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Welcome To Advocate Brokerage blog

Dear friends and future friends of Advocate Brokerage:

Welcome to our new blog. We hope in the coming months and years you’ll visit frequently to catch up on some local news, learn things about your insurance coverage and policies, get some pointers on securing your home and family against disasters, and find help for your insurance needs.

For more than 40 years, Advocate Brokerage has been giving its clients attentive, personal service, a tradition we plan to continue long into the future. When we opened our doors, we did so with a commitment to communicate and be there when you need us. This blog represents just another way to maintain our wonderful relationships as well as develop new friends who may be hunting around the Internet for insurance help.

So please use and enjoy the information you’ll find here, and give a call to one of our friendly, professional agents to let us know how you like it – and how we can be of assistance to you and your families today and in the future.

Sincerely,

Roz Binday

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Insurance For Your Home Improvement Project

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Are you planning a remodeling project or addition for your home this year?  Construction season is upon us, and it’s important to have the right insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute says if you’re hiring someone to do the work, be sure that the house, the contractor and the subcontractors have adequate insurance coverage.

Before the job begins an appropriate lawyer should handle the written agreement/contract between you and the contractor or sub-contractors, making it mandatory that the contractors include you as an additional insured on their general liability policy as respect to your project. In addition, the contractors must provide you with certificates of insurance evidencing General Liability, Workers Compensation and Umbrella coverage.

This is crucial, as most certificates of insurance contain the wording that additional insured’s will only apply where required by written contract or agreement.  In the absence of a contract the additional insured status on the certificate will be of no value. If you are simply listed as a certificate holder and not an additional insured, the contractor’s policy will not extend Liability coverage to you!   

In some home improvement projects, a General Contractor may subcontract work to other tradesman such as electricians and plumbers. The same requirements should extend to all subcontractors, as well.

When hiring contractors, make sure they have appropriate insurance that covers the type of work that they will be performing on your behalf and that they maintain adequate insurance limits to protect your financial interests. Be especially sure they carry workers compensation coverage, as this pays for medical and rehabilitation expenses and covers lost wages. Workers Compensation is mandatory in many states. If the contractor does not carry this coverage you may be held liable for injured workers.

You must contact your insurance agent or representative before construction begins in order to increase the insurance coverage on your house to an amount that reflects the higher value of the rebuilt structure. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until an addition or extra room is completed to increase the insurance coverage on the structure of your home. If the new addition is destroyed or damaged before insurance coverage has been increased, you may be responsible for the cost of repairing or rebuilding the addition.  Unless your insurance carrier is notified of this change of condition, you might be in violation of the insurance contract and can jeopardize your insurance coverage.

Good luck in turning your home into your castle…but do it wisely and safely!

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Insuring a Pricey Rental Car

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With graduations, birthdays, Father’s Day, reunions and proms fast approaching, some may want to make a statement by renting a luxury or exotic vehicle to impress others or just to enjoy the sights, sounds and excitement that comes with these types of cars.

Services like Gotham Dream Cars and Hertz Dream Car Collection let anyone who is interested rent the Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley or Porsche of their dreams.

If you decide to treat your dad to a day in a Ferrari or want to impress your peers by rolling up to your reunion in a Rolls Royce, you should make sure that your insurance coverage is up to date, because nothing could ruin your fun faster than a giant repair bill.

Below are the insurance requirements and information from Gotham Dreams Cars. Hertz does not have the same insurance requirements. Although similar, it can vary from rental car company to rental car company.

