HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS FOR HOMEOWNERS
No matter the trick-or-treaters’ game plan, they are ready for a candy bonanza – and that starts with a knock at your door. So don’t let slips, trips and falls dampen anyone’s night. Make sure you fit in a simple safety check before you fill the candy bowl.
- Clear the walkways. Toys, rakes, errant stones — clear them all out of the way before trick-or-treating starts. (Wet leaves are an especially slippery culprit!) A quick clean-up is one of the easiest ways to make your home safer from slip, trip and fall hazards.
- Light it up. Turn on your exterior lights, including any flood lights, to help create a safe path for trick-or-treaters. Check these early so you have time to replace any burned-out bulbs.
- Corral your pets. With all the doorbells and visitors, Halloween can be stressful for your animals – and even a well behaved pet can bite or scratch when they feel anxious. A constantly opening door makes it easy for furry friends to escape, too. A better idea? Keep pets in a secured room or wing of the house.
- Lock all other doors. Mischief can happen when you’re doling out candy, so play it safe by locking all of your other doors. (That includes any garage and car doors, too!) The FBI reports that approximately 30% of all burglaries are committed without force courtesy of an unlocked door or window.
- Check your railing. If it feels rickety, take the time to secure it in place.
- Skip candles. Yes, they give your pumpkins that spooky glow. But a live flame isn’t worth the fire risk you consider all the draping costumes and accessories that will whiz by the flame. Pro tip: Opt for the flameless variety instead.
- Consider your candy choices. Many kids are allergic to candy ingredients like nuts. To help them enjoy the holiday, The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages leaving a teal pumpkin on your stoop to let trick-or-treaters know that you have non-food treats like stickers and toys on hand.
- Pick a good spot. If you have a lot of stairs or a long, winding path, consider handing out candy at the end of your driveway.
- Comb your yard. With all luck, the kiddos will stay on sidewalks and driveways. But they may wander. Clear out sticks, objects or other tripping hazards from your yard.
Cyber Security Checklist: Cover Your Bases
Cover Your Bases Across Regulatory Compliance, Insurance and Privacy Training
If you’ve watched the news in the last few months, you already know cyber events are no joke. Recent ransomware attacks, including at Colonial Pipeline, have significantly impacted critical infrastructure and supply chains, resulting in millions of dollars in losses.
For businesses large and small, compliance with federal, state and foreign privacy laws and regulations has become an essential obligation. These laws govern a company’s collection, storage, use, sharing and disposal of personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI) and payment card information (PCI). A company’s inadvertent failure to abide by these laws, or its failure to timely and fully disclose how it performs such tasks, can make it a target for regulatory proceedings and civil class actions. These lapses can also be a source of reputational damage.
Failure to protect private information can also lead to consumer class actions. And, organizations could be presented with shareholder suits if the value of an organization is harmed due to a cybersecurity event.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure adequate risk mitigation and protection for businesses of all sizes.
1 – Don’t ignore data security and privacy compliance.
2 – Create and memorialize regulatory compliance policies and procedures.
3 – Make sure your website is up to date with the most applicable laws.
4 – Conduct an audit, to get a health check of your cyber security status.
5 – Purchase a broad cyber liability insurance policy, which can protect you from enduring substantial loss should you have a cyber breach.
In today’s world, risk transfer alone isn’t enough to protect a business from the implications of a cyberattack. The right combination of a well-placed cyber liability insurance policy, compliance knowledge and review, employee training, and loss mitigation services are an effective approach to reduce a company’s cyber risks and potential exposures.
Top Fall Driving Hazards (And How to Handle Them)
Fall is a favorite time of year for many. Changing leaves, plaid shirts and pumpkin spice everything is just a start. But we also get shorter days, falling leaves, and that first frost of the season.
Drivers should be mindful of these changes, as this can alter your driving in ways you might not expect.
