Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means kitchens all around America are ready to see some serious action. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with 3 times the average number.

Here are some Thanksgiving safety tips to help you stay safe while you whip up all that delicious goodness next week…

  1. Thanksgiving safety tipsWatch it like a hawk – errr… turkey. Don’t leave your stovetop unattended. Keep an eye on those burners!
  2. Keep the kids occupied. Your stove is going to be hot, and kids should stay at least 3 feet away. Plan to have some cool activities ready for them to help keep them out of the kitchen while you cook.
  3. Check the floor. Try to keep your floor clear of anything that might get tripped over in the chaos of getting everything ready. There’s nothing worse than dropping that dish of Grandma’s mashed potatoes just before it’s time to eat!
  4. Wind it up. We use all kinds of appliances on Thanksgiving – electric knife, coffee maker, mixer, etc. Don’t let those cords dangle off the counter in easy reach of a child.
  5. Arm the Alarms. Check your smoke detectors in advance of the craziness to be sure they have fresh batteries and are functioning properly.

Check out the NFPA website for more Thanksgiving safety tips. You can also download the tips here.

Who’s Your Star?

key man insurance

Small and medium-sized businesses often have employees that are “stars.” Sometimes the star is the CEO or president, other times there is a salesperson who consistently outsells every other sales team member by a two to one margin. Maybe you’re a software company that has a star coder whose ideas led to your product being a number one editor’s choice. The point is that most companies have an employee or two that helps their business thrive. What happens to your business in the short-term if a star employee, referred to by the insurance industry as a “key man,” dies?

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only 22% of small businesses carry this type of coverage.

Death is an issue that most people do not like discussing, so many small and medium-sized businesses do not have detailed succession plans, and key person life insurance remains an unresolved issue. It is a discussion that helps your company survive the difficult times that can follow the death of a key person.

What is Key Person Life Insurance?

Key man life insurance protects a business from economic loss relating to the death of a key employee. The company buys the insurance, owns the policy, and is the beneficiary of the policy in the event of the sudden death of the insured. Payment from the insurance company to the business is a lump sum, and there are no restrictions on how the company can use the money. Most companies use the money to stabilize the business until they find the key person’s replacement.

Types of Key man Life Insurance

Businesses gravitate to two kinds of policies for key employee life insurance.

Term Life Insurance. Startups favor this type of policy. Startups always try to conserve cash, term life insurance is cheaper than any other kind of personal life insurance.

Policies that build cash value. Whole life or universal life insurance builds cash value that increases the cash value of the policy and is an asset on the company’s book. The company can get access to the excess cash value of the policy at any time for any purpose since the money from the cash buildup belongs to them.

Life insurance premiums vary between companies and smart companies comparison shop for the best insurance program.

The discussion is uncomfortable, but if you do not have key man insurance, it’s worth talking about. Give us a call.

Electronics Insurance – is that covered?

Take a minute to count the number of cellphones, TVs, computers, gaming systems and music players in your home. Do you own more than 5, 15 or even 25 devices? What are they all worth? Did you know that your homeowners or renters insurance policy might not cover your electronics? Woah. So what about electronics insurance?

Check Your Homeowners or Renters Insurance PolicyUnder the Contents section of your homeowners policy, take a look at what’s covered. If your electronics aren’t specifically mentioned, ask your agent for details about available coverage. Remember to ask if your devices are covered in case they’re damaged accidentally, dropped, immersed in liquid, cracked, vandalized, stolen or affected by a power surge.electronics insuranceThink About Actual Versus Replacement ValueYou may have purchased your computer a few years ago for $300, but replacing it with a comparable model today may cost $700. Be sure your insurance policy covers the cost of replacing all your electronic devices. The extra premium you’ll pay is usually only a few dollars but pays for itself multiple times over if you need to file a claim.

Consider the Deductible

Most homeowners policies include a $500 deductible that’s your responsibility to pay if you file a claim. Your deductible might even be higher if you’re on a strict budget. Include that deductible into your calculations as you decide how much coverage you need for your devices.

