Take Heed with Your Financial Records

 

Think of a family as a mini-business. Families plan, save, buy, and invest just like most businesses. For this reason, maintaining the proper family records is just as important as keeping business records is. Saving these records for the proper amount of time is an integral part of this whole process. The following tips are good rules of thumb to follow concerning your family and financial records.

  • Essential personal and family records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates should be permanently stored, preferably in a safe deposit box. The same rule applies to passports and original Social Security cards. Backup electronic copies via scanning should also be maintained.
  • Vital property records, such as real property deeds, burial lot deeds, and motor vehicle titles, should also be permanently stored in a safe deposit box.
  • An inventory of household goods and appraisals should be stored in a safe deposit box or electronically with backups. Photographs or videos of valuable personal property should also be maintained and safeguarded.
  • Insurance policies should be kept a minimum of 7 years in a home file. A list of all current insurance policies and policy numbers should be maintained in the safe deposit box or electronically with backups in the event of a house fire.
  • Auto service records should be retained in a home file for the duration of the ownership of the vehicle. These records may be helpful when selling the vehicle later.
  • Copies of canceled checks for non-tax-deductible expenditures should be stored in a home file or electronically for 3 years. Receipts and records of deductible expenses should be stored in a fireproof home file or electronically for 6 years.
  • Copies of past tax returns should be kept a minimum of 6 years (15 years is best).

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2014
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Filing a Claim Turns This Homeowner Into His Insurance Company’s Adversary

After we have wrapped up negotiations with their insurance company I will often ask my clients to provide me with a few words describing their experience.  Today I was gifted with more than just a testimonial and recommendation … but an education.  I thought I would pass it on.
After a few hours of being away from the house running errands we arrived home to find water POURING out of the ceiling of the main floor of our house, only to find out that a water pipe had burst on the 3rd floor of the house which resulted in flooding all 3 levels of our house! Since I had never filed an insurance claim before, I was under the impression that the insurance company was on my side, therefore would take care of the damage on the property I had been paying them to insure…after all, this was MY insurance company, right? I soon found out just how wrong I was!!  
 
The insurance company’s adjuster came out about a week after the pipe burst, and inspected the damage to the house, then we anxiously awaited his figures so we could begin the work and get our family moved back into our home.  We were shocked at that point to find out that the insurance company only wanted to pay us $11,000 to fix all 3 stories of our flooded home!!  I immediately called my agent for help, and despite his good intentions, I quickly discovered that no matter how well you know your agent, and how good you think they are, they have absolutely no pull with the large insurance company.  It was at this point that I knew the insurance company had no interest in helping me, and realized I would have to help myself, so I began searching the internet for options to help with insurance claims.
 
When I began doing research online for help with my insurance claim, I discovered the profession of a “Public Adjuster”, which I had never heard of before. I found a few different companies online, and began calling around, as I wanted to ensure I found someone that was reliable. I was not impressed with the large companies that covered the entire US, as they just treated you like another number…I did not feel that they would provide the personal level of service that I was looking for to address this major event that I had going on. I then called Mr. Bushart, who personally answered the phone, listened to all of the problems I had, then explained how he could possibly help me. By the time I got off of the first call with him I was very relieved…I finally had found help!! 
 
I have to admit though, at first I was leery of committing to pay the fee a public adjustor charged, so I thought about it for about a week before I committed to hiring Mr. Bushart, but in the end, I would have been more than happy to pay him twice as much as he charged. Not only due to the eventual insurance payout of nearly quadruple their initial estimate, but more importantly because of the personal level of service he provided. He actually made two 9 hour roundtrips to my house…first to view the damage, which I expected, but then he came back the second time when the insurance company sent their adjuster back out to address the discrepancies between their adjuster’s estimate, and Mr. Bushart’s estimate. I was very glad that he did make it back the second time…it was worth every penny I paid to be able sit there and watch Mr. Bushart use his vast knowledge to shoot down the insurance company’s arrogant adjuster!   
 
I hope to never have to go through another insurance claim again, but if I do, I will call Mr. Bushart in on Day #1!
Andrew Kestner, Dexter, MO
I am very grateful to Andrew for helping me to better understand what it is like to be in his shoes during such a tumultuous time in his life and how he came to hire me.
He added:
Sorry it took so long to get this to you, but here is my story, feel free to take any or all of it to put on your website…I had trouble condensing it into a couple of sentences.  Also, don’t ever hesitate to give any of your potential clients my phone number if they have any questions about how great your service is!
 

