Life Insurance: Term vs. Whole

Life Insurance: Term vs. WholeLife insurance isn’t a sexy topic, but at some point, it is one that most people have to think about.  The question of what happens to your family in the event of your death is an important one to consider.  This comes about sometimes after significant life status events – perhaps a marriage, the birth of a child or purchasing a home.  Life insurance helps protect your loved ones in the event of your death. It can cover your funeral expenses, pay off your mortgage or provide resources to replace your income for a period of time.  Two of the more prevalent types of life insurance are term life and whole life.  Knowing a bit about the differences between these two types of insurance can help you to decide which might be the best product for your needs.

Term life insurance covers you in the event of premature death within the specific term of your policy which is usually set up with a term of 10, 20 or 30 years.   Term life policies are typically straight forward – if you die within the term, the policy pays your beneficiaries the amount of your policy coverage.  The premium amount and the payout remain at fixed amounts throughout the term of the policy.  Because there is no cash value to the product and most people live through the end of their term, the premiums on this type of policy remains affordable (about 1/4 of the costs for whole life insurance).  In some cases, term life can be converted to whole life coverage at the end of the term.

Whole life insurance is a form of permanent life insurance and includes an investment component.  Your premiums are typically tax-deferred and the cash value of your policy grows with time.  You can borrow against your account or cash out/surrender the policy in the future if you need to.  The policy premium remains the same for life and the death benefit is guaranteed.  Whole life insurance premiums are higher than term life, primarily because the benefit is guaranteed.  It can provide for funeral costs, estate taxes, and more, depending on the amount of your policy coverage. Some policies can also earn annual dividends that can be re-invested back into the policy or taken as surplus income.

To learn more about which kind of policy might best suit your needs, schedule an appointment with our team at Bieritz Insurance.  We are happy to look into options and provide you with the information to make a decision that makes the most sense for you and your family.  You can contact us in Cooperstown at 209 Main Street, (607) 547-2951 or in Morris at 128 Main Street, (607) 263-5170.

 

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Insuring Your Vacation Rental Property

In our little corner of the world, the vacation rental business is booming.  While year-round lodging opportunities (hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, etc.) continue to exist as a mainstay of accommodation  options in our area – there are many properties that now cater mostly to the thirteen week summer season – primarily targeted to the baseball camp family audience for weekly rentals.  Some of these properties contract with local managers to list and rent their homes as summer vacation rentals and others (more each day) list with one or more of the national rental chains like HomeAway, VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner)  or AirB&B.

 

A home that is used as a rental property is considered a business.  As a business, a typical homeowner’s insurance policy does not necessarily provide insurance coverage for your property (liability and damages, etc.) in the same way.   In some cases, if your property is used for short-term (less than 30 days) rentals, you might qualify for an endorsement on your existing policy. NOTE: You can check with our offices to see what your options are to make sure that you and your property are protected.   In most cases, you will need separate business insurance to cover you for liability (in case someone gets injured while staying at your property), building and contents (for replacement from catastrophic damage) and building income (to protect your business earnings).  If you offer extras like the use of bicycles or canoes/kayaks, or if you have a pool that guests will be able to use, you will want to make sure that your liability coverage extends to cover these items and their use by a renter.

 

Although some of the national rental chains (above) may offer their owners (and guests) the option to add insurance for their rentals, their policies might not provide the coverage that you need to be fully protected.  In some cases these policies do not allow for claims for extra guest fees, violations to the rental agreement, extra fees for cleaning or from pets, or loss of the ability to rent while repairs are being done. If you list your property through a national agency, Bieritz Insurance can review the details of that coverage for you so that we can advise how you can minimize your exposure to risks that might not be covered.  

 

Even with an insurance policy, some property owners continue to request a security deposit from their guests.  Although security deposits are time consuming to manage and are often points of contention between the owner and their guest, they do allow for the owner to provide documentation of damages and fees incurred to make repairs without going through the claims process (which often requires cooperation from the renter).  Security deposits may also provide a better incentive for renters to leave the property in good condition.

 

To protect yourself in a vacation rental business, your rental agreement with your vacationing guests should clearly stipulate the process for damages and claims.  You should also have a screening process in place so that you can make sure that your property and rules are a good fit for your prospective renter. A little bit of work in advance can alleviate headaches afterwards.  Our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown and Morris can help answer your questions and can find coverage to best meet your needs.  Contact us in Cooperstown at (607) 547-2951 and in Morris at (607) 263-5170. We are here to help you for all of your insurance needs!

 

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An Annual Review of Your Policies can Save You Money

Many people think of March and April as the time of year for Spring Cleaning.  The snow and ice begin to melt away and we start to think about spending more time outdoors.  We look at things that we need to to outside in our yards for annual maintenance, and we begin to prepare for tax season – where we look at our financial documents for the year and assess our financial ‘health’.   It’s also a great time of year to conduct an annual review of your insurance policies.

Our lives change on an ongoing basis, so it’s important that your insurance coverage changes as well.  How long has it been since you last assessed your policies?  Our team at Bieritz Insurance wants to make sure you are not overpaying for your policies and we also want to make sure you are not under-insured.  When you conduct a review of your insurance, you might find out that there are increases, deductions or discounts.

Things that can impact your rates are things like a new baby in your household, additions or improvements that you have made to your home, property that you may have inherited, recreational vehicles that you have purchased or sold, a college student who is renting an apartment, or maybe you have reached retirement age.  There are other things as well: new drivers in your household, real estate market changes, landscaping changes, etc.

Typically, we understand that our assets change over time. What we don’t usually think about is that the value of those assets change as well.  If your home has appreciated in value, you need to make sure that your insurance coverage allows for this increase in value in case of catastrophic loss.  If you purchased your home at $250,000 ten years ago, and the value has since appreciated to $300,000, you want to make sure that your insurance policy will cover you for a $300,000 loss in case of a catastrophic event.  In other words, if your coverage hasn’t been updated since you purchased your home, your insurance value might not cover full replacement if your home value has increased.  In this instance, a review of your policy might increase your policy payments, but you are assured of having the coverage that is right for you.

