Gap Insurance-What Is

Courtesy of iii.org

How gap insurance works

When you buy or lease a new car or truck, the vehicle starts to depreciate in value the moment it leaves the car lot. In fact, most cars lose 20 percent of their value within a year. Standard auto insurance policies cover the depreciated value of a car—in other words, a standard policy pays the current market value of the vehicle at the time of a claim.

If, when you finance the purchase of a new car and put down only a small deposit, in the early years of the vehicle’s ownership the amount of the loan may exceed the market value of the vehicle itself.

In the event of an accident in which you’ve badly damaged or totaled your car, gap insurance covers the difference between what a vehicle is currently worth (which your standard insurance will pay) and the amount you actually owe on it.

When you might need gap insurance

It’s a good idea to consider buying gap insurance for your new car or truck purchase if you:

  • Made less than a 20 percent down payment
  • Financed for 60 months or longer
  • Leased the vehicle (carrying gap insurance is generally required for a lease)
  • Purchased a vehicle that depreciates faster than the average
  • Rolled over negative equity from an old car loan into the new loan

Where you can get gap insurance

Your car dealer may offer to sell you gap insurance on your new vehicle. However, most car insurers also offer it, and they typically charge less than the dealer. On most auto insurance policies, including gap insurance with collision and comprehensive coverage adds only about $20 a year to the annual premium.

Crisis with Florida Insurance Rates

Courtesy of iii.org

It is a standard practice throughout the insurance world: As a convenience, a policyholder grants a third party – an auto glass repair company, a medical practitioner, a home contractor – permission to directly bill an insurer to settle a claim. That practice is called an assignment of benefits, usually known by the acronym, AOB.

In Florida, abuse of AOBs has fueled an insurance crisis. The state’s legal environment has encouraged vendors and their attorneys to solicit unwarranted AOBs from tens of thousands of Floridians, conduct unnecessary or unnecessarily expensive work, then file tens of thousands of lawsuits against insurance companies that deny or dispute the claims. This mini-industry has cost consumers billions of dollars as they are forced to pay higher premiums to cover needless repairs and excessive legal fees. And consumers often do not even know that their claims are driving these cost increases.

The abuse therefore acts somewhat like a hidden tax on consumers, helping to increase what are already some of the highest insurance premiums in the country.

This report discusses how AOB abuse works, how and why it is spreading, and how it is contributing to higher insurance costs for Florida consumers.

Please click on the file name below to view the white paper in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.

Download aobfl_wp_121118.pdf

You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader, free of charge, from the Adobe website (https://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html).

Sleep & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

I came across this from Swiss Re around 2 a.m., which helps explain why it caught my (sleepy) eye:

Consider these two facts: Firstly, two out of three man-made losses worldwide are due to human failure. Based on Swiss Re’s sigma research, this would mean that people trigger a loss volume of around USD 3 billion per year.

Secondly, life insurance generated premiums of USD 2.6 trillion in 2017. These two facts are linked because tired people make more errors and insomniacs are at a greater risk of dying earlier than would otherwise be the case.

That’s right – the insurance angle on sleep.

The lack of sleep is associated with increased rates of heart attacks, strokes, obesity and other diseases. Sleeping less can also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. And recent research found that chronic sleep restriction increases risk seeking behaviour.

If these trends change the loss patterns in property and casualty or mortality rates, this could have a multi-billion dollar impact on the insurance industry in the long run.

The lack of sleep has caused some high profile accidents, the most notable in my world being a New Jersey Transit train that in 2016 crashed into Hoboken terminal because the engineer, suffering from sleep apnea, zoned out at a crucial moment. One woman died, dozens were injured.

Swiss Re posits that society, ever accelerating, robs us of ever more sleep. The less we sleep, the woozier we become. And the more errors we make. (Our bodies wear out faster too, becoming susceptible to the maladies Swiss Re mentions above.)

A good dose of resilience helps here. New York area railroads are installing (by federal mandate) positive train control systems, which automatically stop trains in any sort of peril, including that of a tired engineer. The illustration above describes how the system works.

As for my own struggles – an e-book of white text on black background, and perhaps a cup of chamomile tea.

Cyberrisks, What’s the Risk?

Courtesy of iii.org

A lawyer once warned me during a seminar that I should never, ever send an email – ever. “Get on a phone instead,” he counseled. (I assume he hadn’t watched The Wire.)

Impossible to follow as his advice was, it stuck with me because he was right, in a way. If there’s anything we should’ve learned after all the data breaches these past few years, it’s that nothing about our online lives is safe from prying eyes. Not Social Security numbers. Not medical records. And definitely not our social media activity.

People know the risks. The good news is that many American consumers are aware that their connected lives are incredibly vulnerable. According to a recent Insurance Information Institute and J.D. Power 2018 Consumer Cyber Insurance and Security Spotlight SurveySM, almost seven out of 10 connected technology owners (69 percent) are not comfortable sharing personal information on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

But behavior is slow to change. The bad news is that only about a third changed the way they used social media or connected technology after learning about recent data abuses and breaches.

And it’s even more alarming that fully 85 percent of surveyed connected technology owners either don’t have cyberrisk insurance or don’t know if they do.

Education and insurance are important. Just like in real life (wear a helmet, everybody!), leading a safe online life starts with education about the risks involved. That education includes learning how insurance can help. Insurers are in a unique position to spearhead these education efforts – people will often turn to their insurance company after they’ve suffered losses from a data breach.

But consumers first need to learn about the cyber insurance options out there that can help immensely after a hack. For that to happen, insurers need to demonstrate to consumers the relatively inexpensive and valuable coverage that is available to protect them.

The alternative is for all of us to go back to sending letters by snail mail – or, if a certain lawyer is to be believed, never writing anything down at all.

Do You Need Boating Insurance?

Courtesy of iii.org

Insurance can provide limited coverage for property damage for small boats such as canoes and small sail boats or small power boats with less than 25 mile per hour horse power under a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value and generally includes the boat, motor and trailer combined. Liability coverage is typically not included?but it can be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy. Check with your insurance representative to find out if your boat is covered and what the limits are.

Larger and faster boats such as yachts, and personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners require a separate boat insurance policy. The size, type and value of the craft and the water in which you use it factor into how much you will pay for insurance coverage.

For physical loss or damage, coverage includes the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment as part of either an actual cash value policy or on an agreed amount value basis. These policies also provide broader liability protection than a homeowners policy. But there are distinct differences between the two types of policies.

Actual Cash Value policies pay for replacement costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the vessel’s approximate market value. Partial losses are settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.

Agreed Amount Value basis policies mean that you and your insurer have agreed on the value of your vessel and in the event of a total loss you will be paid that amount. Agreed Amount Value policies also replace old items for new in the event of a partial loss, without any deduction for depreciation.

Physical damage exclusions might include normal wear and tear, damage from insects, mold, animals (such as sharks), zebra mussels, defective machinery or machinery damage.

Boat insurance also covers:

  • Bodily injury?for injuries caused to another person
  • Property damage?for damage caused to someone else’s property
  • Guest passenger liability?for any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission
  • Medical payments?for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers
  • Theft

Most companies offer liability limits that start at $15,000 and can be increased to $300,000. Typical policies include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1000 for medical payments. Higher limits may be available. Additional coverage can be purchased for trailers and other accessories. Boat owners may also consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.

Boaters should also inquire about special equipment kept on the boat, such as fishing gear, to make sure it is covered and verify that towing coverage is included in the policy.

Boat owners should also inquire about discounts for the following:

  • Diesel powered craft, which are less hazardous than gasoline powered boats as they are less likely to explode
  • Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers
  • Ship-to-shore radios
  • Two years of claims-free experience
  • Multi-policies with the same insurer, such as a car, home or umbrella policy
  • Safety education courses, such as those offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, or the American Red Cross.