Keep Thorough Records

Insurance companies typically need to see proof before they pay a claim. So, carefully store all your receipts when you purchase electronics and accessories. Additionally, record the serial numbers and take pictures of all your insured devices. Copies of these records should be kept in a fireproof safe and at a friend’s house or safe deposit box. Update the records as you buy, sell and upgrade electronics.

Call your insurance agent today to add the necessary electronics insurance coverage you need. Then, stay in touch, enjoy your favorite tunes and watch the movies you like with peace of mind.

Pollution Liability – Don’t Wait!

pollution liabilityAs an independent contractor, you carry insurance to protect yourself against financial liability from your work. Many jobs require contractors to show that they have a pollution liability policy, which will pay for bodily injury and property damage claims, as well as the expenses of cleaning up toxic waste materials –costs that a standard general liability policy does not cover, and could run into millions.

Any contractor whose business involves risks of hazardous waste exposure, such as asbestos abatement or waste depository, needs pollution liability insurance. This policy will protect you from liability both during the job and if there’s any problem from hazardous waste materials at a later date (“completed operations” coverage). Pollution liability insurance could also be valuable if you own an industrial site that you believe is free of hazardous waste. The inspection you had performed on the property before you bought it might have missed some underlying hazardous substance that could create liability exposure down the road.If you neglect to carry this coverage and have a pollution-related incident at a job site or from one of your completed operations, it will be too late to buy pollution liability. You can purchase pollution liability from a number of insurance companies. The premium will depend on the amount of the policy, the deductible you choose, and whether you buy it on a stand-alone basis or in combination with other types of commercial insurance.Before deciding whether to purchase pollution liability, be sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice. As always, we’d be happy to offer our advice at any time – just give us a call.

Goldilocks Insurance: Coverage that’s “Just Right”

Business Owners PolicyWe’ve all heard the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? Hungry little girl breaks into the bears’ house and makes herself at home. She tries all the chairs to find the best one (and breaks it), then eats the food, and climbs into each of the three beds until she drifts off to sleep in one that’s “just right”. Hoodlum.

What does that have to do with insurance? I’ll tell you.

Once upon a time, the insurance industry wanted to design a policy for small, typical Main Street businesses. These businesses had some property, maybe their building and stock, and a low risk of liability claims. Insurance companies designed the Business Owners Policy (BOP) for these businesses. With this type of policy, the insured bought a package which included property, liability, some crime coverage, and other incidental coverage at one low cost.

From a risk perspective, these Main Street businesses were very similar.

In the modern era of BOPs, many businesses now qualify for specialty industry coverage. Restaurants, small manufacturers, small contractors, and artisans can all qualify for this type of policy.

BOPs cover property similarly to conventional policies. Typical options are extended as part of the package. For example, crime coverage is included in many BOPs rather than having to add this coverage on. Investigate the limits of these add-on coverage to be sure they are adequate. We would be happy to discuss the details with you to design a program to meet the specific needs of your business.

Liability coverage follows the general liability format, except again, some extensions of coverage are included. These extensions may have lower liability limits, so again, review these with your insurance professional.

If your business does not own cars or trucks, but you occasionally use your personal auto in your business, consider adding non-owned and hired automobile coverage to your BOP. This coverage pays for your company’s liability while you use your car for your company’s benefit.

Business owners policies began as a one size fits all retail risks insurance form, but they have evolved into an important small business — and now not so small business — policy, to cover industry typical businesses. There are a number of options to choose from, and policies can be tailored until they are “just right” for you.. not “too big” or “too small”.

Your business does need to qualify for this coverage. Please give us a call. We can discuss the specific needs of your business and find coverage that’s designed to help increase the likelihood of you living happily ever after.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

You know you need auto and home insurance, but should you look online for a policy or talk to an agent? Consider your personal preferences and several pros and cons of each method before you decide where to purchase your insurance policies.

Online Pros:

  • Convenience: Click the mouse and instantly compare different coverage amounts and see quotes from several companies.
  • No Obligation to Buy: Never feel pressured to buy a policy. Simply opt out of receiving future quotes or communication from comparison sites.