There are other instances where your policy payments might decrease.  Maybe you installed a home security system or an emergency battery backup for your sump pump or perhaps you have hit an age milestone that would qualify you or members of your family for additional discounts on your auto insurance policies.

A look through your policies on an annual basis can help you find these things and can ultimately save you money on your policy premiums.    Whether you are a current client or maybe just looking for some cost comparisons as part of your process, you can contact us in Cooperstown at  607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170 to schedule an appointment for a review!  In most cases, we can save you money.  We work with over 20 companies so that we can find exactly the right products to fit your needs at the right price for your budget.

 

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Teaching Your Teen to Drive

teaching your teen to driveHaving a new driver in your family can be a nerve-wracking experience.  As a parent, your mind somehow jumps to all of the things that can possibly go wrong, and how your newly-permitted driver is yet unequipped to handle different situations in a car.  Teaching your teen to drive takes patience and the ability to be objective – you need to provide guidance instead of criticism. We hope the following five tips will help you as you wind your way through these sometimes stressful moments!

Stay Calm
No matter what happens, it is important to remain calm.  Yes, grab the uh-oh handle and step on the imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side of the car if you must, but take a deep breath and remain calm.  Dealing with situations on the road are stressful enough for a new driver and losing your cool won’t help.  If you need to calm yourself, find a good place to pull over and take a walk around the car until you are ready to continue.

Talking to Your Teen Respectfully (i.e. Don’t Yell – Ever)
Instead of saying “You need to slow down more around corners”, maybe go with something along the lines of “How do you feel you handled that last turn?”.  Your job as a driving instructor is different from that of a parent.  Your job is to get them to think for themselves about what they are doing and how to make adjustments to stay safe on the roads.  Be respectful and make them think.

Allowing Them to Learn in a Multitude of Situations
Yes, it is snowing and the roads may be slick.  It’s dark and foggy and the visibility is poor.  It’s pouring rain out and the windshield wipers are a bit wonky on the car.  It’s rush hour and there’s a lot of traffic on the highway.  There’s always a good excuse to opt to not allow your teen to drive, but dealing with these situations will help to make them better drivers.  Knowing how to handle a snowy roadway or a busy highway is important and the only way for them to learn to navigate these situations well is by giving them the opportunity to practice.  It may not be the most comfortable experience for you, but it is important for them.

Know the Rules of the Road
If you passed your test 30 years ago, you should definitely take a look through the manual as a refresher. Knowing the rules of the road will be part of the drivers test and if you aren’t familiar with the rules (some things may be different), you can’t  adequately guide your teenager – and you may even mislead them into thinking that something they are doing is okay when it is not.

It’s Not About How to Operate a Car
Driver education is not about how the car works.  Things like how to change a tire or checking the fluid levels, tire pressure, etc. are important to know, but it’s a different part of the new driver training.  Every car is a little bit different in where things are, how they handle, etc., but it’s also mostly the same.  Operating a vehicle and driving safely are two different things.

Focus on the Main Things:
The four main items to spend your time on are speed, space, observation and communication.  If you can get your teen to be thinking of these whenever they get behind the wheel, you will be well on your way to training a safe driver.  If they can master these four things during their training, then you have done your job.

Extra Bonus Insurance Tip: A teen or young adult with a learner’s permit in New York State accompanied by a licensed adult supervisor does not need to have their own insurance policy. Once they become a licensed driver, they should be added to your policy or you can consider getting them their own insurance.

If you have any insurance-related questions, please feel free to contact our team at Bieritz Insurance – 209 Main Street in Cooperstown (607-547-02951) or at Morris Insurance, 128 Main Street in Morris (607-263-5170).

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Travel Insurance – When Do You Need It?

Travel insurance is insurance that is intended to cover medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost luggage, flight accident and other losses incurred while traveling, either internationally or domestically.  (Wikipedia)

Travel insurance makes the most sense when you have higher cost pre-paid and non-refundable expenses associated with a trip so that if there is a need to cancel, you have a means to recover the bulk of your expense.  If you are concerned only with baggage loss or flight delays, the cost of insurance may not be worth the cost of a plan.  

If you are traveling within the U.S. and have an emergency medical situation while traveling, your regular health insurance plan should cover those types of situations.  If you are leaving your home country, emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage (safe transportation to a hospital) are recommended since your health insurance coverage will not typically be applicable.  

There are different components of travel insurance that you can consider based on your travel plans and your needs.  Here are a few:

  •  Trip cancellation coverage helps to recover your out of pocket expenses if you get sick and are unable to travel, if you have a death in your family, if you are required to work or you have a home emergency (flooding, etc.).
  • Missed connection coverage allows you to replace an original flight and make other types of travel changes and provides assistance services to help you.
  • Trip interruption coverage helps you find a new flight or an overnight stay in case your airline cancels their original flight plans.
  • Protection for weather damage covers your costs if a weather event causes damage at your planned destination (i.e. and your hotel can no longer accommodate you).  This will reimburse you for the original costs and assist in finding alternatives.  

 

If you are planning a trip and thinking about whether or not you need insurance, stop by and ask our team! You can find us at Bieritz Insurance, 209 Main Street in Cooperstown or at Morris Insurance, 128 Main Street in Morris.  

 

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Cooking Safety through the Holidays

Did you know that there are about 1,400 cooking fires per year on Thanksgiving?  This is more than 3X the average for every other day of the year!  Furthermore, since 2004 there have been 107 fires due to frying turkey that have caused 47 burns and $5.2 millions worth of property damage!  Keep in mind the following tips to prevent accidents in your kitchen when you are cooking for the holidays.

Prevention

  • Make sure there is someone to watch over cooking operations as much as possible.
  • Tie long hair back and restrict or don’t wear drooping clothing that may easily catch fire.
  • Try to put meal-preparation tools that are flammable in a separate area.
  • Closely supervise cooking children or designate a distant playing space.
  • Keep watch over and clear away any grease buildup throughout the day.
  • Keep pan handles out of the way of passing traffic as much as possible.
  • Ensure that there are working smoke detectors installed on each floor, and perhaps get a photoelectric alarm that can determine the difference between smoke from cooking and smoke from fire.
  • If you choose to use a turkey fryer, set it up far outside and away from your house, not on the porch or in the garage.  Make sure the turkey is thoroughly thawed and dried before beginning.  Make sure you put only as much oil in it as you need.  If it starts to smoke, turn off the gas supply.  Also keep close watch.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and learn how to use it.