Boat Safety

There are thousands of recreational boating accidents per year. Contributing factors to these accidents include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness and inexperience.

To prevent boating accidents, we offer these safety suggestions:

Care and protection of vessel

  1. Check weather forecasts before heading out.
  2. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
  4. Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of boat. Keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.
  5. Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell.
  6. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.

Care and protection of crew and guests

  1. Make sure that every person on board the boat wears a life-jacket.
  2. Know and obey marine traffic laws, the “Rules-of-the-Road.” Learn various distress signals.
  3. Keep an alert lookout for other watercraft, swimmers, floating debris and shallow waters.
  4. Pay attention to loading. Don’t overload; distribute the load evenly; don’t stand up or shift weight suddenly in a small boat; and don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales.
  5. Don’t operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Skippers can obtain free advice and boating-safety courses from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Upon request, the auxiliary will conduct a Courtesy Marine Examination (CME) on your boat, checking electrical and safety equipment and fuel hoses. Boats meeting safety standards are awarded the CME decal “Seal of Safety.”

Insurance Considerations of Airbnb

Courtesy of iii.org

Before you consider renting out your home, your guest room—or even your couch—first contact your insurance professional so you fully understand the financial risks and can take the proper precautions. Here’s some general information to jumpstart your insurance conversation.

If you are considering renting out your home, your guest room or even your couch your first step should be to contact your insurance professional. Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb can be a great way to bring in extra money and are increasingly popular; however, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Peer-to-peer home rental

Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb are increasingly popular and can be a great way to bring in extra money. However, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

If you are doing the renting

If you are the one using a peer-to-peer network to rent a space from someone else, check your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. In most cases, if your personal possessions are stolen or damaged off-premises, you can simply file a claim with your own insurer. And if you accidentally injure someone, you should also be financially protected.

Occasional home rental

There may be times when a major event in an area—the Super Bowl, say, or a graduation at a major university—depletes local hotel space. In these cases, it’s fairly common for people to rent out their home or part of it for the extra cash it brings in.

Many insurance companies take this situation into account when creating a homeowners or renters policy and, with sufficient advance notice, will extend your coverage to the renter on a one-time basis. Other insurance companies may require the purchase of an endorsement to the policy to provide broader coverage for the renters in your home.

In both cases, be sure to let your insurance company know ahead of time, so you can be prepared.

10 Reasons to Review Your Coverage

Courtesy of iii.org

Coverage needs change as circumstances in our lives change; an annual insurance review will ensure you have the proper coverage for your needs and budget.


Our insurance needs change as circumstances in our lives change, which is why we recommend doing an annual insurance review. When you’re reviewing your insurance coverage, these ten questions can help you figure out whether you may need to talk to your insurance professional about making a change to your coverage.

1. Have you gotten married or divorced?

If you have gotten married, you may qualify for a discount on your auto insurance. Couples may bring two cars into the relationship and two different auto insurance companies, so take the opportunity to review your existing coverage and see which company offers the best combination of price and service.

If you are merging two households, you may need to update your homeowners insurance. And you may want to consider increasing your insurance for any new valuables received, such as wedding gifts, and for jewelry, such as wedding and engagement rings.

After getting married, it is important to review your life insurance needs. If one spouse is not working, he or she might be dependent on the working spouse’s income; if so, reviewing life and disability insurance coverage is prudent. The spouse who is not working outside the home should also consider having a separate life insurance policy because, in the event of premature death, the services he or she provides for the household would need to be replaced, and that could prove costly to the surviving spouse. Moreover, even if both spouses are working, couples often make financial commitments based on both incomes so the loss of one spouse’s income due to death or disability could be financially devastating without adequate insurance.

In the other hand, if you got divorced over the past year, you will probably no longer be sharing a car with your former spouse and have likely moved to a different residence. If this is the case, you should inform your insurer as you will need to set up separate auto and homeowners policies.