RAIN AND WET LEAVES
As the weather cools down, the rain picks up. Combine that with lower temperatures and you’ll find your tires may have less grip than they did in the summer months.
To start, always drive cautiously in wet conditions – that includes driving slower than you would on a dry road. And be on the lookout for wet leaves, which can be as slick as ice.
It’s also important to check your tires to ensure they have enough tread. Insert a penny into your tread with Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you insert the penny all the way and all of Lincoln’s head is still showing, that means your tread has worn down and it’s time for new tires.
Driving too fast for the conditions or cruising on worn tires can lead to hydroplaning.
Deer are most active from October to January, especially during the dusk and dawn hours. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a deer collision, you know it can do severe damage to your vehicle.
Avoid deer on the roadways by slowing down during peak hours, paying attention to road signs and using your high beams to increase visibility when possible.
The days get shorter in the fall, so you’ll find yourself driving in the dark more often. This is another peak time for accidents.
Make sure you’re staying alert during nighttime hours. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and turn your headlights on during dawn or dusk hours. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and know when to swerve if there’s an object in the road.
The kids are back to school. The house is quieter. But if you drive just before the school day starts or after it ends…you’re in for lots of crosswalks and bus stops.
Since more kids are walking and biking to school, you’ll need to stay alert around schools and neighborhoods. Be aware of bus safety and school drop-off procedures as well. And if you’d like to avoid the risk altogether, consider finding a new route to avoid these high-traffic areas.
It’s always important to be prepared. But even the most cautious drivers can find themselves face-to-face with something unexpected.
How to Choose an Executor for Your Will
While no one likes thinking about their own mortality, writing a will is an important part of planning for your family’s future.
When creating a will, you start by deciding who will receive your assets when you’re gone. But this is just the first step. Once your plan is on paper, someone still has to make sure your final wishes are met and your family is cared for.
That someone is your executor – the person designated to perform all the legal tasks related to your last will and testament. It’s a big job. So before you write down a name, seriously consider the responsibilities to determine who might be a good fit.
WHAT DOES AN EXECUTOR DO?
Your executor doesn’t have to be a professional. All it takes is a patient, mature person who can handle the responsibility.
The duties of an executor include:
- Offering your will for probate
- Taking inventory and managing your assets
- Using your estate’s funds to pay bills, including taxes, funeral and burial costs
- Notifying banks, creditors, and government agencies of the death
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Preparing and filing final income tax returns
- Paying off any debts
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PERSON TO BE YOUR EXECUTOR
Because of the significant responsibilities placed on your executor, not everyone will be right for the job. Here are some tips on how to choose an executor for your will:
- Choose someone you trust. Pick someone who is emotionally and financially wise. It helps if you know your executor will be humble enough to ask for help if things get complicated, too.
- Name a successor. Ideally, your executor will outlive you. But in the event that doesn’t happen, it’s always wise to name a successor – just in case.
- Avoid any feuds. When it comes to dividing your estate, tensions can run high. Choose a neutral party that will cause the least amount of conflict. Consider a group who works well together, or someone outside of the family to minimize disputes.
- Choose someone qualified. Make sure your first choice is a legal one. In most cases, non-U.S. citizens, felons and minors can’t act as executors. If your executor is young – such as a son or daughter – you can request that he or she only acts as executor after reaching a certain age.
- Find a third party, if needed. Consider using a bank, trust company, or other professional to manage your estate. Third parties can ease the burden for loved ones, and the cost can be covered from your estate.
- Change if necessary. As your life and relationships change, you may want to consider changing your executor, too. Periodically review your will to ensure your executor is still someone you trust to serve your estate.
- Get their approval. Always talk to your executor about the role beforehand. Go over your will so they’re prepared for the work ahead. This will make it less overwhelming for them when the time comes.
What to Expect from a Life Insurance Exam
The process to get a life insurance policy isn’t that different from what you’re used to. You find a company you trust and work with a trusted professional to determine how much coverage you need.