 

Action After An Accident

In the event that there is a grease fire, call 911 as soon as possible and do not to attempt to put it out with water.  If someone’s clothing is on fire, remember or remind the person to stop, drop, and roll.  If someone is burned, further action is needed depending on which level of the skin it reaches.  For more information on treating minor burns, follow this link.

Remember, your insurance provider can help you navigate out of this kind of crisis.  You can reach our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or at Morris Insurance at 607-263-5170.

For additional information on things you can do to prevent accidents during the holidays, check out Safety Tips for the Holiday Season and Top Ten Holiday Safety Tips.

 

 

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Uninvited Guests – Pest Control for Your Home

Every old house homeowner knows there are time of the year when they find some unexpected house guests.  When the weather warms in the spring and summer months, the small trails of ants might appear in your kitchen, and in the fall months, as the weather cools, there are sometimes little creepers that find their way into your pantry.

Most people prefer to see their local wildlife outdoors, in the wild, where they belong.  But sometimes, they find their way into your home and you need to take action to eradicate/evict them.  Why are they there?  Habitat is a requirement for all living things.  This includes food, water, shelter and space.  If your home provides easy access to these resources, chances are you will find yourself playing the unwilling host.

Don’t Open the Door

One of the best methods to eliminate a pest problem is to make it hard for pests to find what they need.  Check for possible entry points around your home – a gap in your window screening, a broken window in your basement or maybe a garage door that doesn’t close properly may be easy access points to your house.  Do a general inspection each Spring and Fall for needed repairs to prevent pests from entering your home.  Is your crawl space protected? Do your windows need resealing? Does your attic screen need repair? Is your chimney capped?  Preventing entry in the first place is always a good place to begin.

Don’t Feed Your Guests

Next, look at your food sources.  Did someone spill the sugar?  Are there crumbs under your toaster? Is there food in your pantry that should be stored in a canister?  If pests cannot find something to eat in your home, chances are they will have to find somewhere else to live.  A thorough cleaning of your pantry and kitchen/dining areas will often help to assure that food particles are not available and will make it a harder or more unfriendly environment for pests, reducing the chances that they will take up a more permanent residence in your home.

Eviction

Sometimes, steps have to be taken to force your unwanted guests out.  That wasp nest on your roof porch needs to go!  If you use spray insecticides, make sure you follow the directions carefully and practice extra caution if you have pets or children in your household.  For small mammals like mice, avoid using poisons if you can since these animals are often prey for cats and other predators, and poisons often travel through the food chain and will impact more than that one intended nuisance target.  Trap and release works well as an alternative, but there are times when spring traps (for mice) or bait traps (for insects) might be necessary.

Get Help

If all else fails, it’s time to turn to the “Yellow Pages” or your favorite online directory to find professionals in your area that can help you with pest control.  Try to get recommendations from friends or maybe a local realtor to find out who might be best for the job.

Recap

Prevention is always the best method of control, but if you see or hear signs of unwanted guests in your home, then it’s too late.  You are closing the barn door after the horses get out (or the raccoons got in).  Do what you can to eliminate entry areas and habitat for your pests and if that fails, then move along to take more extreme (and often more costly) measures.  Pests are nuisances, but they can also do considerable damage to your home (chewed electrical wiring, structural wood damage).  Action is necessary to make your home inhospitable – for both short-term and long-term control.

If you have questions about whether pest damage to your home is covered by your insurance policy, give our team at Bieritz Insurance a call at (607) 547-2951 or stop in at our offices at 209 Main Street, Cooperstown.

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Storm Season Driving Safety

Most of the summer months are dedicated to storm season.  In between the days that are perfect for the beach, with blue and yellow skies, are days full of heavy rain, winds, and flooding, with the occasional–for Upstate New York–hailstorm, tornado, and hurricane.  These weather conditions, in combination with increased vacationing travel, road work, and presence of motorcycles and bikes on the roads, contribute to a higher average of fatal accidents taking place in the summer rather than the winter.  At times like these, we find ourselves wanting to know how we can maximize driving safety.  Below, you will find a list of summertime storm hazards, and ways you can alter your driving to better ensure safety in each of them.

But first, here are a some general staples for driving in severe weather:

  1. Knowing the weather conditions and predictions for where and when you are traveling can help you mentally prepare for potentially unpleasant conditions.
  2. Planning a few back-up routes can also contribute to less stress.
  3. Limiting noise distractions from various devices and conversation can make room for more focus.
  4. You can always choose not to drive at all or to wait out the storm off the road.
  5. Slowing down and increasing the travel distance between surrounding vehicles can minimize the threat of hydroplaning and can allow more comfort, space, and time to react to traffic and road conditions.  
  6. Cleaning your windows and checking your wipers once a month, checking the washer fluid once a week, and checking your lights and signals every day may be time-consuming, but it can contribute to feelings of ease during a drive if you don’t end up worrying about visibility–either your ability to see out of your windows, or your car’s ability of been seen.
  7. Newer cars may have front lights that engage when the windshield wipers are on, but the back lights don’t activate as well, so turning on the regular lights enables your vehicle to be seen from both directions.

