems relevant. Open cabinets, drawers, and closets to record those contents, and remember to review your basement and garage storage, too.

Make each room or level of your home a separate video to keep file sizes manageable. Label or tag your video files and back them up to the cloud. Or store your videos on a jump drive you’ll keep offsite.

Mobile Apps
You can find several home inventory apps online, including Know Your Stuff created by the Insurance Information Institute. These apps help you track more detailed information, including model and serial numbers, photos, and scans of your receipts and appraisals. Some apps include reporting features that allow you to export your data to PDF or Excel—ideal if you ever have to report a loss.

Mobile apps provide a handy way to update your home inventory on an ongoing basis, as you buy new goods throughout the year. Whenever you make a notable purchase, snap a picture of the item and the receipt right away.

Manual Records
If you’re not a smartphone user, or you just prefer the tangible nature of paper records, you might like the home inventory checklist from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. This printable form helps walk you through the main rooms of your house and includes reminders for miscellaneous items you’ll want to record. 

Whichever method you choose, remember to make copies and store them offsite, in the cloud, in a safe- deposit box, or with a trusted friend. You don’t want your only records kept on a computer or phone that could be stolen or lost. An up-to-date home inventory makes the claims process faster and can provide the verification your insurance company may require for certain high-value items.

Contact an agent near you for more details.

Check homeowner’s policy to protect guests from the Grinch

Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot...But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!

It’s Christmas and you’re hosting the annual family gathering. Everyone’s packages are piled in festive mounds around the tree, and overnight guests have dropped their bags in the upstairs bedrooms. But before it’s time for presents and pie, the whole family heads out for an evening service or an afternoon at the snow hill.

What happens if the Grinch pays a visit while you’re gone and swoops up all the bags and boxes? Who pays for the Xbox from Grandpa to cousin George? And what about the iPad that disappeared from Aunt Alice’s backpack?

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant, Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Theft is a common insurance claim around the holidays. (But so too are fires and water damage from frozen pipes.)  If you have the MILE-STONE® homeowner’s insurance policy from SECURA, your guests’ belongings are covered, should any of these holiday disasters hit.

Check with your insurance agent to ensure your policy offers the same kind of coverage. Some policies include coverage for guests by default, but others require special coverage via a special rider.

Be aware that your homeowner’s policy only covers guests (including relatives staying for an extended period). Items belonging to a paying roommate or tenant would not be covered. 

Take care of your guests and foil any green old Grinch who might come calling this year. Make sure your homeowner’s policy extends to the friends and family visiting your home. Call your SECURA agent to verify coverage today.

He brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

With excerpts from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess.