There are times in our lives when we need to hit the reset button. There are times when we get to decide when the right time is to make changes…and there are times when we don’t. Losing a loved one, whether through a divorce or a death, can throw your life into a tail spin. There are so many emotions that you have to deal with, all while trying to keep a grip on the life that is going on around you.
While both of these situations are traumatic, the answer to “what comes next” can be very different. I want to discuss both of them in relation to insurance, but this post will focus of the death of a loved one.
I’ve Been There
I remember helping my mom and dad sort through insurance and financial paperwork when my dad was still with us. They were trying to make sense of what they had in place for life insurance, annuties, etc. The life insurance policies they had in place at the time had become unaffordable based on their income, which was essentially their social security checks. They had annuities in place, but there were many of them spread around with different companies. I took care of their home and auto insurance, so I had a good idea of what all that entailed.
My dad passed away from dimensia after only about 6 months in a nursing home. The person that we all knew had been gone for some time. The one blessing with this disease, at least in my opinion, was that we got a chance to say goodbye. For me it was over a period of time. And there was also time for my mom, and the rest of my family, to plan.
I work with clients on a regular basis that don’t get a lenghty opportunity to say goodbye. Sometimes the death of a loved one is sudden. And in the immediate hours after, insurance may seem like a distant concern.
But after the emotions have set in and the thought of what life may look like in the future, the responsibility of change becomes more clear.
I wanted to write this post to give you, the reader, whether it be a widow, or concerned family member, a place to start.
This blog post won’t save you time on the phone. It won’t save you from shuffling through paperwork to find the most current statement. It won’t make the decisions any easier. But my hope is that it will give you an idea of what to look for, and see what options are available.
In most cases, nothing related to auto insurance needs to be done immediately, which is a good thing.
As the days go by, and a new “normal” takes shape, it will make more sense to take a look at what changes need to be made.
Adding Roadside Assistance
Most car insurance policies offer Roadside/Towing assistance as an optional coverage that can be added. For a new widow who may not have family close by, this is very affordable coverage that can be added to help in the event of a vehicle breakdown, locking keys in a vehicle, or other Roadside service issues. This can usually be added for $1 to $2 per month, depending on the packages that are available from the insurnace company.
Adding Rental Reimbursement
Rental Reimbursement coverage (also know as Loss of Use for vehicles), will help pay for a rental car in the event of a physical damage loss. Depending on the situation, a widow may have more than one vehicle after the loss of a loved one, but in time find that having two vehicles in more of a burden than a blessing. If the extra vehicle is sold or giving to a family member, and there is only one vehicle in the house, Rental Reimbursement coverage can help the with the inconvenience of not having a vehicle in the event of a loss.
For home insurance, taking the time to review the current policy with an agent is important. If a surviving spouse didn’t deal much with the insurance, then it will be important to get the basics down and go from there. Asking your agent things like:
- How much is my home insured for?
- What is the current deductible?
- Are there any new coverages (sometimes known as endorsements) that could be added to my policy that would benefit me?
- How are the payments being made (i.e. by a mortgage company, is the premium paid in full or monthly EFT, etc.)?
- Are there more affordable options?
Life insurance, may likely be the policy that will be the most important after the death of a loved one. But for a surviving spouse, it can be somewhat overwhelming. If there haven’t been regular visits and policy reviews, sometimes knowing who to call can be a challenge. And then there is a phone number, getting through to someone who can help may take time.
If you have the phone number for the current agent, or a servicing agent (local agent that has taken over the servicing of a policy), you can start with them to file a claim on a life insurance policy. They can also give you the requirements (i.e. a death certificate) and other paperwork to be completed to send in for review.
This can also be a taxing event for family members who are involved in the process. Hours can be spent on the phone tracking down policy info, especially if one company has consolidated with another company throughout the years. Being transferred from one department to another can be frustrating.
If there is one piece of advice I can give to someone who may be reading this and working on getting their affairs in order, getting your life insurance documents and contact info updated, would be at the top of the list. It is important to have all of your documents updated, but a life insurance policy is the one that can help provide a financial peace of mind while all the other things get ironed out.
A Policy Review and Company Quotes
This step will usually take place weeks, and likely months down the road, but it is still important.
I meet with prospective clients on a frequent basis that have been with a company for many, many years. If I am working with a widow, often times he or she stayed away from the insurance because they didn’t want to deal with it and trusted their spouse take care of the details.
When the time comes for them to make the decisions, a coverage review is the best way to know what exactly you are covered for. In many cases, there are beneficial changes that can be made to better reflect the situation. For instance, the coverage for the collectibles that have since been passed along to family can be removed to save on the premium. As stated above, coverages like Roadside Assistance can be added to an auto policy, in most cases for a nominal amount.
But don’t stop there. Ask an independent insurance agent to take a look and see if there might be a company available that would offer better coverage and a better rate.
There is no risk in checking to see what is available. Quote are free, and an independent agent can get rates with many different companies, which saves time in the long run.
On the same note, make sure you are completly comfortable and undertand what changing to a new insurance company looks like, if it is would be beneficial. A lower premium can be a good thing, but not if it comes at the cost of decreasing necessary coverage.
All In Due Time…
Since the passing of my dad, I have been able to watch my mom figure out what life looks like each day. Some days are good…some not so good.
I was fortunate to be able to help her through the steps I mentioned above. It wasn’t hard for me because I work with insurance everyday, and so I was able to take care of things easily and quickly. Most of the time, I would be thinking of things and changes that we would need to make (removing my dad’s name from the home and auto policies for instance) before she would think of them.
But I know it isn’t that way for everyone, and so I hope this helps.
For those who are starting new, ask for help as much as you can. Of course family and friends, but don’t forget about those who you put your trust in when it comes to your insurance. Give them a call and let them know, “I need help.”