 

Summertime Storm Hazards & Safety Tips

  • Strong Winds – These can turn automobiles over, especially larger ones, or move them across lanes into each other or off the road.
    • Winds may be more forceful in open areas, highway overpasses, tunnels, and tunnel-like spaces such as between mountains, so it may be helpful to know and stay alert in these areas.  .
    • While driving, locate and try to maintain distance from larger vehicles and motorcycles.
    • Hold steadily onto the wheel, especially if you are occupying a larger vehicle.
  • Heavy Rain – This can inhibit visibility and threaten your control over steering and braking if there is enough water and you start to hydroplane
    • If you wait for a half hour after the rain begins, the oils and dirt that may have made roads more slippery for hydroplaning will have dissipated.  
    • Try to follow in the tracks of the car ahead of you to reduce the likelihood of hydroplaning.
    • Avoid making fast turns and stops.  Don’t use cruise control because you can’t reduce speed to keep traction by taking your foot off of the acceleration.
    • If you hydroplane, steer in the direction you want to go, and don’t step on the gas or the brakes until you have regained control over steering.  For more on recovery from hydroplaning, see our article on Driving Safely in the Fall and Winter Months. 
  • Hail
    • Get off the road completely.
    • Don’t leave your car, and wait for the storm to end.
  • Moving Water – This could cause you to hydroplane, run over hidden dangerous debris like power lines, and it could cause your engine to stall if it brushes up against water.  
    • Don’t drive through more than 3 inches of water.  
    • Drive slowly.
    • Turn around and find a detour.
  • Hurricane – In addition to much of the above, remember to keep your gas tank full so you don’t end up stranded.  Keeping first-aid supplies, clothing, water, and snacks in your car can be of help in the event that you are.
  • Tornado – These debris-wielding, strong, and rotating winds can do an enormous amount of damage.
    • Seek indoor shelter first.
    • Otherwise, get off the road completely.
    • Stay away from bridges and tunnels because the wind may be more powerful there.
    • If you can’t safely reach an area that is lower than the road, stay in your car, belted in, with your head below the windows and covered by your hands and a blanket, if you have one.
    • If you can safely get to a place that is lower than the road, lie there with your hands over your head.

So much in life is unpredictable.  Tornadoes and hurricanes may not be so prevalent in Upstate New York, but our summer travels take us everywhere, and we’ll never know when situations will call for us to use what we’ve learned.  We can also never be certain that what we’ve learned will fully protect ourselves in such conditions.  In the aftermath, insurance can support you, wherever you are.  Request a quote on automobile or life insurance from the team at Bieritz Insurance Agency today!

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How does Installing a Pool Affect Homeowners Insurance?

One of the small joys of the summer season for adults and children alike is being able to go swimming.  Cooling off in the water offers relief from the heat and humidity.   If you are looking for the convenience and benefits of having your own backyard pool, don’t forget to consider the added cost of insurance into your expenses.  

Installing a pool usually increases how much you pay annually for your homeowner’s insurance policy.  It can add costs to your standard premium for the following reasons.  

  • A pool is a high risk investment, so you can expect that you will need to increase your liability coverage to cover personal injuries and/or damages. Increasing your liability claim limit will cause an increase to your premium.  

  • Some homeowners opt to purchase an umbrella policy to protect against potential lawsuits and other damages up to $1 million, costing an additional $200-$300 per year to the policy holder.

  • In-ground pools can be seen in two ways by policies – either as part of the home or as external structures.  If your pool is considered part of your home, increasing the replacement cost value in your policy by the amount it costs to install the pool increases your maximum claim limit and therefore also your premium.  If your pool is considered an external structure, you might want to pay for more coverage.  This is because a lot of policies cover the cost to replace external structures only up to 10% of the value of your home as listed in your policy, and that might not be enough to cover your costs for replacement.  

  • Above-ground pools, however, are considered personal property.  Many home insurance policies cover personal property up to 75% the replacement cost value of your home, and your pool may be included in that, unless your policy puts a claim limit on swimming pools.  If it doesn’t, then you will probably be set in the event that damage is done to your pool, unless your pool is very expensive.

  • Some safety features are required in many states, such as fencing, and they may also minimize the amount that is added to your premium.  Some pool accessories, such as slides and diving boards, are seen as increased risk to providers.  If your pool has them, it may not be covered at all, or it may cost more to protect.  

  • In warmer areas where swimming pools are more common and often-used, the amount of increase to the annual premium may be less than in areas where they are less in-use.

  • If you don’t declare your pool in your policy or notify your provider that you are installing one, you won’t have to pay the increased premium, but you may be in more debt later because of it, and your provider will not be likely to step in to aid you, this time or the next.  

The bottom line is that getting a pool may mean that you will end up paying more for your homeowner’s insurance policy, but it depends on the type of pool you get, its accessories, your location, and how much protection you decide to invest in.  If you are considering a pool, our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency can help to answer your questions.  Be sure to give us a call at (607) 547-2951 (Cooperstown Office) or at (607) 263-5170 (Milford Office).

 

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Keeping Your Affairs in Order from Afar

Home Security Checklist during Vacation

Summer is here!  For you, this could mean that bags will soon be packed, and that you and your family will be excitedly heading for glistening waterways like Glimmerglass or for attractive places of amusement and learning similar to what we have here in Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, leaving home for long periods of time is a risk – there are some who may be looking out for a temporarily empty nest to encroach upon, or a technical time-bomb could erupt.  Both could leave you disadvantaged in various ways, depending on your homeowners policy, and both could also reverse the intended effects of vacationing.  

We want you to be protected from these catastrophes and to also be reassured that they won’t occur so that you can have fun and find some relief in relaxation.  Prepare yourself for a carefree summer holiday with the help of our home-security checklist!  In general, it is a good idea to leave your house looking as though it were still being lived in, but to also safeguard your possessions and have an emergency plan in the event that something goes wrong.

Community

  • Ask a neighbor or a friend for assistance.  
  • Give your neighbor/friend keys, alarm codes, emergency phone numbers, directions for taking care of plants, pets, the house, or yard, directions for a plan for emergencies, and directions for where to bring mail.
  • Let local law enforcement know of your plans to leave and of your house-sitter if you plan to leave for more than a week, and if you live in a small community or you know a police officer.  They may be able to look out for your home in particular while you are away.  
  • Contact your credit card and home security companies and let them know you will be away so they know how to interpret what may be different card or alarm activities.  Update your security system with your neighbor’s or friend’s contact information for the time being.
  • Within 30 days of or by 3am ET on the day of your departure, you can go online to hold your mail at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/ unless you want a friend or neighbor to collect it during your time away.
  • Contact your homeowners insurance provider to go over your policy and make sure that it is updated.