However, with some life policies, there’s one main difference: you have to get a life insurance medical exam. Keep reading to find out how it works and what to expect.
WHAT IS A LIFE INSURANCE MEDICAL EXAM?
A life insurance medical exam, more commonly referred to as a “paramedical exam” by insurance professionals, is an opportunity for your life insurance company to review your medical history and collect information for your life insurance application.
There are typically two stages to this exam: a verbal questionnaire and an examination done by a health professional, usually a paramedical professional or a nurse.
WHY DO I NEED A LIFE INSURANCE EXAM?
Just like an insurance agent asks you questions about your vehicle and driving habits when you’re quoting for an auto policy, your life insurance company wants to learn more about you before issuing you a life policy. An exam helps them to:
- Verify the information you originally gave when applying for a life insurance policy.
- Get a more complete medical history. The questionnaire goes into more detail about your family’s medical history.
- Identify any underlying conditions. A more in-depth view of your medical history and results from your bloodwork may reveal a condition you were unaware you are at risk for, or might already have – for example, diabetes.
However, not all life policies require you to get a life insurance medical exam. Life policies below $100,000 typically require you to only complete an application and answer several questions before it is reviewed by an underwriter.1 Your agent will assist you in completing the application, you will sign it and your agent submit it for underwriting review.
Getting to Know Sean Huff
Sean Huff has been with EMS Wealth Management/EFM&A since September 2019, and in the financial planning industry since 2014.
Sean specializes in helping those close to or in retirement, plan for the unknown and unexpected. His ideal client is someone 50 or older who is very focused on getting to the next stage of their life, but unsure of what lies ahead.
He focuses mainly on saving clients’ money on taxes and optimizing investments so that they work best for the client. Through a consultative approach, he looks at every aspect of someone’s life to make sure all their goals can be accomplished and that they can live out their lives with dignity and the way they desire. Whether that be sitting on a beach with a margarita or sitting on the back porch, his goal is to ensure that clients have the retirement they have worked so many years towards.
Last month, Sean received his NYS P&C License.
Common Questions About Life insurance
Life isn’t one-size-fits-all – and neither is life insurance.
Here are a few frequently asked questions that may help you understand and navigate the best life insurance policy for you.
1. How much life insurance do I need, anyway? There are a number of factors that can influence the amount of life insurance you need – including age, debts, monthly expenses and number of. As a general rule of thumb, purchasing a policy worth 10 to 15 times your gross income is used as a starting point in cultivating your policy.
2. Is Life insurance expensive? Purchasing an insurance policy worth hundreds of thousands of dollars may sound like an expensive proposition. But the truth is, life insurance is more affordable than you may think. As an example, and depending on your policy, a $250,000 life insurance policy could cost less than $15 a month.
3. Do I need a medical exam to purchase life insurance? Not always, but do expect to answer certain questions. It’s more likely you’ll need an exam as your age and/or the amount of coverage requested increases. For some life insurance policies, your insurer will require a brief medical exam, more commonly referred to as a paramedical exam. It’s similar to a standard physical. A paramedical exam professional will measure vitals like your height, weight, temperature and blood pressure. You’ll also have to have blood drawn and a urinalysis test completed.
4. Can I purchase life insurance without a health exam? Not all life policies require you to get a paramedical exam. Life policies below $100,000 typically require you to only complete an application (with the help of your agent) before it is reviewed by an underwriter. If you’re between the ages of 18-55, you may be able to get an instant-issue term or whole life policy with up to $500,000 in coverage by answering several application questions without having to complete a life insurance paramedical medical exam.
5. Why should I think about life insurance if I’m young and healthy? Life insurance is a smart purchase at any age. Even if no one depends on your monthly income, a life insurance policy will cover your funeral expenses and debts — including student loans. And there’s another advantage of purchasing a policy at a young age: lower rates. Because insurers price policies based on risk (and young people have a far lower mortality rate than older groups), your rates are generally less expensive if you’re young and healthy. Buying a policy when you’re young and healthy makes it easier for you to buy more coverage in the future. Plus, you’ll have a policy (locked in at a great rate) now, should you ever need it.