Online Cons:independent agent

  • Impersonal: Online policies don’t allow you to build a relationship with a person who knows and understands you.
  • Security: All your data is compiled and compared over the Internet, making your information an easy target for thieves. Plus, less reputable comparison sites may sell your data to third parties.

Agent Pros:

  • Relationship: To an agent, particularly one in your hometown, you’re more than a number. He or she builds a relationship with you and your family, see you at the grocery store and local events and truly has your best interests in mind.
  • Get Answers: If you have a question about your policy or coverage, call your agent and receive answers from a live person.
  • Negotiate Price: In cases, an insurance agent can negotiate a policy’s price. They also know you and can recommend money-saving discounts and other ways to reduce insurance costs.
  • Comparison Shopping: An independent agent can look at several different carriers to find the best fit for YOU – both coverage and price-wise. They have multiple options at their fingertips and can provide a variety of options.

Agent Cons:

  • Inconvenient: Most offices have limited evening and weekend hours, so you can’t buy or make adjustments to your policy 24/7.

Buying insurance is a necessity. While buying online and from a local agent both have pros and cons, find the personalized service you need when you purchase from an in-person agent. Give us a call today!

Nightmare on Elm Street

Halloween SafetyWhat do you get when you take hundreds of pedestrians trick-or-treating and add potentially impaired party-goers behind the wheel? A scary combination, that’s what.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities. What’s more, 48 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities on Halloween night in 2012 involved a drunk driver.

Here are some Halloween safety tips to help you avoid a nightmare on Elm Street:

BEHIND THE WHEEL

  • Slow down! Drive at least 5 mph under the speed limit, especially in residential areas. This will give you extra time to react to children who might dart into the street.
  • Light it up. Turn on your headlights — even in the daytime — to make yourself more visible.
  • Drive sober. Designated drivers are cool. If you’ll be imbibing of some witch’s brew, get yourself a DD.

PARENTS

  • Tackle it together. Make sure all trick-or-treaters up to the age of 12 (at least) are accompanied by an adult.
  • Have a plan. Review safety precautions and discuss the route you’ll take ahead of time. Remind kids never to cross the street mid-block or between cars. Go over pedestrian and traffic safety rules with your children.
  • Save it for later. Have the little ones wait to eat those treats until you’ve had a chance to go through them to make sure everything is ok. It’s sad that this precaution is necessary, but it’s also reality of the world we live in.

For more Halloween Safety Tips, visit the AAA website. And from all of us at Mason & Mason, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Environmental Concerns and D&O

Directors & OfficersDirectors and Officers (D&O) coverage protects company and individual assets from claims regarding the management professionalism of the upper levels of companies.

The leading cause of D&O claims and payouts concerns financial reporting. The books don’t have to be cooked necessarily… they just need to be inaccurate to provoke a claim.

Relatively new accounting standards require real property values to properly reflect environmental impacts and potential clean-up costs. For example your company purchases a piece of land for $50 knowing it is environmentally impacted with an anticipated clean-up cost of $950. The book value of the property is $50 because that is what you paid, and it is the net value including clean-up. Now let’s assume new regulations require an additional $49 of remediation. You must either write down the value by $49, or if the property is held for sale, you can optionally write down only actual costs reflected in the sales price.

Of course, as with most future conditions, it can be difficult to predict what costs will be when we re-mediate the site.

Unfortunately, directors and officers must make management decisions in real time while arm-chair stakeholder quarterbacks get to review results with the power of hindsight. Will the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) decide on a conservative cost structure and reduce the value of the stock? Or, will he choose a more optimistic scenario and not reveal the full extent of the environmental impact thus falsely inflating values?

In today’s regulatory and transparent business environment, adequate D&O limits are a requirement of good management. Also, the CFO might want to consider environmental impairment insurance.

In the spirit of insurance and great risk management, the CFO can swap a premium (known expense) for a future potential claim (unknown loss), thus transferring the loss on the asset, to an expense. The asset value remains unchanged.