Indoors

  • Turn appliances off.  Unplug some of them to protect from potential fires.
  • Don’t leave any one light on continuously.  A light switch timer can keep your home looking-lived in if it turns lights on and off at different intervals that can even match your typical routines, but leaving one or two lights on for the duration of your outing can really raise the electric bill.  A TV timer could provide the same service.  
  • Turn off water valves.  If take a vacation in the winter, you may want to leave them on and have your neighbor or friend occasionally run water to make sure the pipes do not freeze and break.  If this might be the case, show them where they can turn off the water valves.
  • Turn off gas.  
  • Acclimate the thermostat to the seasonal temperature, but make sure it is livable for your pets and plants, and that it won’t damage your possessions and tools.  
  • Raise the temperature in your fridge to prevent blowing a circuit and to save energy.
  • Clean out your fridge and dispose of any food that could go bad in the time that you are away.  Take out your trash.  Clean your sink and anything that could attract animals or start growing mold.  Clean your garbage disposal with half a cup of vinegar and water.
  • Lock all doors and windows, including cat/dog flaps.  
  • Leave your curtains as open as you would if you were still at home, but relocate any valuables out of direct sight and even into your safety deposit box at your bank or another secure place in your home.  Also lock up or safely store your computerware and important documents.
  • Shorten the length of the ring on your landline, and do not update your answering machine with the news that you will be away on vacation.  Similarly, do not post your absence on social media.  
  • Park your car inside your garage, unless it is going with you on your trip.  Also clear it of any tools that could be used to help break into your house.
  • Check and update your smoke detectors.  

 

Outside

  • Ask your friend/neighbor to park their car in your driveway every once in awhile. 
  • Before you leave, mow your lawn, or enlist help to attend to it in your absence.  
  • Put all toys and yard supplies away, especially tools that people could use to get into your house with.  
  • Relocate any spare keys.
  • Request that your neighbor might move your trash bins to the curb and back on garbage day, even if there isn’t anything in them.
  • Put a bar across or deadbolt any glass or screen sliding doors.
  • Lock all sheds and turn off the power to the garage door.  
  • Install a motion-sensitive light outside.  

Did we miss something?  Would you like to clarify or update your policy?  Give us a call!  Our Cooperstown office phone number is 607-547-2951, and you can reach our office at Morris at 607-263-5170.  Also feel free to email us at agent@bierizinsurance.com or agent@morrisinsuranceny.com.  Happy travels!

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5 Things to Consider When Buying Boat Insurance

We understand that, with summer right around the corner and water temperatures sure to be rising, you want to get back out on that water fast.  While the draws of Glimmerglass and other bodies of water are many, your safety is nothing to be hasty about, and so here we provide 5 things to consider when buying boat insurance.  

  1. Your Boat is Not Covered by your Auto & Homeowners Insurance Policies
  • Auto & Homeowners Policies Limitations
    • While your auto insurance will cover your boat when you are traveling with it attached to your vehicle on land, it does not cover your boat when it is in the water.  
    • Similarly, your homeowners insurance will cover your boat for damage done to it while it is on your property, but, when your boat is on the water, it will usually only cover a small boat or at most; a boat with a small engine in certain waterways.  It also often does not cover for salvage work, wreck removal, and pollution or environmental damage.
  • Similarities with the Other Policies:
    • As with homeowners insurance, your boat insurance covers you for injury to others while they are on your boat, and it also offers you replacement cost or cash value in the event of damages.  
    • Like your auto insurance, your boat insurance covers you for your boat’s damage to others and others’ boats and docks, as well as for the damage done to your own boat by others’ or the environment.  Furthermore, it can be additionally protected against its theft or theft of contents (often specialty gear), against vandalism, fires and floods.  It can also cover you for towing and while you are outside of the US.
  • Differences from the Auto & Homeowners Policies:
    • Unlike these two other policies, your boat insurance policy can be suspended while your boat is not in use, which can save you some money.
    • Your boat insurance policy also covers you for permanently attached items like motors, oars, anchors, and navigational equipment.

 

  1. Pick the Right Agent (Check with our Team at the Bieritz Agency and Morris Insurance)
  • It is never fun to suffer a loss and then be pressed into haggling over discrepancies in the insurance policy, so it is wise to put the effort in upfront by locating the right agent for you, and thoroughly discussing your needs with them.  
  • Make sure they are familiar with boats and boating.
  • Make sure they are connected with well-respected marine insurer companies.
  • Make sure they are providing you with advice that is reasonable and applicable to you and your boating needs.
  1. Factors that Affect Policy Cost
    • Where you Plan to Boat:
      • Inland or coastal
      • Freshwater ($) or saltwater ($$$)
      • In-country or out-of-country
      • Specific locations out-of-country
    • Storm Plan
      • In the event of a strong storm, whether or not you decide to have your boat stored in a secure facility or towed to a safer locale could affect your policy price.  If you want to be covered for damage done during a storm, you must follow the plan.
    • Agency
      • You can bundle your policies and get discounts if you buy your boat insurance from the same insurance company that holds your auto and homeowners policies.

 

  • Type of Boat

 

  • Suspension
    • During the off-season (or times of the year when your boat is not being used), you can suspend your policy and reduce your costs.
  • Things that may Qualify for Discounts:
    • Taking a boating class or previous training and certification in classes
    • Good driving and boating record
    • Safety equipment and fixtures
  1. Agreed vs. Market/Actual Cash Value
  • Like cars, your boat suffers a decrease in the amount of money it is worth as soon as you put it on the water, and it continues to decrease with time.  
  • When you agree on a policy with your agent, you can decide whether, in the event of your boat being partially or completely destroyed, you want to be reimbursed to an “agreed value” or a “market/actual cash value.”  
  • Agreed value is what you and your agent decide the boat’s worth is at the time of purchasing insurance for it.  
  • It tends to cost more than market/actual cash value, which is the value of the boat in its “lifespan” at the time of the incident.  
  • While you might get more money back for damages with agreed value, insurers may push for actual cash value, which could offer you savings at the time of purchasing the policy.  

 

  1. Whether or not you feel your craft should be insured, it might be a good idea to buy a minimum liability coverage worth at least $500,000.  

 

Accidents happen, and it is always helpful to have something to fall back on!  If you are looking for information about insuring your boat, give our team a call at either of our offices in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  

 

Be safe and enjoy the water!

