Posted by: Christopher Turnbull | January 28, 2013

Are you prepared for a personal tragedy?

Fire fighters and huge flames

We had a staff meeting this morning. One of the topics of conversation was about a client’s home that burned down over the weekend.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and they had insurance to pay for the loss.  However, it was a good reminder that there’s more to being prepared for a tragedy than buying insurance.  For example, if your house burned to the ground today, do you have a list of all your personal belongings and contents in your house?  At a time of stress are you going to remember all of the things that were in every drawer and closet throughout your home?  If so, you must have a photographic memory. For the rest of us, we need to be aware that an insurance company can’t fairly reimburse us for the loss if we can’t remember (and document) what was in our house.  A friend reminded me after his home caught on fire from a faulty clothes drier that there are a lot more than things to think about than big items like home electronics, furniture and valuables.  For example, don’t forget about over-the-counter medications, toiletries, food in your pantries and freezers, holiday decorations, clothes, tools and equipment in your garage, items in your attic, etc.  You paid for them and may be entitled to reimbursement.  However, you need to document these items as well as their value for your insurance company.  Help them help you.

In addition to insurance and a list of contents in your home, are there other things you can do to protect your valuables from loss?  Absolutely!  Let’s start with some questions: Do you have a fire safe to store valuables like jewelry, photos, important documents, guns, and treasured mementos? Why not?  Look around your house, what would you do if all your treasured mementos and photos were destroyed today?  What about important documents such as Wills, insurance policies, deeds, passports, etc.?  Have you thought about the important files you have on your home computer (i.e. pictures, tax returns, financial information, etc.)?  A lot of us have back-up drives plugged into our computers in case it crashes or catches a virus, but what if it burns up in the fire too? You can’t replace many of these things once they’re destroyed.  Why not prepare before a tragedy occurs?

We can’t stop there!  What would happen if you or someone in your family didn’t survive the fire?  Do you have a Will?  Are you going to let the State decide how your personal assets are going to be distributed?  How is your spouse or surviving relatives going to handle your personal affairs if they don’t know your intentions?  What if there are disagreements or disputes between family members?  How are they going to access your bank accounts to pay for your funeral and your debts?  It could take several weeks or even months before a judge grants approval or appoints an executor.

OK, so you have a list and pictures of your personal property, a fire safe to protect your valuables, and a Will.  Do you have life insurance?  Why not? How are your spouse and children going to survive financially without your income?  Are your children going to be able to go to college?  Have you set aside enough money for estate taxes that may be due?  Are they going to have to sell the house to survive? What about your business partners?  Do you have a buy-sell agreement? How are they going to buy your portion of the company?

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and believe it can’t happen to you.  Tragedies do not discriminate, and occur without notice.  Are you prepared?

Here is a Home Inventory Checklist that may be of use for keeping track of your assets and personal belongings:

Please call Mary Lewis at CS&A Insurance if you have questions about homeowner’s coverage or Gary Thompson about life and disability insurance.  They can be reached at (615) 435-8300.

If you would like more information on Christopher Turnbull or CS&A Aviation Insurance visit our website or call 800.999.1109. You can also follow us on Facebook , Twitter and our YouTube Channel.

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