 Insurance information for Gotham Dream Cars:

All renters must carry some form of insurance to cover damages to the vehicle in the event of an accident. You’ve got several options:

  • The easiest option is if you carry an insurance policy on a personal vehicle that you own or lease. We will verify with your insurer that your policy is active.
  • Customers from NY are required to maintain only liability insurance.
  • Customers from any other state are required to maintain full-coverage insurance (liability, comprehensive, and collision).
  • The good news is that it does not matter what you drive personally – as long as you have insurance in good standing, your carrier will cover damages to our cars (think of it as if you were driving down the road and caused an accident with a guy in a Ferrari — your insurance will cover the damages even if you’re driving a VW).
  • Another option is if you have an American Express card – they offer a program called ‘Premium Car Rental Protection’. This is available directly from American Express and provides coverage for your GDC rental vehicle. This is a great option because it can be purchased in addition to your regular insurance policy and provides an extra layer of protection.
  • If neither of the above apply, there are some 3rd-party companies that provide damage waiver products. Please inquire for details on these options.
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Don’t Let Low Policy Limits Be Your Umbrella

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By Rosalyn Binday

Are you unfortunately familiar with the term “policy limits?”

If you’ve ever had someone slip and fall on your front steps or been at-fault in an auto accident, you just might be.

Policy limits are the maximum that your insurance will pay for a specific claim.  For example, if you buy only minimum auto coverage in New York State, your policy would at most pay out $25,000 for bodily injury claims to an individual hurt in an accident that was your fault. The maximum it would pay for all bodily injury claims in a single accident would be $50,000. Bodily injury is a liability coverage.

For property damage liability to other cars in the accident, or if you struck a gate or fence, the most this low-ball policy would cover would be $10,000.  You could and likely would be sued for the rest.

Just imagine the cost of a fender-bender to someone’s brand new Lexus or Lincoln – $10,000 could be a drop in the bucket for property damage.  And if the accident causes injuries to the occupants of another car, that $50,000 might sadly be a small fraction of the medical bills.

In Connecticut, the limits are lower for the minimum auto policy: $20,000 max per injured person; $40,000 total bodily injury per accident; and $10,000 total property damage.

New Jersey has such lowball limits – $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident and $5,000 property damage – that anyone who feels covered by such a policy is making a big mistake.

Florida enjoys the dubious honor of requiring he lowest limits in the U.S. $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident and $10,000 property damage.

Because the largest area for a lawsuit tends to be related to auto claims, anyone can be sued regardless of their assets, we recommend that a personal umbrella be added to your insurance portfolio for coverage that takes over where your primary policies leave off. Very affordable umbrella policies offered by our top-rank insurers can provide peace of mind and protection for your family if something untoward should happen. For a personal umbrella to properly “fit” over the auto you must carry certain minimum underlying liability limits …usually $250,000/$500,000/$100,000, or even better, $500,000 combined single limit liability.

States intentionally set auto policy limits low so those with modest incomes can afford at least some insurance, as required by law, in order to drive. On the homeowner’s side, it is the banks that require much more realistic property limits before they’ll give you a mortgage. However, they have little or no interest in the liability component of your home insurance. We suggest no less than $300,000, as the cost is very low.

But when it comes to the liability coverage you really need, only you, in partnership with your trusted advisor at Advocate Brokerage, can make the determination. Give us a call, and together we will find the right insurance, and the right price, for you.

 

State-by-State Minimum Requirements

  •          Alaska 50/100/25
  •          Alabama 25/50/25
  •          Arkansas 25/50/25
  •          Arizona 15/30/10
  •          California 15/30/5
  •          Colorado 25/50/15
  •          Connecticut 20/40/10
  •          Delaware 15/30/10
  •          Florida 10/20/10
  •          Georgia 25/50/25
  •          Hawaii 20/40/10
  •          Idaho 20/50/15
  •          Illinois 20/40/15
  •          Indiana 25/50/10
  •          Iowa 20/40/15
  •          Kansas 25/50/10
  •          Kentucky 25/50/10
  •          Louisiana 15/30/25
  •          Maine 50/100/25
  •          Maryland 30/60/15
  •          Massachusetts 20/40/5
  •          Michigan 20/40/10
  •          Minnesota 30/60/10
  •          Mississippi 25/50/25
  •          Missouri 25/50/10
  •          Montana 25/50/10
  •          Nebraska 25/50/25
  •          New Hampshire 25/50/25
  •          New Jersey 15/30/5
  •          New Mexico 25/50/10
  •          Nevada 15/30/10
  •          New York 25/50/10
  •          North Carolina 30/60/25
  •          North Dakota 25/50/25
  •          Ohio 12.5/25/7.5
  •          Oklahoma 25/50/25
  •          Oregon 25/50/20
  •          Pennsylvania 15/30/5
  •          Rhode Island 25/50/25
  •          South Carolina 25/50/25
  •          South Dakota 25/50/25
  •          Tennessee 25/50/15
  •          Texas 30/60/25
  •          Utah 25/65/15
  •          Virginia 25/50/20
  •          Vermont 25/50/10
  •          Washington 25/50/10
  •          Wisconsin 50/100/55
  •          West Virginia 20/40/10
  •          Wyoming 25/100/15
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Warming Temperatures On The Way – Is Your Home Ready?

