Why is Life Insurance So Important?

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You probably don’t sit around with your friends and discuss life insurance, but it’s an important part of your financial portfolio. Learn why as you decide whether life insurance is right for you.

What is Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy provides a financial payout to your survivors if you die. It’s a valuable tool in your estate planning portfolio since it protects your loved ones from financial stress or devastation after your death.

What Does Life Insurance Cover?

Purchase a life insurance policy, and your surviving beneficiary can use the money for a variety of purposes.

1. Cover funeral expenses. The average funeral cost $7,045 in 2012, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Reduce your survivors’ financial strain with life insurance funds that cover this necessary expense.

2. Replace income. Because your survivors depend on your income for basic living expenses, they’re at risk of losing their home, vehicle and other assets after your death. Your life insurance policy can provide your survivors with financial stability.

3. Repay debt. Student loans, credit cards, vehicles, mortgages and other debts can burden  your survivors. Purchase life insurance, and the policy can repay debt and reduce the financial strain your survivors feel.

4. Pay estate taxes. After your death, your survivors will owe estate taxes on any assets you own. Instead of affecting their budget, they can use your life insurance funds to pay this expense.

5. Save for the future. Fund your children’s college education, help your partner start a business or support your parents’ retirement. Your life insurance policy can fund these and other future plans.

Who Needs Life Insurance?

Many people think life insurance is necessary only for parents of young children. After all, those survivors could face severe financial strain without adequate resources to provide for their basic needs. In reality, anyone who’s single, married, young or old benefits from the financial peace of mind a life insurance policy provides.

How Much Life Insurance do you Need?

Everyone’s life insurance needs differ, so you’ll want to evaluate your finances and situation as you decide how much life insurance to purchase. Consider what your life insurance funds will cover, how much money your survivors need to live comfortably and the premium amount you can afford. Your insurance agent can work through these details with you to ensure you have adequate protection that secures your loved ones’ futures and gives you peace of mind.

Why Each Roommate Needs a Renters Insurance Policy

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You and your apartment, dorm or house mate might share living expenses, but you each need your own renters insurance policy. It’s an investment that replaces your possessions if they’re damaged, stolen or lost. Learn why this $15 per month policy is an important part of your living arrangement.

Be an Individual

Whether you and your roommates are strangers, best friends or cousins, purchase separate policies. Most renters insurance companies won’t include two or more unrelated people on a policy, so be an individual and purchase your own policy.

Cover Deliberate Damage

Maybe you and your roommate get along great until you have a big fight and he or she deliberately damages your valuables. If that happens and you and your roommate share a policy, you won’t receive a payout to replace the damaged item.

Protect Your Future Insurability

Let’s say your roommate’s car is vandalized. Your combined policy pays the claim, but since your name is also on the policy, your ability to purchase affordable insurance is negatively affected for the next three to seven years. Separate policies protects your future insurability.

Keep the Payout

Joint insurance policies include payout checks made out to both parties. So when your valuable electronic equipment is stolen, both you and your roommate have to sign the check. Purchase separate coverage to ensure you receive the full amount you’re due.

Cover Liability

When a visitor trips or falls and decides to sue you, renters insurance can cover the liability. Slander and libel may also be covered. Have your own policy to cover your liability.

Know the Limits

Despite purchasing separate policies, your renters insurance might include financial limits. Discuss coverage caps with your insurance agent to ensure your vintage guitar or art collection is covered.

Purchase Adequate Coverage

You don’t know how much your possessions are worth until you create an inventory list. Then, purchase replacement value coverage. Although it costs about 10 percent more than cash value coverage, it allows you to replace the damaged, lost or stolen item at its current cost rather than the purchase price minus depreciation.

The decision to share living space with an apartment means you share expenses too. Make sure each roommate purchases a separate renters insurance policy, though, as you protect your possessions.

