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IPS / Lighthouse Insurance Group Blog: homeowner insurance

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VolunteersMillions of Americans donate time—their most valuable asset—to serve as a volunteer board member on non-profits, booster clubs, churches, PTAs and civic organizations, just to name a few. The decisions these folks make can have a dramatic impact on their respective organization—and not always for the better. If a volunteer endeavor goes bad, would a volunteer board member have coverage against a lawsuit under his or her homeowner’s policy?

Homeowners’ Insurance
The last thing volunteers want to consider is what would happen if their favored organization file suit against them as a result of their efforts. But it happens, and not infrequently. This does happen, especially when volunteers make decisions that directly influence the finances of an organization. Often, the only insurance these volunteers have to back their efforts is a homeowner’s policy. Unfortunately, this policy may be of little assistance.

The reason homeowners’ policies do not usually cover liability stemming from actions as a volunteer is the nature of the claim. The policy is designed to cover claims of “bodily injury,” such as someone slipping on cracked pavement in your driveway; and/or “property damage,” such as accidentally setting your neighbor’s house ablaze when burning some brush on a windy day.

Claims against board members do not usually involve bodily injury or property damage. Rather, they involve bad decision making that results in financial loss to the organization, such as the decision to invest in an IT system that turns out to be a debacle, costing the organization tremendous time and money.

There is another problem. Homeowners policies do not cover “professional services.” This is important to note, because board members are often asked to serve in a capacity consistent with their profession. For example, a church member who is a CPA may be asked to serve on the church’s board as finance chairman. Even though he is not paid for his services, the “professional services” exclusion under his homeowner’s policy would still apply.

In addition to the above, homeowners policies do not cover claims of personal injury unless this coverage is specifically added. Personal injury insurance is added to the homeowner’s policy to cover claims such as libel, slander, wrongful eviction, and false advertising.

What to Do
Events causing claims are unpredictable. While the reasons shown above prove it’s unlikely, not all claims against volunteer board members are excluded by a homeowners policy. Decisions to purchase personal injury coverage and a personal umbrella policy will increase your ability to find coverage for a suit against you. 

The best method for insuring the actions of board members is for the organization to purchase a directors and officers (D&O) liability policy. These policies are relatively inexpensive for most non-profits. Before volunteering, request information on the organization’s D&O policy. The absence of this insurance leaves you at risk of having no personal insurance to defend a suit brought against you by the organization and should influence your decision to serve.   

Insurance Planning Service is an independent insurance agency offering a full range of insurance products – auto – home – business – life – health – to individuals, families and businesses throughout Michigan.  Call or visit us on the web today for a quote on Michigan Umbrella Liability for your family or Directors’ and Officers’ Liability for your organization or business!


HalloweenHalloween is just around the corner and many may not realize how scary this eerie night might really be for their personal safety, their property…or their wallets.  Here are some tips endorsed by Trusted Choice to help prepare for Halloween hazards that may come in disguise or under the cloak of dark.

• Prevent Accidents: Remove or move lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, to avoid accidents or damage. Ensure your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.

• Fire Dangers: Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited or a curious guest may tip it over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed and use battery operated lights wherever possible.

• Costume Safety: Be careful with costumes. All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision and try to use hypo-allergenic make-up.

• See and Be Seen: Encourage each trick-or-treater and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes.

• Don’t be a Scary Driver: Drive sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween. Watch for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road.

• Power in Numbers: When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners and crosswalks—never between parked cars—and stay on well-lit streets.

• Unwelcomed Guests: Scare away potential property vandals who often use the chaos of Halloween night to strike by keeping outdoor lights on.

• Pet Safety: Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they go door-to-door. Halloween night can be stressful, even on the friendliest dog, cat or other creature.

• Candy Inspection:  Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween. Inspect all children’s treats. Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray and/or inspection service. Throw away any suspicious candy.

Insurance Planning Service wishes you a fun and safe Halloween!  Call us at 800-220-5582 or contact us via the Internet to discuss our spooktackular programs for homeowner's or auto insurance!

Source:    Trusted Choice

Unmarried CoupleAccording to statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth, over the past 30 years more and more people live with someone with whom they have a relationship with prior to or instead of getting married- including about half of all men and women under 44 in the most recently available data. No matter the reason, living with your partner when you aren’t married can present some unique (but not impossible!) challenges to making sure you both have the right insurance coverage to protect your belongings and your liability.

Do you both own your home/condo?
If you purchase your home together, it makes the most sense to obtain a single insurance policy with both you and your partner as “named insureds” on it, since you both have a financial/legal interest in the home. 

