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Buying Life Insurance? Consider These Points First

| April 01, 2017
Life insurance may not seem complicated, but the process can be. Here are five points to consider before purchasing a policy:

The conversation: First, discussing life insurance with your loved ones can be difficult, because you are raising the elephant in the room: your death. But if they rely on your income, this is an important conversation to have.

The role of your will: Many people believe a will can be used to dictate who receives the proceeds from your life insurance policy. But because it's a contract with an insurance company, you will need to specify beneficiary/beneficiaries to that company.

The beneficiary: Regardless of the policy you choose, you typically need to select a beneficiary who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. That, too, can be an uncomfortable discussion. Under most circumstances, your beneficiary will be your spouse, then your children. But it can be more complicated. For example, you may not want to leave your money to minor children, in which case you may need to set up a trust.

The exceptions: In most states, you can choose the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. However, in "community property" states - currently Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin - property obtained in the marriage is owned by both spouses. In those states, if you want the beneficiary of your life insurance policy to be other than your spouse, you both may need to acknowledge that in writing.

The taxes: Finally, while life insurance proceeds are free from federal income taxes, they can be counted as part of your estate. This means they may be subject to estate tax. If you have a large policy, you may want to consider a trust that can keep the proceeds out of your estate.

Still confused? Your life insurance advisor can help.


Which Policy Is Best for Business? It's a Trick Question!

Jeff is a small-business owner looking for the right insurance coverage for his company. Kelly is a CEO with facilities nationwide who needs hefty policies to insure her business. Don, an entrepreneur hoping to get his woodworking business off the ground, wants to know he has the right insurance in place.

Quick quiz: Which do they need - "commercial insurance" or "business insurance?" Hint: it's a trick question. 

The answer: In fact, both terms refer to the same thing. Both commercial insurance and business insurance make up the category of insurance that provides coverage for business owners and their businesses - large or small.

Because these two terms can be used interchangeably, and because they're widely considered to mean separate things, confusion abounds; many business owners labor under the false impression that they need one or the other (or both). 

Misconceptions and the upshot: Some believe one applies to small businesses only; others think liability or workers' compensation fall under one or the other of these categories. The result is that many owners who are considering possible insurance options for their companies are missing a bet; they may be inadvertently overlooking some excellent providers and policies. 

Whether your company is big, small, new, or established, you are eligible for the full array of options available in commercial/business insurance. So when the time comes to pick the right insurance option for you, consult your agent. He or she knows your company and can help you select the policy that's best for it. ... Whatever it's called.


Winning Friends & Influencing People the 21st-Century Way

Dale Carnegie's classic how-to book still makes a lot of sense: even in the 21st century, it's human nature to want (and need) friends. 

In a recent FastCompany article, Stephanie Vozza points to a Harvard University study that indicates making friends is important for good health: "A lack of strong relationships increases your risk of premature death from all causes by 50%."

But finding new friends can be tricky.

Of course, we live in a digital world, and if making online friends is your goal, it's a cinch. Mind you, some of those new digital friends may turn out to be bots or algorithms, but they can give the impression of friendship.

It's different with real people. And if you want to know who would make a good friend and who would not, there's lots of advice available. Notes Jon Levy in Speed, a pop-up blog from New York Magazine, "Don't invest too much time engaging with the wrong people. When approaching someone, begin with a litmus test." For example, "If you wave at someone from across the room and they wave back, they're friendly, you can approach."

Levy also says we are more likely to connect with someone with whom we have something in common. Just find out what, and connect.

Vozza, too, has suggestions for making new friends, including not waiting for others to make the first move, and following up on their overtures.

It seems the basic tenets of Dale Carnegie's system still work. You can make real friends. Even in 2017.


Prevent Homeowner Claims with This Checklist

A few simple maintenance tasks can help prevent major liability insurance claims. The following tasks, completed annually, will help protect you from several types of homeowners insurance claims, such as:


Inspect your driveway and walkways. Are these areas safe and smooth? Repair any broken, cracked, or uneven areas. This helps prevent accidents on your property. And don't forget to fix fences and gates. 

Winter weather may have taken a toll on your home's exterior. Check hinges, latches, and locks to ensure they work. If you have a pool, maintaining these deterrents is especially important to keep your own kids or neighboring children away from the pool area and out of danger.

Fire damage

Change batteries in all your smoke detectors and ensure they're functioning correctly. Also clean your dryer's lint hose. Your lint trap doesn't catch it all. You should clean the hose once each year to prevent fire. (And as a bonus, it also increases dryer efficiency.)

Moisture damage

Check the water heater, and if you notice any corrosion or leaks, get it repaired right away. As well, seams and caulking on doors and windows can crack over time and allow moisture to enter your home. This can cause further damage to its structure. Reseal or recaulk where needed. 

You also should clean out your gutters and clear away all the debris left by winter storms. The gutter and downspout system protects your home from water damage by directing water away from your roof and foundation. When it's clogged, it can't do its job.


Overgrown bushes can block windows and create shelter for thieves. Trim the landscaping so everything (and everyone) is out in the open. Also check outdoor lighting for burned-out bulbs; ensure your home is well lit to discourage any unwelcome visitors. 

If you're worried about a homeowners insurance claim, this annual checkup can give you a safe home and peace of mind.