Fitts Insurance Celebrates With First Congregational Church of Stoneham

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1st StonehamFitts Insurance is a leader in church insurance and the exclusive agent for the Insurance Board Plan for United Church of Christ, Presbyterian USA and Disciples of Christ denominations in our region.  Currently the Insurance Board is celebrating their 30th Anniversary and has invited churches in those denominations to share what milestones they will be celebrating this year.  The Insurance Board will pick 30 churches from those who share to celebrate with in some form and acknowledge their accomplishment with all the churches in this national program.  The First Congregational Church of Stoneham is the first of Fitts’ churches to be selected and honored.

First Congregational Church of Stoneham, MA is turning 175!!  This church played a significant role in the development of the town and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Their main celebration event will be a commemorative worship service, planned for October 18 of this year. The children will ring the church bell during the hour before our 10 a.m service–175 times!  There will be musical events, historical exhibits, and tours of the “old town,” etc.

The church embarked on a new roof campaign at the beginning of this year.  To acknowledge and help them celebrate, the Insurance Board has donated $1000 towards their new roof fund.  Fitts’ Senior Vice-President George Hulme had the honor of telling the church the good news and then presenting them with the check.

Pictured from left to right: church member Ben Jacques, Insurance Board agent George Hulme, Rev. Meredith A. Allen and church trustee Bea Griffin.

PROTECTING A BUSINESS FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUITS

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By now, employers should all realize and understand that sexual harassment is illegal. However, what employers might not be aware of is that the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings in June of 1998 that expanded what is termed sexual harassment; expanded the responsibility that employers have to provide a work environment that’s non-hostile; and did away with harassed employees having to prove that their company holds some responsibility or that their career suffered from lack of promotion, firing, demotion, or such. Employers are now directly responsible for employee behavior, thereby giving harassed employees more recourse in bringing about legal actions against employers. Work-related harassment and discrimination cases have been climbing steadily since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for trial by jury, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in legal cases involving discrimination. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the amount of annual employment harassment and discrimination cases being filed grew by more than 13% between 1997 and 2009.

Any employer that’s ever been involved in a sexual harassment suit can attest that the cost to settle or defend a sexual harassment lawsuit can be jaw dropping. The average award for damages in these types of lawsuits is around $650,000, and that isn’t even including the secondary cost from workplace disruption, bad publicity, and those involved in the suit being absent from work.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

The first step in protection is understanding what is defined as sexual harassment. State and federal law prohibits behavior that involves an employee in authority basing professional expectations or decisions regarding a subordinate employee being willing or unwilling to exchange sexual acts. The following are examples of such behavior:

  • Altering expectations of job performance when a subordinate repeatedly refuses advances for a date or sexual encounter.
  • A superior demanding sexual acts in order for a subordinate to receive a raise or promotion.
  • Disciplinary action, including termination, of a subordinate that refuses sexual advances or ends an existing romantic relationship.

However, sexual harassment doesn’t always involve a subordinate/authority figure relationship. An offender can be anyone from a coworker to a customer or business vendor. The offender can be male or female, as can the victim. Furthermore, the victim doesn’t even need to be the employee actually harassed. Anyone that’s affected by the harassing or offensive behavior can be termed a victim; for example, an employee that overhears two other employees discussing a taboo subject. The two employees directly involved might not be offended, but if the overhearing employee is offended, then it can constitute sexual harassment.

Verbal, visual, physical, or written behavior that causes another employee to view the work environment as hostile, are unwanted, or focus on the sexuality or gender of another person may constitute as sexual harassment. Specific examples of such would be teasing, suggestive objects or pictures being displayed, and repetitively requesting sexual acts or dates verbally or in writing.

Protection with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).