A Broken Water Pipe and the Insurance Claim

The recent cold blasts and “polar vortexes” that have made their way south into Missouri this winter have not been kind to some homeowners … particularly a recent client who had the misfortune of having a bathroom water pipe burst on the second floor of his home.

Broken water pipe on the level above.

Broken water pipe on the level above.

For an undetermined number of hours, water cascaded from the second-floor bathroom, then through the ceiling of the first-floor master bedroom, and then soon created a path into the finished basement and game room.  The damage was significant … not only to the structure of the home but also to the furnishings, clothing, pool table and electronic equipment that found itself underwater for hours before being discovered.

He called his insurance company who, in turn, hired a local “independent adjuster” who came to the home to assess the damage and determined that the insurance company would agree to pay approximately $11,000.00 to cover the loss of personal property and restore the home to its original condition.   Having recently spent much more than this to install the destroyed wooden floors and finish his basement the previous summer — my client was offended by his insurance company’s apparent disregard for his condition and was understandably upset.

In the search for a public adjuster to represent him, he found this blog on the internet and called me for assistance.

In a little more than four weeks, we were able to negotiate a settlement with his insurance company for over $38,000.00 with which he will be able to fully restore his home back to its original condition and replace his personal property exactly as promised by his insurance policy.

Most states now license public adjusters to assist homeowners and business owners with their property claims.  Help is available.  All you need to do is ask.

New York Joins Missouri in Forbidding Contractors from Representing Home Owners with Insurance Claims

There is a new law in New York to protect home owners.

“There’s a firewall that will help homeowners after their house is consumed by flames.

“A new state law mandates a legal separation between public insurance adjusters and the contractors they recommend to victims of house fires.

“The measure, intended to protect fire victims from two-timing insurance scammers, was borne of a series of complaints filed against a City Island business that was operating as both public adjuster and contractor.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/new-firewall-protects-homeowners-insurance-scams-article-1.1564929#ixzz2pJ34d8e3

Missouri House Bill 1086 — New Restrictions Concerning Contractors and Insurance Claims

A proposed revision to Missouri law will further restrict Missouri contractors from being involved in residential and commercial insurance claims.

“A [residential] contractor shall not represent or negotiate, or offer or advertise to represent or negotiate, on behalf of an owner or possessor of [residential] real estate on any insurance claim in connection with the repair or replacement of roof systems, or the performance of any other exterior repair, replacement, construction, or reconstruction work.”

http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills141/biltxt/intro/HB1086I.htm

Read more:  Should your contractor represent your interests regarding your insurance claim?

 

The Puppy Under the Christmas Tree: Homeowners Beware

Many puppies are welcomed into households every Christmas. Puppies are high on the wish-list of many young ones year in and year out. If you are a parent and homeowner, before bringing Fido home this Christmas, you may want to check your homeowner policy.

Wallace, the Wonderdog

The Puppy Under the Christmas Tree: Homeowners Beware.

For Sale – The Privacy of Home Buyers in the USA and Canada

Most home shoppers who see a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of a home they are considering to purchase are not aware that more than just the house is being sold.  In some cases, their own privacy and personal information is on the market the moment that they begin the buying process — whether they end up buying the home or not.

Buyers considering the purchase of a new home will often hire a home inspector to examine the home for them and report its condition.  If you are considering the purchase of a new home and are looking to hire a home inspector, consider the inspector’s commitment to your privacy in addition to his other qualifications.

There are home inspectors who will offer lower fees to their clients as an incentive to hire them — and then sell private information about the home buyer (or the home) to third parties willing to pay them for this information, to make up for the lower fee.  Usually, the home buyer is unaware that the home inspector is gaining from the sale of his private information.  Nor is the home buyer aware as to whom or how many third parties their private information is being provided to.

If your home inspector is offering a variety of “free” add-on services in addition to his report of the condition of your home, chances are good that your private information (and information about your home) is being provided to an unnamed third-party.

Contractors who sell and install home alarm systems, for example, consider home inspectors to be a valuable resource for new customer leads and will reward them with cash and other incentives to provide them with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of new home buyers.   Sometimes the home inspector will sell their clients’ private information directly to a contractor but may also sell the information to “lead brokers” who sell the information to a variety of contractors and service providers.