6. I have a policy through work. Isn’t that enough? As part of an overall benefits package, many employers offer some form of life insurance coverage to their employees. Since this coverage is typically paid for by the employer, it’s a great benefit to have. But it’s still wise to hold your own personal life insurance policy.
7. I don’t work outside the home. Why should I think about life insurance? Being a stay-at-home parent is a full-time job. And while your work may not generate an income, it does significantly reduce your household expenses. Think of all the extra costs associated with child care, transportation and meal preparation that would be incurred if you were no longer around.
8. What’s the difference between term and permanent life insurance? Term life insurance provides coverage over a fixed period of time. Term life insurance is a cost-effective option to provide protection for the loved ones you leave behind. With this type of policy, you can select a term that will cover you when you need it most — such as the time it will take your children to reach adulthood. Permanent policies, such as whole life policies, provide coverage over your entire lifetime. That means your family and beneficiaries are covered for the duration of your life. Whole life insurance accumulates cash value, too, providing you the option of borrowing against it in the future.
9. I’m a rock climber. Can you still cover me? Assessing risk is a key component of underwriting a life insurance policy. Dangerous hobbies — like skydiving, rock climbing or vehicle racing — make you inherently riskier to insure. However, just because you’re an adrenaline junkie doesn’t automatically mean you can’t get life insurance. Before giving you a quote, your insurance agent may ask you to fill out a written questionnaire to understand more about your hobby. In many cases, you’ll still be able to get insurance. Just expect to pay a little extra to account for the additional risk.
10. What is a life insurance beneficiary? A beneficiary is a person or entity designated to receive the funds from your life insurance policy in the event of your death. Your beneficiary can be a person, business, trust, charity, church or even a school. An insurance policy can have more than one beneficiary.
11. How do I choose a beneficiary? Choosing a life insurance beneficiary depends largely on how you’d like your life insurance benefit to be used upon your death. If you have young children, naming a spouse or close family member you trust as your beneficiary and memorializing your wishes may be one way to provide for your children’s care in your absence.
12. I don’t have kids. Why should I think about life insurance? The need for life insurance isn’t limited to parents. Whether you’re entering adulthood or nearing retirement, everyone can benefit from owning a life insurance policy. Beyond providing for children, a life insurance benefit can be used to cover expenses like funeral costs or pay off any outstanding debts.
What Happens If My Neighbor’s Tree Falls in My Yard?
Trees can be one of the best features about a neighborhood or property, but it can also leave homeowners in a sticky situation if they cause damage after a storm. For the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. This means that if a neighbor’s tree falls into your yard, your homeowners insurance could help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused on your property, after your deductible.
The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should contact his or her insurance company to determine what type of coverage is available for damage or cleanup in their yard.
Although majority of these circumstances can be worked out between the neighbors, sometimes extensive damage may need to file a homeowners insurance claim. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover the cost of tree cleanup, depending on your policy and the company you work with.
If there’s ever an issue between neighbors, you can rely on Emerling Floss Murphy & Associates to help straighten everything out.
THE CLAIMS PROCESS
If a tree falls on your house, the first thing to do, if it’s safe, is to try to prevent further damage to your home and property. Make sure to take some photos to document what happened. Then call your insurance agent, who can explain your options and help you understand if and how to file a claim. When you file a claim, a claims adjuster will come by to evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It’s recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed.
Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it’s not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. Depending on the damage and terms of your insurance coverage, the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss.
PREVENTING TREE DAMAGE
Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.
Homeowners should be concerned about the health of their trees. It’s possible for you to be held responsible for resulting damage to your neighbor’s house or property, if your tree falls due (in whole or part) to your own neglect.
If you have any further questions or concerns, give us a call! We are happy to help!