2. Have you had a baby?

If you have recently added a child to your family, whether by birth or adoption, it is important to review your life insurance and disability income protection.

If you are planning for your life insurance to match your survivors’ expenses after your death, the new child will no doubt add to those expenses, requiring more life insurance to keep your family secure. If you plan to save for your child’s college education, life insurance can assure completion of that plan. And if you keep your current life insurance policy, don’t forget to update the beneficiary designations to include the new child.

3. Did your teenager get a drivers license?

It is generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your auto insurance policy than for them to purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, consider insuring it with your company so you can get a multi-car discount. And choose the car carefully—the type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance. You and your teens should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash.

Also, encourage your kids to get good grades and to take a driver training course. Most companies will give discounts for getting at least a “B” average in school and for taking recognized driving courses.

If your teenagers move at least 100 miles from home—for example, to go to college—you can get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car (assuming they leave the car at home).

4. Have you switched jobs or experienced a significant change in your income?

If you had life and disability insurance through your former employer, and your new employer does not provide equivalent protection, you can replace the “lost” coverage with individual policies.

In the case of an income increase, you may have taken on additional financial commitments that your survivors will depend on. Make sure to review your life and disability insurance to ensure it is adequate to maintain those commitments.

If your income decreased, you may want to cut your life insurance premiums. Term life insurance is a good option, as the premium rates are very reasonable. And if you already have two or more policies you might be able to replace both with a single policy at a lower rate because you may reach a “milestone” amount of insurance. (For example, at many life insurance companies, $500,000 of insurance costs less than $450,000 because of the milestone discount.) But don’t drop existing life insurance until after you have a new policy in place.

5. Have you done extensive renovations on your home?

If you have made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, you risk being underinsured if you don’t report the changes to your insurance company. An increase in the value of the structure of the home may require an increase to your homeowners insurance coverage limits.

And don’t overlook new structures outside of your home. If you built a gazebo, a new shed for your tools or installed a pool or hot tub, you should speak to your insurance professional.

If, as part of a renovation, you purchase furniture, exercise equipment or electronics, you may need to increase the amount of insurance you have on your personal possessions. Keep receipts and add any new items to your home inventory.

6. Have you decided to buy a second home?

If you are searching for a vacation home or a second home you might retire to, make sure you research the availability and cost of homeowners insurance before you commit to the purchase.

The very factors that make a vacation home seem ideal, whether it is a waterfront property or a mountain retreat, can often introduce risks that make it costly and difficult to insure, such as proximity to the coast and the likelihood that it will be vacant for long periods of time.

In the event you have already bought a vacation home, don’t skimp on the insurance. The risk of theft or disaster is just as significant, if not more so, in a second home as in your primary residence.

If your new property is close to the water, be sure to ask about flood insurance. Damage to your home or belongings resulting from flood is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as some private insurers, and is generally sold though private agents and brokers. You can ask your insurance professional whether your home is at risk for flood, or enter your address on the NFIP website to find out whether your home is in a flood zone. If you have a very valuable home, some homeowners insurers offer excess flood coverage over and above that provided by the NFIP policies.

7. Have you acquired any new valuables such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art, antiques?

A standard homeowners policy offers only limited coverage for highly valuable items. If you have made purchases or received gifts that exceed these limits, you should consider supplementing your policy with a floater or endorsement, a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy, such as accidental loss. Before purchasing a floater, the items covered must be professionally appraised. Keep receipts and add the new items to your home inventory.

8. Have you signed a lease on a house or apartment?

If you are renting a home, your landlord is responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but not for insuring your possessions—that is up to you. If you want to be covered against losses from theft and catastrophes such as fire, lightning and windstorm damage, renters insurance is a good investment. Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes liability, which covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home, or elsewhere, by you and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court.

Regardless of whether you are a renter or an owner, you will have the following options when it comes to insuring your possessions:

  • Actual cash value pays to replace your home or possessions minus a deduction for depreciation.
  • Replacement cost pays the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home or replacing your possessions without a deduction for depreciation.