Did one of you move into a home owned by the other?
In cases like this it probably makes the most sense to each maintain a separate policy. If one of you doesn’t have financial or legal interest in the home, most insurance companies won’t allow that person to be added to the existing policy as “Named Insured.” One possible alternative would be to add the person to the policy using a tool known as an endorsement, but even using the Additional Insured endorsement, the person who is added may not have all of their property and contents covered. Therefore, if only one of you owns the home, the best option to make sure each partner has coverage is to obtain separate policies.

What about our cars? We each own our own and have our own auto insurance policies?
While you’ll have coverage for using each other’s cars the one potential gap in coverage would be if you maintained different coverage limits. Some personal auto policies may exclude some coverage for vehicles you drive that you don’t own but are “furnished or available for your regular use,” a description that would most likely fit your partners vehicle.

Suppose you have higher limits on your car than your partner does on theirs. While you would have some coverage under your partner’s policy when driving their car, it would be for those lower limits of coverage than you might have on your own car. If you each have your own cars and policies, you could consider maintaining the same liability limits on both vehicles.

What if I own a car and my partner doesn’t?
In this scenario your partner could drive your car and have coverage, but if you were to rent a car on a vacation, your partner wouldn’t have coverage if they were to drive it, unless they purchased separate rental car coverage. Another option would be for your partner to obtain a “Named Non-Owner” insurance policy that would allow them to drive your vehicle with their own coverage.

What about the car we own together?
If you own a car together but aren’t married the easiest thing to do is make sure that you obtain a “Joint Ownership Coverage” endorsement.

Good thing you have another partner…
Discuss your situation with a Trusted Choice® Independent Insurance Agent. While being married resolves many of these issues in a more direct way, the great thing about having a Trusted Choice agent is that they have the ability to represent different insurance companies, so that they can work with you to obtain the insurance coverage that fit your needs and your lifestyle now and into the future as life changes.

INSURANCE PLANNING SERVICE is your Trusted Choice agent!  Our staff can help with these and other questions you may have about your insurance.  Call us at 800-220-5582 or contact us online today! 


You found your dream home, negotiated and signed a deal, moved in and now it’s time to insure your new residence. While some of the homeowner insurance coverage will be dictated by your mortgage provider, many new homeowners will have to evaluate how much coverage they need and can afford.

Navigating the home insurance world can be difficult, but here are three expert tips to avoid under and over insuring your home.

Tip No.1: Insure the Cost to Rebuild

In order to properly insure your home, you’ll need to figure out the cost to rebuild it. According to Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, many home buyers mistakenly base the rebuilding costs on what they paid for the home. “In today’s stagnant real estate market, the cost to rebuild a home can greatly exceed its real estate value, and there is no correlation between real estate value and the amount of insurance needed.”

She advises homeowners calculate their rebuilding costs by excluding the value of the land, but taking into account the square footage, type of exterior wall construction, the style of the home, number of rooms and bathrooms, roof materials, kitchens amenities and  any other extras in the home. Sheds and garages should also be part of the equation.

If you are dealing with a lender that requires homeowners insurance to cover the mortgage, make sure it’s also enough to foot the entire cost to rebuild. Worters says a quick way to get an estimate of the amount of insurance you need is to multiply the total square footage of the home by local building costs per square foot, which can be determined by calling a local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Tip No.2: Determine Your Risk

The majority of homeowners take out a HO-3 policy, which Worters says provides the broadest coverage, and allows you to add more coverage or choose a higher deductible plan depending on how much risk you want to take on.

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the structure of the home, personal belongings, liability protection and additional living expense if you are temporarily displaced due to an insured disaster. You can choose the amount of a deductible to save on the premiums, or whether or not you want replacement or actual cash value coverage.

With replacement coverage, your insurance will pay to replace your belongings with new ones at the same cost while with actual cash value you’ll get what the belongings are worth today.

Replacement coverage typically costs more than actual cash value coverage.  “If you inherited belongings or have some antiques that elevate the overall cost of your belongings above what the standard coverage is, then you can ask to increase the amount,” says Mario Morales, senior corporate underwriting consultant at MetLife Auto & Home.

Tip No.3: Choose the Right Provider

Your insurance is only as good as your provider, which is why you want to go with one that has good rating by A.M. Best, which rates the financial stability of insurance companies.

Morales recommends considering what matters to you from a customer service perspective and to work with a company that meets your needs.  “It’s always a good idea to make sure you are looking at companies that are established and have a good reputation. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a policy and you’re not able to contact a person to ask questions.”

You also have choices in regards to how you purchase your insurance.  You can buy it through a local insurance agent, direct from an insurance company or online. To find out which insurance companies are doing business in your state check with your state insurance department.