These valuation rules are very complex and you should consult with both a licensed insurance agent and a CPA regarding your specific needs. Give us a call… we’ll be happy to make introductions.

No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)

No Shave November

Sometimes you hear a story and it just touches your heart.  That’s what happened when I learned that Jennifer Mimms had a tumor growing in her spine, which turned out to be lymphoma. And she has three young children. I mean… can you imagine?

Actually, I can. Five years ago (to this week) doctors found a tumor encased in my husband’s spinal column – just like Jennifer. The diagnosis was lymphoma - just like Jennifer. We had (have) three children – just like Jennifer.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, first by the circumstances, and then by the way our friends and family — our community — surrounded us with love and prayer, and financial support at a time when our family desperately needed it. We could not have gotten through that difficult ordeal without all of you.

When I learned what my son-in-love’s sister Jennifer was dealing with, I wanted to make sure she and her family received the same kind of support we did. And so the Mason & Mason “No Shave November (for Jennifer)” event was born. The rules are very simple, and there are so many ways you can help.

1. Join the “No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)” Community on Facebook.

2. Donate $10 (or more) to support Jennifer Mimms and her family (mail to PO Box 750, North Conway, NH 03845 – Attention: Heather Clement)

2. DO NOT SHAVE.

3. Invite your friends to get in on the action by telling them about the event and sending them the links.

4. Post your pics in the community facebook page.

 

It’s that easy. Won’t you join us in helping this family? SHAVE THE DATE!
Jennifer Mimms No Shave NovemberAbout Jennifer Mimms:

Jennifer Mimms is a young mom of three awesome kids who are her entire life, along with her long time partner, Evan. Not too long ago Jenn started having some symptoms that made her visit her doctor. Shortly after her visit she received the shocking news that she had a tumor on her spine. After the removal of the tumor and more testing, she learned that she does in fact have cancer, a form of Lymphoma. Jenn still has a lot more tests ahead of her to figure out exactly what is wrong and where the cancer is coming from. As if life isn’t tough enough trying to raise three children in the world today, add in a medical problem this serious and it could be enough to sink a young family. Your generous donations willgo towards the basic needs of the family, such as bills, groceries and gas to get to and from treatments. Jenn is currently in the hospital for chemo treatments, five days per week.

Just Keep Swimming…

poolpoolswimming poolBut check your insurance first!

Summertime fun often includes swimming in the pool. Whether you already have a pool in your backyard or are thinking about putting one in this year, consider whether your home insurance will cover your swimming pool (or how you might have it adjusted so that it does!)

Personal Liability Coverage

If someone is injured while swimming in your pool, the personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy will pay for it. Update this coverage amount when you install your pool to ensure it’s sufficient.

Related Structure Coverage

Your insurance company may classify your new in-ground pool as a related structure, similar to a storage shed or detached garage. Increase the related structure coverage on your homeowners insurance policy to cover damage to your pool. Keep in mind that this coverage won’t pay for swimming pool maintenance.

Geography Matters

The majority of backyard pools are found in warm climates. Based on this fact, insurance costs for your pool may be cheaper if you live in the warmer southern states and more expensive if you live in cooler northern states.

Erect a Fence

To prevent accidents in the pool, many insurance companies stipulate that you surround your pool with a fence that includes a self-latching gate. Consider whether or not you have the space and ability to erect a fence before you install a swimming pool.

Consider the Diving Board or Slide

Some insurance companies won’t cover accidents that happen on the diving board or slide. That policy will influence whether or not you install one of those pool accessories.

Consider an Umbrella Policy 

Even if your homeowners insurance policy covers your swimming pool, consider an umbrella policy. It provides extra coverage after your homeowners insurance limits are met. The extra protection gives you peace of mind if you need to file any pool-related claims.

A backyard pool provides hours of fun every summer. Before you install one, though, talk to your insurance agent. Get all the facts about whether your company offers swimming pool coverage and how much it will cost.

And use these safety steps from The Pool Safely campaign to keep your friends and family safe.