Rarely are home buyers informed by their home inspectors that he is profiting from the sale of their private information or to whom the information is being sold.  At least one lead broker forbids home inspectors who provide him with private data about their clients from revealing anything concerning the inspector’s contract with the lead broker to the homeowner which includes his “compensation” arrangements.

Many clients of home inspectors, some who are on state-sponsored “Do Not Call” lists are unaware how the telemarketers calling them came to get their name while some are even more surprised to find door-to-door solicitors knowing to ask for them by name shortly after moving into their new home.

Not all home inspectors engage in this practice, and consumers should ask an inspector they consider hiring whether he or she sells private information about his or her clients.  Added services that require personal information or client registration such as “free” short-term warranties or “free” product recall research are important red flags that should be explored.

If you hire a home inspector who will provide your information to any third-party for any reason, it is wise to have the inspector provide you with the third party’s name, address, telephone number and other identifying factors to ensure that you can contact them should you receive harassing or unwanted solicitations as a result — and to trace any other parties to whom that party may have provided your information to, when necessary.

In this age of private information gathering by government agencies and computer hackers, consumers should protect their private information from being bought, sold and re-sold among various parties unknown to them.  The purchase of a new home is no exception.

Copyright James H. Bushart 2013

You Will Know When You Need a Public Adjuster

Being a state licensed public adjuster provides me with an opportunity to read lots of articles and advertisements written by other public adjusters for public consumption.  With only a very few exceptions, I have found what I have read to be informative and valuable and  I am grateful to all who have taken the time to share their knowledge and expertise.

Many of these articles are written by financial and insurance experts and are directed toward insured home owners, intended to assist them in identifying when they need to call upon a public adjuster for assistance with their insurance claim.  Since many insured home and business owners are learning that such a person as a public adjuster even exists at the time they are reading the article it is natural for them to inquire more about what a public adjuster does in the first place.

Simply stated, a public adjuster is a licensed professional who will represent you to your insurance company in settling a first-party insurance claim for damage to your home or business.  Your choices in settling your insurance claim are (1) to do everything yourself, (2) hire an attorney to handle your insurance claim, or (3) hire a licensed public adjuster to handle your insurance claim.

The potential for a large insurance settlement can attract the attention of lawyers and public adjusters who may come directly to you when they learn of your financial loss.  Personal injury lawyers may call or leave phone messages when learning of an accident or injury and, likewise, some public adjusters may approach the home or business owner in person or by phone at the time of the fire, storm or other peril causing damage to the home or business.

Do you always need to hire a public adjuster to assist you?  No.  Not always.

Sometimes, the claim for damage may meet or exceed the total coverage of the policy.  The structure that is destroyed may have been insured for $100,000 and, being totally destroyed, the insurer has agreed to pay the maximum covered amount of $100,000. Hiring and paying an attorney or public adjuster to assist in this matter would be more of an expense than a benefit.

But insurance companies make money from collecting premiums … not by paying claims … and the process of recovering all of the money that an insured home or business owner is entitled to is not designed to be easy or prompt.  “Lowball” offers, delays and denials, and challenges that need to be defended are often introduced into the mix at the worst possible time for the damaged home or business owner.  Having an advocate to assist you through the process and who works for younot the insurance company … can be of great benefit.

When you find that you are faced with a difficult and cumbersome process or feel overwhelmed by the task of proving your loss to a skeptical insurance adjuster … you don’t have to face it alone.

When you find, as many do, that the insurance policy that you have faithfully maintained has failed to live up to your needs or expectations at the time you actually need it the most … you don’t have to face it alone.

When you find that you are being provided unacceptable “lowball” offers to cover your loss but are not confident in your own abilities to adequately negotiate a higher settlement … help is available.

I am not one of the public adjusters who will be contacting you at the time of the theft, vandalism, fire, storm or other peril. Instead, I wait until I am contacted by insured home and business owners who know, on their own, that they can use my help with their claim.

I am not paid anything until my client is paid and there is no cost to anyone who wishes to consult with me about their claim to see if I can help them.  Before you consider hiring me, you may contact others who have been assisted by me with their insurance claims and ask them about their experiences.

You will know when you need a public adjuster to assist you with your Missouri home or business insurance claim, and when you decide that you do, please call me at 314-803-2167 or email me at jbushart@publicadjustermissouri.com .

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