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By Rosalyn Binday

The thermometer soon – and it’s about time – will be moving well above freezing, so homeowners should be ready for possible flooding as the piles of snow throughout the tri-state area begin to melt.

This brings the possibility of leaks in your roof and walls from gutters that are dammed up, as well as backed up drains and wet basements if the sump pump can’t keep up with the ground moisture.

Many homeowners don’t realize until it’s too late that their insurance policy doesn’t always cover water damage resulting from backups, unless specifically purchased … and there is usually a cap of $5,000 or $10,000 on those conventional policies that provide this coverage.  So it’s time to check around your house to prevent problems and expensive repairs.

A thaw after heavy snows and lengthy cold temperatures suddenly releases a lot of water – maybe too much for the ground around your home to absorb, or too much for your protection systems to handle.

Among the things to check as the weather warms:

  • If you have a sump pump, test it to make sure it is working and that there are no clogs that would prevent it from getting rid of ground water that wants to enter your basement.
  • If you have a basement that has damp spots or gets puddles on the floor in wet weather, be sure to put everything that could be damaged up on shelves and safely away from harm.
  • Check your gutters and remove (or have a professional do it for you) any ice dams, especially on parts of the house that don’t get the sun. Water that is blocked from flowing down your gutters will surely find a way inside your walls.

Just as we’ve discussed during hurricane season, most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t include flood coverage, leaving you out of luck if groundwater comes in. At Advocate Brokerage, we’ll be happy to help evaluate your risk and show you how to obtain special insurance that will protect you in case of a basement flood.  (However, there’s a 30-day waiting period for this government-sponsored coverage to take effect, so the sooner you look into it, the better.)

This has been a tough winter, and a touch of spring is a welcome respite.  If you’ve prepared your home against any unpleasant surprises, you’ll be all set to enjoy it.

 

 

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Deducting Your Casualty Losses at Tax Time: Don’t Mistake the IRS for an Insurance Provider

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By Rosalyn Binday

 Did you have a loss last year due to weather, theft or an accident?

Are you planning to deduct that loss when you file your Federal Income Tax return?

Well, it might not be so easy.  In fact, the IRS sets a pretty high bar for a tax deduction due to a casualty loss.  It’s a good reason to make sure your insurance is up to date and covers what you need it to.

The biggest hurdle is the 10 Percent Rule, which means that any unreimbursed losses you incur during a given year must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) to be deductible on your tax return.  To add insult to injury, the IRS tells you to knock off another $100 from each incident when you’re trying to reach the 10 percent.

So, suppose you have an AGI of $100,000 for the year.  Your losses would have to total $10,000 before you can deduct anything, and then you can deduct only the amount above $10,000.

Homeowners’ and auto policies cover most losses with a much lower deductible – say $500 or $1,000 if you have an at-fault collision, or $250-$500 for a fire in your home. After that, the insurance pays up, and your loss is contained at a manageable level.

Maybe, however, you gave your son your 3-year-old car and took the collision coverage off it to keep the insurance premium low.  If that gently-aged Mercedes or Lexus has a current market value of $12,600, you would first subtract $100 according to IRS instructions, and then take off 10 percent of your AGI, or $10,000. You can deduct the remaining $2,500.  Your marginal tax rate at $100k is 25 percent if you are married or head of household, so your tax savings after declaring the loss is $625.