Think carefully about what your financial position would be in the aftermath of a disaster, and make sure you have the type of policy that is right for you.

9. Have you joined a carpool?

If you are a frequent carpool driver, whether it is to work, or ferrying kids to school and other activities, your liability insurance should reflect the increased risk of additional passengers in the automobile. Check with your insurance professional to make sure your coverage is adequate.

10. Have you retired?

If you commuted regularly to your job, in retirement your mileage has likely plummeted. If so, you should report it to your auto insurer as it could significantly lower the cost of your auto insurance premiums. Furthermore, drivers over the age of 50-55 may get a discount, depending on the insurance company.

What is Business Interruption Insurance?

Courtesy of iii.org

Business interruption insurance can be as vital to your survival as a business as fire insurance. Most people would never consider opening a business without buying insurance to cover damage due to fire and windstorms. But too many small business owners fail to think about how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. Business interruption coverage is not sold separately. It is added to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy.

A business that has to close down completely while the premises are being repaired may lose out to competitors. A quick resumption of business after a disaster is essential.

  1. Business interruption insurance compensates you for lost income if your company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under your property insurance policy, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance covers the revenue you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy also covers operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.
  2. Make sure the policy limits are sufficient to cover your company for more than a few days. After a major disaster, it can take more time than many people anticipate to get the business back on track. There is generally a 48-hour waiting period before business interruption coverage kicks in.
  3. The price of the policy is related to the risk of a fire or other disaster damaging your premises. All other things being equal, the price would probably be higher for a restaurant than a real estate agency, for example, because of the greater risk of fire. Also, a real estate agency can more easily operate out of another location.

Extra expense insurance

Extra expense insurance reimburses your company for a reasonable sum of money that it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. Usually, extra expenses will be paid if they help to decrease business interruption costs. In some instances, extra expense insurance alone may provide sufficient coverage, without the purchase of business interruption insurance.

2018 Guide for Renter’s Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

If you rent a house or apartment and experience a fire or other disaster, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs of repairing the building. To financially protect yourself you will need to buy renters or tenants insurance.


Renters insurance protections

Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes three key types of financial protection:

  • Coverage for personal possessions
  • Liability protection
  • Additional living expenses (ALE)

The big difference is that renters insurance doesn’t cover the building or structure of the apartment?that’s the landlord’s responsibility.

The following questions will help you choose the right coverage when you are shopping around for renters insurance or discussing your needs with an insurance professional.

Coverage for personal possessions

Coverage for your personal property is a key component of renters coverage, protecting you from theft, fire and a host of other unfortunate events.

1. How much insurance should I buy?

Make sure you have enough insurance to replace all of your personal possessions in the event of a burglary, fire or other covered disaster. The easiest way to determine the value of all your personal possessions is to create a home inventory?a detailed list of all of your belongings along with their estimated value.

2. Should I choose replacement cost or actual cash value coverage?

Actual cash value policies include a deduction for depreciation (that is, the idea that items lose value over time). Replacement cost coverage is pricier but can be well worth the extra expense if your belongings are damaged or destroyed (think about how much you’d get for your TV used versus how much it would actually cost to replace).

3. What disasters are?and are not?covered?

Renters insurance covers you against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and certain types of water damage (such as from a burst pipe or when the tenant upstairs leaves the water running in the bathtub and floods your apartment).

Like standard homeowners policies, most renters insurance policies do not cover floods or earthquakes. Flood coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. You can get earthquake insurance as a separate policy or have it added as an endorsement to your renters policy, depending on where you live.

4. What is my deductible, and how does it work?

A deductible is an amount of money you responsible for paying before your insurance coverage. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and a fire destroys $5000 worth of furniture, the first $500 is your responsibility and your insurance company will cover $4500.

Renters insurance deductibles are generally specified as a dollar amount, which can be found on the Declarations page of your policy. In general, the larger the deductible, the lower your insurance premium.