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Flood Safety

Spring is here and with the season’s change comes the rain.  It seems that we have had a good deal of precipitation just over the last two weeks in our region – and if you are looking at our local rivers and streams, we are noticing that the water is running fast and high.  Floods happen everywhere – they are not relegated to specific regions like tornadoes or hurricanes.  Our area has certainly had more than a few years over this last decade where flooding has been severe.  For safety, please keep an ear out for warnings and follow the safety suggestions below!

 

  • Flood insurance often takes up to 30 days to go into effect, so if you are in need of a rider, you need to plan for this well in advance.  Our team can provide you with additional information and details on how flood insurance works.
  • Prepare for emergency situations with your family.  Hold a meeting and talk about what needs to be done in case of a flood, have a plan for communications in case people are at work or at school, and don’t forget about your pets.
  • Make up several emergency kits and keep one at your office, your home and your family vehicles.  If you don’t know what should be in your emergency kit, you can find information here: https://www.ready.gov/kit
  • Be aware of flood warnings and move to higher ground.  If you are advised to evacuate, please do so.  If you are already on higher ground, be prepared to stay there until it is safe to travel.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • Never drive or walk through flooded streets.

 

Find more details on what to do before, during and after a flood at http://www.susquehannafloodforecasting.org/before-during-after.html

 

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Area Classic Car Events 2017

As the weather begins to warm up throughout the spring months, our thoughts begin to turn to our summer pastimes and hobbies.  For classic car enthusiasts, this means getting ready to hit the road to attend regional car shows or taking your own classic car out of storage to show her off to fans.  

 

If you are looking for shows coming up in our region of Central NY, we have listed a few of them below.  If you are looking for additional events, you can increase your radius and find shows coming up this spring/summer/fall (in Rheinbeck, NY, the Albany Region and the Finger Lakes Region).  

 

Do you own a classic car? Or maybe you are considering buying one?  If so, give our team a call for a quote!  We work with over 20 different companies and can help tailor your policy to fit your needs and your budget.  Contact Bieritz Agency in Cooperstown at 547-2951 or Morris Insurance in Morris at 607-263-5170.

 

2017 Classic Car Events

 

This Model T Ford at the Northeast Classic Car Museum is used for photo opps! You can touch it and sit in it and have your picture taken!

Year Round/Daily, Northeast Classic Car Museum – 9am-5pm, Norwich, NY

If you are a classic car enthusiast and you have not yet been to the Northeast Classic Car Museum, you are missing out on a real treat.  The museum boasts over 160 classic and vintage vehicles on display in 5 connected, climate-controlled buildings.  Exhibits include the Fabulous Franklins, Cars Made in New York State, the Post-War collection and more.  Visitors are also treated to original videos, WWI & WWII aircraft engines, period fashions, and much more. Well worth the visit!

 

May 27 and 28, 57th Annual Antique Auto Show and Flea Market – 8am-5pm, Norwich, NY

Join the Rolling Antiquer’s Old Car Club, AACA at the Chenango County Fairgrounds for this fun weekend event.  Daily admission is $5 per person; Children under 12 are free.  Saturday will feature muscle cars; Sunday features Antique Autos;  

 

June 24, Classic/Exotic Car Show- 10am-4pm, Windham, NY

Windstar Realty Group is proud to announce that they will be producing a Classic/Exotic Car Show at Windham Mountain Resort to benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The event, which will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017, is expected to draw classic car enthusiasts from across the country with over 1,000 classic and new exotic vehicles on display.

 

August 6, 36th Annual Car Show – 9am-4pm, Richfield Springs, NY

Richfield Springs Lions Club will be hosting their 36th Annual Car Show on Sunday, August 6, 2017 in Spring Park on Route 20.  Gates open at 9am and close at 4pm.  Driver’s choice voting ends at 2pm.  Entertainment, Raffles, Trophy Presentation (3pm) – Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles are all welcomed.  Registration is $9 at the door or $7 in advance.

 

October 7, Morgan Concours d’Elegance and Car Show – Time TBA, Springfield, NY

Hyde Hall Historic Site at the north end of Otsego Lake will be hosting a gathering of prestigious Morgan Cars. Food drink and fabulous British custom cars!

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When (and When Not) to File a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

Knowing when and when not to file an insurance claim is one of the tricks of the trade for someone trying to manage the costs of damage to one’s property or house.  Every insurance agency has different regulations for what makes a valid claim, as well as for what policy modifications are necessary after a claim has been made.  Often, insurance rates are raised.  Based on the circumstances of the claim and of a homeowner’s claim history, policies can even be cancelled and a client can earn a reputation in the field that makes other providers refuse them or offer unaffordable policies.  Therefore, it is helpful to know generally when and when NOT to file a claim for property damage.  

Don’t file a claim…

  • If you can handle paying for the damages yourself because
    the cost to repair damage is only a few hundred dollars more than your deductible (some will recommend that you choose the highest deductible rate as you can handle).
  • If it would make your second claim in the past 3 years, or the 3rd or 4th claim in the past 10 years.   
  • If the event causing damage or the item damaged is not covered by the policy.  (It could still be written down in your history as a claim.)
  • If the damage should have been reported and claimed sooner, and has only gotten worse since then.  Providers will be reluctant to pay for it it.  

 

File a claim…

  • When your property has suffered major damage.
  • When the cost of repairing damage is far beyond your means.
  • When the last time you filed a claim it was because the cause of the damage was different from the present cause of damage (ex.: it was burglary before and now it’s weather)
  • As soon as possible after damage has occurred to keep your property insurance-worthy.  Again, insurance providers will be reluctant to cover damage if damages have been steadily getting worse over the years (ex.: mold, rot).
  • When the damage was done by weather or other similar catastrophes (most insurers don’t raise rates for those types of claims).

 

If you are still unsure about when it is best to file a claim, look for help!  Your policy is a good place to start, although you may need some help interpreting what it means.  You can always contact our offices for guidance.  We offer two convenient locations: Bieritz Insura
nce Agency in Cooperstown, NY and Morris Insurance Agency in Morris, NY, and we pride ourselves on great customer service.