Likewise, if perhaps you lack flood insurance and the spring rains cause the brook in your backyard to pour into your basement. Your $15,000 worth of family room furniture, 60-inch flat screen, sports equipment, car parts and overflow food supplies from the pantry would turn into a $4,900 deduction when you itemize your taxes, and your net tax benefit is $1,225.

Of course, those amounts you save on your 1040 won’t come close to replacing what you have lost, and you’re out of pocket for the rest.  That’s the reason why most people opt for a reasonable balance in choosing a policy and how much you have to lose before coverage is triggered.  If you had a $500 collision deductible on the second car, you’d get $12,100 from the insurance company toward replacing it.

There are additional IRS guidelines for certain losses, some of which ease the burden if your area is declared a federal disaster area.  But in general, the government does not want to absorb the burden of your loss when insurance is available to mitigate the damages.

At Advocate Brokerage we’re always working with you to make sure your assets are covered appropriately, and to keep any potential losses from hurting you deep in the pocketbook.

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Glenn Binday Elected President of Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Company No. 3

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Glenn Binday, left, wearing his jacket from Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Co. No. 3, speaks to a young local resident at a recent even about the work of volunteer firefighters. 

 

Glenn Binday, a volunteer firefighter since 2002, has been elected President of Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Co. No. 3.

As President of Company No. 3, Binday, a native and resident of Scarsdale, is responsible for all administration of the unit, including recruiting firefighters for one of the town’s three volunteer fire companies.

Binday was motivated by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, to become a volunteer firefighter.

“It was after 9/11, having a helpless feeling, not being able to do anything about it,” Binday says. “I felt is was really important to be involved in something with the local community.”

As one of Scarsdale’s “Bravest,” Binday says the town has relatively few fires, but it benefits from dozens of dedicated volunteers who battle side-by-side with its one career fire company to save lives and property. 

Scarsdale’s Volunteer Firefighters, like their career colleagues, also go to work to protect the town whenever there is a major storm such as Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and all the nor’easters that we’ve seen come through in recent years.

Binday is a Principal with Advocate Brokerage, leading its Commercial Lines Insurance Department. Advocate was founded 45 years ago by Rosalyn Binday, Glenn’s mother, and co-founded by his father, Ronald Binday.  

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A Simple and Sure Way to Reduce the Cost of Your Auto Insurance

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 By Ronald Binday

We all seen those comical TV commercials about making a phone call to switch our auto insurance to some big, impersonal company that seems only to exist at the other end of an 800 number.

But for residents of New York State, there’s a much better way that includes keeping your current insurance and the local customer service you know and trust.

All you have to do is complete an approved defensive driving course to earn a 4-point reduction for any motor vehicle violations on your license, plus a mandatory 10% reduction in the base rate of liability, no-fault and collision premiums of your automobile insurance for three years. To make sure all cars receive the credit, each licensed household member should take the course.

A course like the one offered at http://www.newyorksafetycouncil.com/defensive-driving-course.aspx, which is approved and endorsed by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, is the simple and inexpensive key to savings.

For years, you had to sit though classes and take an exam to pass such an “accident reduction course” under the DMV’s Internet Point and Insurance Reduction Program (IPIRP), and then wait for results to be transmitted to the DMV. Now you can do it from the comfort of your own home with the new online course format, and merely send a copy of your certificate to us here at Advocate Brokerage.

Linked below is a video explaining the benefits you can receive by taking the course.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/53951999

There is nothing to lose and an improved driver history and insurance break to be gained.  So take some time when it’s too cold, wet or snowy to go outside and learn how to be a better defensive driver and save money on your auto insurance. When you receive the certificate attesting to the completion of the defensive driving course, forward a copy to the account manager at Advocate Brokerage via email or fax and we will be happy to apply your discount.

Happy driving!

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