After knowing what constitutes sexual harassment, businesses can further financially protect themselves with Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI). This is an insurance to protect employers when an employee makes the claim that their legal rights have been violated. Although policies vary, EPLI generally doesn’t cover criminal or civil penalties and punitive damages. EPLI does generally cover settlements, judgments, and incurred legal costs arising from an array of incidences – wrongful termination, employment contract breaches, employment and promotion failures, wrongful disciplinary actions, wrongful emotional distress infliction, negligent employee evaluations, employee benefit plan mismanagement, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Coverage is specific. So, before purchasing a policy, decide who should be covered. For example, should full and part-time employees, contracted persons, supervisors, department heads, subsidiaries, company divisions, and so forth be covered or not? One other note about EPLI is that it’s mandatory for employers to report incidents within a reasonable amount of time. Some policies might feature an ERP (extended reporting period) or prior acts. The length, cost, and availability vary by carrier.

Purchasing EPLI has been challenging for small companies in the past. However, the 2004 rate increases have somewhat plateaued. Some rates have even decreased. Keep in mind that EPLI cost is figured based on the business type, employee numbers, and past lawsuits associated with the business.

Prevention of Harassment Lawsuits.

Prevention is the cornerstone in decreasing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Prevention steps include the following key elements:

  • If the business has EPLI, any incident should be reported immediately.
  • Create, communicate, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for workplace sexual harassment.
  • Have an effective harassment complaint process in place and take immediate, consistent, and appropriate action when a complaint is made.
  • Thoroughly document all complaints and the following investigation and actions.

Employment Practices Liability: The Coming Plague

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EPL articleEmployment Practices Liability (EPL) differs from other professional and management coverage since it protects the company from acts which violate the employees’ legal rights of employment.

What are these rights?

1. Sexual Harassment

2. Discrimination (sex, race, national origin, age religion or color)

3. Wrongful Termination

4. Constructive Discharge

5. Infliction of Emotional Distress

6. Violation of the Family Leave Act

The meaning of the laws regarding these rights and insurance coverage for these acts is fairly well established.  Policy language and court cases have hammered out some of the conflict.

From a risk management perspective, sensitivity training and the development and implementation of strict behavioral guidelines greatly reduces the risk of claims.

Three factors in this risk change almost daily and must be addressed.  State laws may expand the protected classes (sexual orientation) covered by employment law.  These suits are massively expensive to litigate.  Thirdly, outsiders like contractors, customers, and suppliers are now claiming under this tort.

Although States regulate insurance, insurance companies tend to be regional and national; therefore, policy language does not always represent state law or the conditions under which the laws apply.

Have your state-licensed insurance agent read policy language to assure proper coverage in each state your company operates.

The policy limit includes litigation costs and claim payouts.  Legal fees are not add-ons as in other liability policies.  So, as the insurance company lawyer negotiates at length, your available funds to settle dwindle.  This process can become a very dangerous game of chicken for your assets.  Increase limits accordingly and keep informed as to the progress of any negotiations.

Customers, suppliers and contract labor are beginning to avail themselves of this course of action.  Train all employees and implement strict behavioral protocols at all levels and duties.

Most important, assure your managers spot poor or reckless behavior early, and correct it.  Zero tolerance policies work in this area.  You wouldn’t want to work in a truly hostile environment.  Don’t turn your back on these behaviors.

Tax Season Riddled With ID Theft Scams

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LAdyThe IRS says more than 3,000 taxpayers have been victimized by phone scammers claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payments by either by pre-paid debit cards, or by deposit into online payment accounts.

The IRS says it doesn’t call taxpayers to discuss their accounts, so anyone receiving such a call should hang up quickly.

Another potential danger for taxpayers is identity thieves using personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, and stealing their refunds. A number of states have enacted stricter identity verification methods to try to reduce this threat.

Tax season also brings with it an increase in email phishing scams in which criminals send emails claiming to be from the IRS, in the hopes victims will enter personal information into a false IRS or banking website.

Scammers are also trying to exploit confusion about the Affordable Care Act by demanding people pay ACA-related tax penalties to them.

All these scams highlight the importance of taking active steps to protect your identity, and the need for heightened vigilance during tax season.

Maria Cordeiro is client services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.  Posted: 17 Mar 2015 08:34 AM PDT

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wearing green, corned beef and cabbage, and of course a drink or two are par for the day.  But here are 5 things you might not know about today.