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Snowmobiling Safety Resources

snowmobiling safety resourcesSnowmobiling is fun, but it doesn’t come without potential risks.  The ability to take a snowmobile for an exhilarating and challenging ride sometimes far away from civilization and in freezing temperatures comes with the responsibility of making sure you know how to operate it, of knowing the area you’re riding in, and of knowing what to do should things go wrong.  Learning regulations, precautions, and other safety tips helps to ensure that the risks of riding don’t become reality.  Although reading about them can feel like a chore, having them behind you gives you a confidence that can boost enjoyment of the activity altogether.  

The following are resources about snowmobiling safety that cover many of the ways you can exert more control over your ride, and through that, gain the freedom and fun that you might have sought in the first place.

  • SnowmobileCourse.com www.snowmobilecourse.com/usa/newyork/snowmobile-laws.aspx
    A short highlight of laws and regulations mostly regarding age, one exception to them, and a brief reminder of safety practices.  This site also includes links to more detailed information about the laws and regulations of snowmobiling, links to more information about Fresh Air Educators Inc.’s New York State Approved Snowmobile Safety Course, as well as to more information about how to obtain the required snowmobiling safety certificate.

  • International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) www.snowmobile.org/snowmobiling-safety.html
    A longer and more detailed cautionary that covers alcohol use, awareness one’s own abilities and limits as well as that of their machine, snowmobiling gear and other ways of dressing for the weather, hypothermia, respecting others’ property, knowing the route and informing others about the plan, driving over ice, and driving in the dark.  It also included a Safe Riders! pledge to riding safely, as well as links to ordering safety brochures and to a test.  Lastly, the site described their Safe Riders! Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program, and offered a link at the bottom of the page in a picture to beginning it.

  • SnowTracks
    http://snowtracks.com/snowmobile-safety/
    Another longer and detailed cautionary article that opens with ultimately asking riders to prioritize safety while driving.  It continues with a cautionary about different conditions to be on the lookout for, such as thin ice and hidden obstacles beneath snow, and then it strongly deters against mixing alcohol and snowmobiling.  It also details what to do if the vehicle breaks through the ice, and then advises on keeping a repair kit for the machine, along with other maintenance necessities.  It finally addresses the environment, and talks about how to respect it and adapt to it, as well as how to determine risk to oneself from it.  

Freedom on the snow comes with the responsibility of investing in caring for oneself, one’s mode of travel, and one’s surroundings.  Doing so grants us more security that fun is all that is had on snowmobile outings.

If you are looking for information about insuring your snowmobile, give our team a call at either of our offices in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  Be safe and enjoy the snow!

 

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What to do After an Auto Accident

No matter how careful we are as drivers, car accidents are a fact of life: millions occur in the United States each year.  As such, it is important to be prepared for them, even as we do our best to avoid them while behind the wheel.  

car-accident-1660670_640Stock your car with…

  • Safety Tools: carry cones, flares, and warning triangles to warn traffic, a phone for calling for help, a flashlight for night light, and a first aid kit.
  • Emergency Information: carry a list of contact numbers, documents with information about any particular medical conditions that are pertinent for you and your family, insurance cards to exchange, and instructions about what to do after an accident.
  • Recording Tools: carry pen, paper, and a disposable camera to collect information and to record what happened.

Stock your brain with…

  • Appropriate Medical Knowledge: know how and when to use a first aid kit, and understand that it might take time for injuries to present themselves.  Call an ambulance when in doubt about the extent of your own or another person’s injuries.  A loss of consciousness can indicate a concussion or a closed head injury.  A person who is unconscious or who has neck/back pains should never be moved unless there is a more pressing threat to their safety – and only then, by supporting their neck and back or moving them as little as possible.
  • Insurance Information: know your coverage in regards to towing and renting cars.
  • Instructions about what to do after an accident.

Your priority should be health and safety.  ⅕ car accidents lead to death.  Don’t leave the scene.  Breathe and try to be calm.  Once you are aware of your own injuries and you are able to, check on your passengers.  Check on the other drivers and passengers.  Set up cones, flares, and warning triangles to avoid further collisions.  Move vehicles out of traffic, and if you can’t, remain inside of them with seatbelts fastened and the emergency lights on.  Always call the police.  Call an ambulance if you are unsure about your own or anyone else’s injuries.  

Most car accidents only involve property damage.  There are many legal and insurance matters to take care of in this respect, even while still on the scene.  

While still on the scene…

  • Talking to the Police: Don’t apologize or say the accident was your fault.  State only what you are certain of and tell the officers if you don’t know something.  Don’t make guesses.  Ask the officer for their name and badge number so that you can retrieve their report later for your insurance company.  You must get your report from the state police if the accident took place on a highway.  Make sure the statements of other passengers and drivers are factual as well.
  • Collecting Information: Record the situation – the date and time of your accident, the specific location where it occurred including road names and landmarks, the speed limit of that road, the direction of travel of you and other drivers at the time of the accident, the visibility and weather conditions during your accident, as well as any road hazards.  Take pictures of damages to your car and document all injuries.  Ask all drivers and passengers what they saw, and get their names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information.  If the driver’s name is different from that of the person listed on the insurance information, establish the relationship and take down that person’s information if they aren’t already a passenger in the car.  Ask any witnesses what they saw and if they know of any other accidents happening in the same place, and also collect their names, phone numbers, addresses, and how they are connected to the area (residents, workers, passersby).  
  • Don’t Decide who will Pay for Damages: Even if the accident is minor, injuries can present themselves after some days and weeks have passed, and thus the amount needed to pay could be a lot more than expected.

Soon after leaving the scene…

  • Obtain the Police Report: If it comes to it, it can help you prove fault.
  • File a State Vehicle Accident Report: They are available at police stations and on the DMV website.  They help insurance companies speed up the claims process.
  • Call your Insurance Agent:  Tell them what happened and what the damages and injuries are, and go over the police report with them.  
  • Get a Property Damage Valuation: This will be available through your insurance company.  Before and after photos of your vehicle are helpful for this.  
  • Call an Attorney: They may be able to help you get a proper damage valuation as well.  They will protect your rights and make sure that evidence is not destroyed.  It may do well to consult them before giving statements to insurance companies.  Also consult them before signing settlement contracts.  Don’t settle too early.  Don’t tell any attorney or insurance agent other than your own about the situation.  If someone else calls, refer them to your attorney or your insurance agent and ask them to arrange an interview.  Let your attorney and insurance agent know that someone called you.  
  • Keep Track of Your Health Care: Make a list of all the health care providers you’ve visited and all of the resulting expenses.