5. What is a “floater” and do I need one?

A floater is a separate policy that provides additional coverage for more costly valuables if they are lost or stolen. If you have expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, sports equipment or musical instruments, consider adding a floater to your policy to protect against their loss.

6. Am I covered if I am traveling or away from home?

Most renters polices include what is called off-premises coverage, which means belongings that are outside of your home are covered against the same disasters listed in your policy. For example, property stolen from your car or a hotel room while you’re traveling would be protected.

Liability protection

7. What is liability insurance?

Renters insurance provides liability protection that covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage done by you, your family members and even your pets. This coverage pays for the cost of defending you in court, up to the limit of your policy.

Your renters policy should also include no-fault medical coverage as part of the liability protection. Medical payments coverage allows someone who gets injured on your property to simply submit his or her medical bills directly to your insurance company so the bills can be paid without resorting to a lawsuit.

8. Do I have enough liability insurance?

Make sure the amount of liability coverage provided by your policy is sufficient to protect your financial and other material assets in the event of a lawsuit.

9. Do I need an umbrella liability policy?

If you need a larger amount of liability protection, consider purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy. An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage provided by your renters or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

Additional living expenses

Additional living expenses (ALE) coverage provides coverage if your home is destroyed by an insured disaster and you need to live elsewhere for a time.

9. What does ALE cover?

The additional living expenses portion of your rental insurance policy pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your rental home is being repaired or rebuilt. Essentially, it covers the expenses you would not have to incur if you had your usual roof over your head.

10. How much does ALE cover?

Most policies will reimburse you the full difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses; however, there are generally limits as to the total amount the insurer will pay or time limits specifying how long you’re eligible for the ALE payments. Make sure you’re comfortable with the limits of the policy you choose.

Multiple policy and other discounts

10. What types of discounts are offered on renters insurance?

Insurance companies often offer discounts on renters insurance if you have another policy with them?for example, car insurance or business insurance.

You may also get a discount if you:

  • Have a security system
  • Use smoke detectors
  • Use deadbolt locks
  • Have good credit
  • Stay with the same insurer
  • Are over 55 years old

Discounts may vary widely by insurance company and by state, so review your options carefully. As always, the same rule-of-thumb applies: shop around for the best deal.

Beneficiaries & Life Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

A beneficiary is the person or entity you name in a life insurance policy to receive the death benefit. You can name:

  • One person
  • Two or more people
  • The trustee of a trust you’ve set up
  • A charity
  • Your estate

If you don’t name a beneficiary, the death benefit will be paid to your estate.

Two “levels” of beneficiaries

Your life insurance policy should have both “primary” and “contingent” beneficiaries. The primary beneficiary gets the death benefits if he or she can be found after your death. Contingent beneficiaries get the death benefits if the primary beneficiary can’t be found. If no primary or contingent beneficiaries can be found, the death benefit will be paid to your estate.

As part of naming beneficiaries, you should identify them as clearly as possible and include their social security numbers. This will make it easier for the life insurance company to find them, and it will make it less likely that disputes will arise regarding the death benefits. For example, if you write “wife [or husband] of the insured” without using a specific name, an ex-spouse could claim the death benefit. On the other hand, if you have named specific children, any later-born or adopted children will not receive the death benefit?unless you change the beneficiary designation to include them.

Besides naming beneficiaries, you should specify how the benefits are to be handled if one or more beneficiaries can’t be found. For example, suppose you have two children and you name each one to receive half of the death benefit. If one of the children dies before you do, do you want the other child to get the entire death benefit, or the deceased child’s heirs to get his or her share?

If the death benefit goes to your estate, probate proceedings could delay distributing the money, and the cost of probate could diminish the amount available to your heirs.

Choosing beneficiaries, and keeping those choices up-to-date, is an important part of owning life insurance. The birth or adoption of a child, marriage or divorce can affect your initial choice. Review your beneficiary designation as new situations arise in order to make sure your choice is still appropriate.