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Personal Insurance


Natural disasters such as the California wildfires, tornadoes in the mid-west, and of course Hurricane Katrina, have raised the awareness of Homeowners about the importance of being adequately insured.

Over 1,700 homes were destroyed in the California wildfires, and hurricane Katrina was a national tragedy beyond comprehension, destroying more than 200,000 homes.

But Catastrophes don’t just happen to other people.

In 2006 in Massachusetts:
There were over 15,000 Structure Fires Causing $165,000 million in Property Damage, and 34 Deaths.
In addition:
There were over 35,000 Burglaries, 8,000 Robberies, almost 18,000 Cars Stolen, and we haven’t even discussed broken pipes, storm damage, flood, vandalism, and more.

But after losing everything, the victims of these, and other catastrophes, must then endure an arduous task. They must be able to REMEMBER EVERYTHING they had lost, and then PROVE it to their insurer.

Homeowners policies require the policyholder to list, and DOCUMENT their lost, damaged, or stolen property at the time of claim. The responsibility is on the policyholder to prove what they’ve lost.

The question is: In the event of a Serious Loss, could you PROVE (to your insurance company), or even REMEMBER everything you had? It’s hard enough to do that in the calmest of moments, but in the trauma that follows a significant loss, it’s virtually impossible.

People seem to know this on some level, but still, only a small percentage actually do Home Inventories.

Take this simple test:

Pick a room in your house, and without going into it, make a list of all of your possessions in that room from memory. Remember, small items add up, so list everything. Don’t forget to include things that are stored in closets, drawers, book cases and other hidden areas.

This is very similar to the task of filling out a real insurance claim with one major exception – you have not just been traumatized by a major loss.

Next, go into that room with your list, and add up the values of the items that you’ve missed. In the event of a loss, that’s how much money you’d be “donating” to your insurance company…in that one room alone!!! It’s not uncommon for victims of a fire to remember items they had forgotten to include as much as two years after their claim was settled!

Insurance industry experts estimate that the average policy holder could collect AT LEAST 25% to 50% more money if they had proper documentation of their property than those without documentation.

In addition, having an inventory before a loss can save homeowners (or business owners) scores of hours trying to recreate a list of their belongings for their insurance company.

And once your inventory is done, KEEP IT OFF OF YOUR PREMISES!!

Having a documented inventory is also important for insurance coverage reviews, for estate planning purposes and to help to designate the distribution of one’s estate.

Documenting your personal property prior to a move or storage is also important in the event you need to prove damage or theft.

And yet other uses of documentation could be:

  • Property management
  • Divorce settlements, or
  • Pre-Nuptial agreements

If you do hire someone to come into your home, check their references, and the better business bureau, and make sure they are insured and bonded.

If you do it yourself, your goal is to document EVERYTHING. And don’t forget the garage, attic, cars, boats, and outside equipment. Several software programs are available on the web to help you with the process.

Annual updates are important, especially if you’ve purchased expensive items.

Insurance Industry Experts Recommend Documenting

he Insurance Information Institute says: The more documentation you have regarding your possessions, the better your insurance company will be able to handle your claim. And update your list after every purchase. If you take these advance precautions, you’ll be able to prove what you’ve lost. Your claim will be processed more rapidly and you’re more likely to collect in full.

This article was written by Michael Norman, Certified Insurance Counselor – (617) 795 2424 –