Car accidents happen.  No matter how much or how little personal or property damage is involved, the process for claims and settlement takes time.  Knowing what to expect and having guidance for what to do in these situations can relieve some of the panic and help avoid consequences of being unaware.  If you have any questions, our team at Bieritz is here to help!  Contact us in Cooperstown at 209 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326 (607) 547-2951 or in Morris at 128 Main Street, Morris, NY 13808 (607) 263-5170.

 

 

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Driving Safely in the Fall and Winter Months

The wet and snowy road conditions characteristic of the fall and winter months in the north are driving hazards that can cause skidding (sliding) and hydroplaning (in which a car drives on top of water).  Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid incidents such as these in the present and coming months:

snow-1281636_1280

 

  • First of all, eliminate distractions in order to focus.  Phones should be silenced, turned off, or stored away where they can’t be reached so attention can be devoted to the road.  You are allowed to ask passengers to silence their own devices if they are distracting you as well.  It may also be helpful to set up a 5 minute quiet time at the start of your journeys before turning on music or talking in order to get a feel for the road conditions and how you might need to drive that day.

 

  • Prepare your car for the season.  Lots of fall rain and winter snow requires effective wiper blades for on-road awareness.  It also requires tires with effective grip.  Worn-down tires are more at-risk for hydroplaning over wet leaves, and they won’t be able to guide the car out of trouble as easily as tires with good grip.  Furthermore, whereas regular tires in the winter cold become stiff and more breakable, snow tires are made out of softer rubber that can better adjust to the surface of the road.  They also have special grips that latch onto snow and ice on the road, decreasing the likelihood of skidding and providing more traction in guiding the car out of it.  
  • Drive slowly this season, slower than you would in the warm and dry months.  Drive slowly through puddles, if they can’t be avoided, and over wet leaves to prevent hydroplaning.  Do the same through snowfall; on hills, shifting into a lower gear can help the car stay attached to the road, and thus prevent skidding.  Additionally, approach overpasses, bridges, shady areas, and curves with caution.  The first three may be more at-risk for morning freezes, while curves are often places that people find themselves driving too fast.  Rain and snow can make these situations more dangerous.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the cars ahead of you in order to allow yourself enough braking time and to minimize potential damage.
  • If snowfall or leaves cover road lines, do your best to stay aware of and within them.
  • Brake gently to avoid hydroplaning and skidding.
  • If rain or snowfall makes you uncomfortable, pull over onto the side of the road in a safe location, turn on your emergency lights, and wait until the rain or snow passes or until you feel you can drive confidently again.  
  • Lastly, in the event of skidding or hydroplaning, try to remain calm.  Do not touch the gas or the brake, but steer gently in the direction you want to go.  If your rear wheels are sliding, steer to the right or the left depending on where they are sliding, and then straighten the wheel when the car itself straightens on the path you want to take.  Once you regain better control of direction, gently brake if the front wheels have been sliding, or gently accelerate if the back wheels are the culprits.  This is for the purpose of redistributing the weight of the car to the wheels that have been skidding in order to return some of their traction.

Driving always comes with some hazards, but in the northern hemisphere, there may be more times in the fall and winter that require particular caution.  Do your best to stay aware of road conditions and drive as they demand of you.  Make sure you are comfortable, focused, and prepared to take on the road and its hazards.  In this way you can do your best to maintain your own safety, that of other drivers, and that of each your own passengers.  

 

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Entrepreneurship and Your Business Insurance

From the Insurance Information Institute:

The i’s on Insurance: [Not So Risky] Business

Being an entrepreneur makes you the boss! But along with getting to choose your own hours, location, and business plan, it also means that you’re responsible for a lot of other things, like commercial business insurance. There’s a lot more to business insurance than getting the lowest business insurance quotes. It means understanding your business’s unique needs and the potential hazards that can threaten its success.

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The Importance of Maintaining Your Chimney

chimneyThe Fall Season has officially arrived in our area with the first frost (last night) and the cooler temperatures means that it’s time to start using our fireplaces and wood-burning stoves to help warm a room or to take a bit of the chill out of the air.  Before you begin to use these, however, it is recommended to inspect and clean them to make sure they are safe to operate.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, this should be done at least once a year, usually in the fall months.

A chimney inspection will check for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances.  Even if you don’t use your chimney often, there may be nesting materials from animals or other types of deterioration that make the chimney unsafe to use.  A chimney sweep will clear out any sooty buildup in the chimney (1/8″ can be enough to cause a chimney fire that could damage the chimney or spread to the home), and will typically also include cleaning of the chimney flue and smoke chamber.  Sooty deposits are also very acidic and can shorten the life of your fireplace and chimney.

Over time, chimneys may become clogged with creosote, a by-product of burning wood.  This builds up over time and leaves a highly combustible glazed coating on the inside of the chimney.  Creosote build up is often caused by poor air supply, so your regular chimney cleaning helps to prevent creosote formation as well.  Chimneys with poor air flow can also cause the buildup of carbon monoxide in your home.  At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting, and at high levels, it can be deadly.
When a chimney is not cleaned regularly, there is the chance that soot will accumulate around the flue which inhibits the ability to draw smoke up the chimney and instead causes smoke to enter the room.  A black film around your fireplace, or on nearby furniture, carpeting or decorations, this indicates that your chimney is not working properly.

fireplaceIn addition to annual maintenance, we encourage our families, friends, and clients to always use safe fireplace practices:

  • use appropriate fuel for your fires;
  • use fireplace screens to protect nearby areas and provide a reliable barrier from embers;
  • maintain a safe zone of 36 inches or more around your fireplace or stove;
  • never leave a fire unattended
  • install monitoring equipment for smoke and carbon monoxide

Taking these steps help to protect your family and your home.  If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance and chimney fires, please contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency – located Cooperstown at 547-2951 and in Morris at 263-5170.
 

For additional information, click on over to our article on Fireplace Safety.

 

 

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