1. The original color for St. Patrick was blue.

2. The 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.

3. For short, it’s St. Paddy not St. Patty.  St. Patty is for St. Patricia, patron saint of Naples, celebrated in August.

4. Guinness is lo-cal! A pint is 198 calories; less than most light beers, wine, orange juice, or low fat milk.

5. Shamrocks were used by St. Patrick to teach the Catholic concept of the Trinity.

Enjoy your day and please remember to celebrate responsibly; don’t drink and drive.

Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

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By Kathryn Doyle  (Reuters Health)

Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.

“These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.

Almost 30 percent of those with AF had fallen over the past year compared to about 20 percent of those without AF, the researchers reported in Age and Ageing.

After accounting for other risk factors that might contribute to falls, the authors found that having AF doubled people’s odds of falling.

In addition, 10 percent of people with AF reported fainting or blacking out compared to four percent of those without the arrhythmia.

At least five million U.S. adults in 2010 had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which may rise to about 12 million cases by the year 2030, according to a 2013 study (see Reuters Health article of July 26, 2013 here: reut.rs/1BSOiNn).

The irregular, usually very fast, heartbeat can cause uncomfortable palpitations, limit the ability to exercise or lead to heart failure or stroke, but it may not cause symptoms for some. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several ways AF could cause a fall, Jansen said.

“AF can impair the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, including the brain,” she said. “This can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen going to the brain, causing either a faint or black-out (syncope), or dizziness resulting in a fall in a person who is already unstable.”

The irregular heartbeat can also be tied to stroke and hypertension, which can lead to degenerative changes in the brain.

“All of these changes in the brain can also affect walking, mobility, and other conditions that affect fall risk, such as depression and dementia,” Jansen said.

But, she emphasized, this study did not show that AF causes falls, only that it is significantly more common among people who fall.

“Falls are very common in older adults,” Jansen said. “People with AF have an even greater risk of falls, and when they suffer from falls they should definitely mention this to their physician, as there are several treatment or prevention options for falls.”

“Because falls usually have several causes or contributing factors, recognition and treatment of all of these factors is vital to reduce fall risk,” she said.

The most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, balance problems, gait problems, medication side effects, neurological issues, dizziness or cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, who chairs the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Cardiac arrhythmias, including AF, do cause some falls but less commonly than the other causes and risk factors mentioned, said Rubenstein, who was not part of the new study.

“Falls are a very important problem in the older population and we’re always looking for ways to reduce them,” he said. “When you do a post-fall evaluation, listening to the heart is an important part of that,” and a doctor would likely discover signs of AF it were present, he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1aM2BaD Age and Ageing, online February 21, 2015.

Boating Time is ALMOST Here!!

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imagesAs you dream about those sunny days ahead on the water this season, some of you may also contemplate adding a fire pit to your vessel for those chilly sea breezes at night.  A lovely picture.  It seems like a perfect idea.  But BEFORE you buy that fire pit, make a call to your insurance agent to see how having one on board may affect your coverages.  Better to know now as it may inform your choice.

Test, Change and Maintain.

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Daylight Savings Time is here and whether you agree with its benefits or not, come 2 am Sunday, it will officially become 3am Sunday.  Of course we don’t expect anyone to actually stay up to make the change at that exact time!  Doing so before bed or when you wake up, which ever way is easier for you to deal with losing an hour, is just fine.

There are also things that you should also do at this time of year on this date: Test, Change and Maintain.

Test your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and even your house security systems.  Better to know NOW that they are properly working for you than to find out AFTER an emergency happens that they were not functioning properly.

Change the batteries in ALL the alarms.  Yes, there may be good life left in them, but you want these systems to always have the best life they can have so they can protect you.  You don’t have to toss the old batteries, just use those on other things that don’t require ladders and chairs or screwdrivers to change them out.

Maintain your fire extinguishers.  This is a good time to make sure they are within easy reach and that everyone in your home knows where they are and how to use them.