Since price varies from company to company, Worters recommends shopping around for the lowest rates and to get at least three quotes.  “Don't shop price alone, you want a company that answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently.”

The professionals at INSURANCE PLANNING SERVICE can help you decide on the best coverage to suit your specific needs.  And, we represent Michigan's finest carriers that are rated "A" or better by the AM Best Company.  Call us today at 800-220-5592 or contact us using our convient online form for your homeowners insurance!


Bike RaceSummer sees people pulling their bicycles out of storage, dusting them off and hitting the road -- whether to work, in a race, or for a casual jaunt on the local bike trail. Biking has become so popular because it's "less stressful than running, less strenuous on the body per se than running. And as gas prices go up, people look for more alternatives for transportation," says Doug Foulks, of Nationwide Insurance.

However, more bikes on the road can mean more potential for collisions, injuries or theft. Depending on the type of bicycle involved, the losses can run into thousands of dollars.

Luckily for most cyclists, their bikes are likely already insured.  "A bike is considered part of your personal property, like a couch or a TV, so your homeowners or renters or condo insurance would cover it," says Foulks, a Nationwide product manager.  However, in some cases you might want to go beyond that basic bicycle insurance protection to something a little more souped-up.

Some kick bike-buying into a higher gear

The National Bike Dealers Association says Americans spent $6 billion on bicycles in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.  While the average bicycle purchased from a big-box store may cost its owner up to a few hundred dollars, many hobbyists and enthusiasts are willing to invest much more for a faster, lightweight racing bike.

"As high as it (a high-end bike) can possibly go is $20,000, but more commonly $5,000 is considered pretty high-end," says Julie Goforth, co-owner of On Your Mark, a bicycle shop in Lake Park, Fla.  "It's not uncommon to see people spending $5,000 or $10,000 on a top-of-the-line bike," she says. "I sell a lot more at $1,000 than $5,000, but I sell a few $5,000 bikes."  Goforth says a high-end bicycle gives its owner lighter-weight material, better operating equipment, smoother shifting and a more compliant feel.

Home insurance provides some bike coverage

Foulks says more people are inquiring about insuring their bicycles. He says homeowners or renters insurance would cover a bicycle if it was stolen, lost or damaged in a fire or natural disaster.

The Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based trade group, says homeowners and renters insurance also provide liability protection from a lawsuit that might arise if a cyclist gets into an accident that causes property damage or leaves someone injured. Plus, the institute says those policies include no-fault medical coverage in the event of an accident, usually between $1,000 and $5,000.

John W. Koetz, president of the W.E. Davis Insurance Agency Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, says with today's pricier bikes, you may want to buy additional coverage in the form of a rider (an insurance rider, not to be confused with a bicycle rider) attached to your home policy. "If you have a little homeowners policy, a $5,000 bike would eat a lot of your coverage," he explains.  Koetz says taking out a rider on a bicycle also would help establish its value for insurance purposes. "People invest a lot of money in these bikes, and they want to be fairly compensated if there is a loss."

But the additional bicycle insurance coverage isn't cheap. A rider on a $1,000 bike with one of Koetz's carriers could cost up to $160 per year.  "I have a bike I spent a couple thousand dollars for recently, and I just have it covered under my homeowners policy," Koetz says, adding he personally prefers to avoid the cost of a rider.

Finding extra coverage may be an uphill ride

Foulks, with Nationwide, says additional insurance coverage for top-of-the-line bicycles is something more people are seeking, but it might not be something the average insurance agency would entertain.  "There are specialty carriers, but your average company, if you come up and tell them that you want to insure this $20,000 bike, they'll probably blink twice," he says.  Insurers are going to want to look at things such as the average use of the bike, how often you ride it, and where you ride, including whether it's used in exotic locales outside of the country, he says.

There are no "hard and fast rules" on insuring a high-end bike, Foulks says. "It's a line of biz that's getting more attention right now, and it's not the most profitable. People tend to crash."

Regardless of how much a bike costs, both Foulks and Koetz have the same advice: The first thing cyclists need to do when looking into bicycle insurance is to see their local agent.  "Talk to your existing insurance agent, and see what kind of coverage you already have," Koetz says. "Most people will find they have coverage that is already sufficient."

Insurance Planning Service insures bicycles!  If you're a rider, call at 800-220-5582 or use our convenient online contact form for your rider. 

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Lighthouse Group Main Office in Grand Rapids, MI
Mailing Address | P.O. Box 530009, Livonia, MI 48153

Phone: 734.421.9900 | Toll Free: 800.220.5582 | Fax: 734.421.9911

Also serving these Detroit area communities in Michigan: Livonia, Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Southfield, Plymouth, Canton, Westland, Northville, Novi, Dearborn, South Lyon & Walled Lake