Long Insurance Services of Kernersville, NC


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Working from Home

8 Tips for Working from Home

Who doesn’t love getting a few extra minutes of shut-eye and the more casual dress code that comes along with working from home? Working remotely can be great – except when your dog decides he needs to go out, again. And has anyone else noticed how your neighbors seem to align their lawn mowing times to your conference call schedule?

Remote work has unique benefits and distractions, too. So how can you make working from home work for you?

We asked a few full-time remote ERIE employees for their top tips to a productive and balanced remote work lifestyle. ERIE family members who are veterans of remote work have a message for the newbies joining their ranks: You’ve got this.

CHOOSING YOUR WORKSPACE:

  • Choose a dedicated, private space. Kitchen tables were great for doing homework back in high school, but you might find having a designated space where you can tune out distractions will keep you more productive.“Definitely have a room where you can close a door or an area sectioned off for privacy. It will really help with minimizing distractions.” – Dustin Eckman, property adjuster, remote for two years

     

  • Let the light in. Natural light has been proven to brighten your mood and increase productivity. So if you’ve always wanted that corner office with the big window, now is your chance to make the office of your dreams a reality.“Work near a window. I have two that I look out of. I love the outdoors and it helps me to feel better to see outside.” – Kim Lane, senior underwriting support specialist, remote for four years

PREPPING YOUR DAY:

  • Develop a morning routine. While you may not need to style your hair or commit to a long commute, waking up a few minutes before you clock in may not lead to the most productive workday.

    “I always wake up early enough to get a start in my day. Eating breakfast, catching up on current events, but ultimately waking my mind up so I’m not so drowsy when I begin my work.” – 
    Cherrish Wynder, auto adjuster, remote for two years
  • Plan out your tasks and projects. Working from home can bring a lot of distractions, the worst of which is losing motivation to do work. Creating a to-do list of assignments the day before can help make your remote day seem more official and keep you on track with projects.“Plan your days in advance. It helps when distractions or other tasks arise. I plan so that I know what has to get done that day.” – Matt Ladd, property adjuster, Knoxville Claims Office, remote for four years

     

  • Dress with your day in mind. Another big benefit to working from home is being able to dress outside of the company dress code. No more sweating in a suit jacket on 90 degree days or shivering under the air conditioner vent.“If you don’t have to meet your customers or have a big meeting, don’t be afraid to spend the day in your comfy clothes. I’m always more productive when I’m comfortable.” – Rebecca Petrie, commercial liability claims specialist, Fort Wayne Claims Office, remote for 12 years

DEVELOPING YOUR #WFH GROOVE:

  • Try a snack hack. The refrigerator has never been so close or stocked with all your favorites. (Another bonus? When you work from home, you have a very short list of suspects if someone steals your lunch.) However, it’s important to establish healthy habits when your desk is so close to the family pantry.“I try not to keep food in my home office because it’s too easy to just turn in my chair and grab it. If I want a snack, I force myself to walk downstairs and get it. Movement … it’s a good thing!” – Jennifer Reed, subrogation supervisor, remote for 17 years

     

  • Connect with your co-workers. While you no longer pass by their cubicles every day, technology has made connecting with co-workers easier.“Connect with some of your co-workers every day via email, company communications or phone. I always turn my camera on for meetings. I feel more connected when I can see people versus a phone call. However you decide to connect, if you can’t hear someone on a conference call, let them know!” – Kelly Gierczynski, talent management consultant, remote for 18 years

     

  • Take screen breaks. You no longer have in-person meetings or co-workers stealing you away for a coffee. Screens can be harsh on the eyes, causing headaches or strained vision – which can lessen your productivity over time.“Find ways to step away from your desk. Make time to get up, stretch, do yoga, go for a walk, grab some fresh air or do a quick chore. In the end, it will help you better focus when you begin working again.” – Morgan Kimble, medical claims facilitation supervisor, remote for one year

FIND WORK-LIFE BALANCE AT ERIE

Whether you are transitioning to a permanent remote work lifestyle, or just a temporary fix… the secret to finding the right balance is finding a company that supports you and your work-life commitments. At ERIE, about 40 percent of our workforce utilizes our flexible work arrangements full-time.

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Hail Damage

What to Know About Hail, Roof Damage and Common Scams

A hailstorm just blew in through your neighborhood. Suddenly, there are people at your door telling you they can repair your home’s damage quickly and easily. What would you do?

While some hail damage may be obvious, you can’t always trust that someone showing up to your door has your best interests in mind.

The size and density of a hailstone will determine the severity of damage you’ll find after a storm. While some hailstorms can cause severe damage to your car and home, others can leave little to no harm at all.

If you’ve recently battled a hailstorm, here is what you need to know about hail, roof damage, homeowners insurance and common scams.

WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER A HAILSTORM?

When the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, inspect any damage that may have occurred to your car or home. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends contacting your insurance agent immediately if you suspect hail damage. Your ERIE agent knows the ins and outs of your specific policy and can help you determine whether you should file a claim to help cover the cost of repairs.

To help your agent, be sure to record the date and timeframe the storm occurred and take photos that can help support your claim.

For more hail safety tips, read our guide on what to do before, during and after a hail storm.

COMMON SIGNS OF HAIL DAMAGE

You may spot hail damage in a few different places on your property including roof, siding, windows, outdoor furniture and vehicles. Damage can look different depending on the object.

Signs of hail damage to a car:

  • Chipped or cracked windshield
  • Dents on the roof or other areas of your vehicle
  • Other dings or paint scratches

Signs of hail damage to a home:

  • Dents in gutters or outside vents
  • Chipped or cracked windows or skylights
  • Damage appearing on one side of the roof
  • “Bruises” or dark spots appear on shingles in a random pattern

While some damage can be easy to spot, you may not always be able to see the damage hail has done to your roof.

An insurance adjuster knows the difference between roof damage from hail versus regular wear and tear. We recommend letting a trained and trusted professional up on your roof to check for any potential problems.

WHAT IS HAIL FRAUD?

Having to deal with weather damage is bad enough. Unfortunately, there can also be fraudulent roofing contractors that emerge after a storm, sometimes called “storm chasers.”

They often appear quickly after a storm and claim that your roof has been seriously damaged by wind and hail. Many “storm-chasing” contractors are transient, moving around the country following recent storm activity to increase their chance of landing a sale.

The IBHS and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recently teamed up to offer this list of tips to spread awareness of roofing contractor fraud.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HAIL FRAUD?

Storm chasers may point out pre-existing damage, create their own damage, or say that there is damage when there isn’t. Here are some signs that you should think twice:

  • “Free” inspection: Someone wise once said nothing good in life is free. While reputable contractors might offer free inspections with no strings attached, be cautious that some fraudsters might use this tactic to get on your roof and point out damage that isn’t there. Worse, some might create their own damage.
  • They pressure you: Those in the con business often pressure you to make a quick decision during a difficult or stressful time. Give yourself space and time to contact your insurance agent and make the right decision.
  • The contract has blanks: Your contract should be detailed and include an estimate on cost, work schedules, payment schedules, listed contractors and more.
  • Upfront payment: While it’s reasonable for any contractor to ask for a down payment, fraudulent contractors often demand all or a large amount of the payment upfront. Sometimes, they’ll take your cash and dash after performing shoddy work – or no work at all. Trustworthy contractors will often organize a payment schedule that works best with your schedule.

If you do find damage to your roof or other areas after a storm, a trustworthy contractor will work with your insurance company to help fix the damage.

HIRING A CONTRACTOR AFTER A HAIL STORM

As you begin your search for a contractor, here are some tips:

  • Get multiple estimates. Don’t rely on a single estimate as being the one with the best price – or the best work. Do some research and get estimates from three to four different contractors.
  • Ask to see their license and proof of insurance. Make sure both are real and up to date.
  • Ask for references. Has this contractor worked on similar projects? Do their references speak highly of them?
  • Take the right steps. Hiring a contractor can be stressful, especially when you’ve discovered some recent damage from a storm. Read through our full checklist of tips to consider when hiring a contractor.

DOES MY HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COVER HAIL DAMAGE?

The average cost for a hail damage claim can average about $15,000 – which varies based on how long the storm was, the size of the hail and the amount of damage it caused.  Generally speaking, most homeowners insurance policies cover damage from hail and wind caused by storms. Coverage can vary, however, for example, manufacturing defects that existed prior to the storm might not be covered under a hail damage claim. Check with your insurance agent about the specifics of your policy.

Uncertainty is part of life, but that’s why you have insurance. Talk to an insurance professional like your local Erie Insurance agent.They can tell you more about the options ERIE offers and help you get you a free quote customized for your home.

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Severe Weather

Prepare for Hurricane Isaias

Severe WeatherHurricane Isaias is expected to travel northward, impacting North Carolina and Virginia early next week. Even if the storm center does not make landfall, it is likely to cause high winds and heavy rain along the coast and inland.

If you experience a loss related to the storm and need to file a claim, Erie Insurance and your Agent are here to help. For claims service during evenings and weekends, call (800) 367-3743.

We encourage you to stay off the roads during heavy rains and follow these tips to reduce damage and stay safe:

• Bring in garbage cans, lawn furniture, bikes, toys, hanging plants and lawn decorations. If possible, remove the swings on your child’s swing set to prevent unnecessary damage.

• Move furnishings and valuables to the highest point in your house.

• Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy in case of loss of power. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.

• If you lose power, turn off all major appliances to avoid a power surge when the power is turned back on.

• Do not drive or walk through standing water. Water can be deeper than it appears, and two feet of water can sweep away most cars and six inches of moving water can sweep you away when walking.

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Digital Estate Planning

Digital Estate Planning

What Happens to Online Logins After You’re Gone?

Update: Talk to your local agent to request a contact-free life insurance quote. For a limited time, we are waiving the requirement of a paramedical exam in light of CDC guidance to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can do just about anything online these days. Whether it’s watching a movie, checking your bank account balance, shopping for clothes or ordering pizza, each activity likely requires a username and password.

Studies have shown the average American internet user has 150 online accounts that require a login. That’s a lot of passwords to manage on a day-to-day basis. But have you ever wondered what happens to your accounts and logins after you’re gone?

As our digital footprints expand with each passing year, experts now recommend taking steps to manage your online accounts as part of the estate planning process. Like preparing a will, buying a life insurance policy or choosing an executor, a little bit of planning can make life much easier for those managing your estate when you pass.

Here are four ways you can plan ahead to make deactivating your online accounts quick and easy:

1. Create an inventory of your accounts.
To delete online accounts after your death, it’s important to know which digital logins existed in the first place. That’s why it’s helpful to make a complete inventory of your online accounts and the login information for each. Be sure to list every account you can think of, including:

  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Retirement and savings plans
  • Social media profiles
  • Shopping sites
  • Insurance policies
  • Bills and utilities
  • Subscription services

For each account, include the website address, username, password, account numbers and answers to security questions. You may want to consider using a password manager to keep everything in one secure place.

2. Name a digital executor.
Similarly to an estate executor who manages your last will and testament, a digital executor can be named to take charge of your digital assets. Once assigned, the digital executor can be responsible for:

  • Archiving any files, photos, video or other content you’ve created
  • Deleting files and erasing hard drives
  • Maintaining certain online accounts while closing others
  • Transferring accounts to your heirs
  • Notifying online outlets of your death
  • Canceling recurring payments

Many states will allow you to legally name a digital executor in your will but since the need for managing online assets is fairly new, some states don’t recognize this role yet. Check with your estate attorney to learn the regulations in your state.

3. Understand each provider’s terms of service.
For every online account you create, you must agree to the provider’s terms of service. If you’re like most people, you probably scrolled to the bottom of the page to click “I agree” without reading the fine print.

But in the terms of service, there’s often language addressing how accounts are disabled in the event of a user’s death. Facebook, for instance, provides an option where a deceased person’s profile can be turned into a memorialized account. Commerce platforms like Amazon and PayPal require an executor to contact the company directly to deactivate an account. Understanding the policies of each account can help in providing instructions for your digital executor.

4. Delete unnecessary accounts. After creating an inventory of your online accounts, get a head start on cleaning up your digital presence by deleting accounts you no longer need. Having fewer active profiles will make life easier for your digital executor while also helping to protect you from the possibility of identity theft. And it will save you the embarrassment of someone finding those old Myspace photos.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Like writing your will, the choices you make now about life insurance will ultimately speak on your behalf in representing your intentions for loved ones and family. As guardians of that legacy, Erie Insurance can help you make choices that will be true to your values.

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Life Insurance Beneficiary

How to Choose a Life Insurance Beneficiary

Life Insurance BeneficiaryLife insurance is important to protect your family’s financial future.  Who you name as a beneficiary can be just as important as your initial decision to purchase life insurance. It’s a big job, which is why it’s important to choose the right person – someone who’s trustworthy and knows what matters most to you.

Your local ERIE agent is here to help you determine the right beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for your unique situation. For general answers to common questions, keep reading.

WHAT IS A BENEFICIARY?

A beneficiary is a person or entity designated to receive the funds from your life insurance policy in the event of your death. A beneficiary can be a person, business, trust, charity, church or even a school. And an insurance policy can have more than one beneficiary, as well.

When selecting a beneficiary, a policy owner should select someone with “insurable interest” in the life of the insured. Insurable interest generally means that the beneficiary will incur some type of loss should the life insured pass away.  Those with insurable interest often include, but are not limited to:

  • Spouses, domestic partners, fiancés or common law spouses
  • Divorced spouses (if there is a financial dependency, such as children or a property settlement specified in a divorce decree)
  • Parents
  • Legal guardians with permanent custody
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Business partners (Learn more about key person life insurance and business continuation)

WHY DO I NEED A BENEFICIARY?

Naming a beneficiary lets your insurance company know who should receive the policy benefit upon your passing. At Erie Family Life, we require our policyholders to name a beneficiary when purchasing life insurance.

If a beneficiary is not named, your family could have to go through probate court before receiving any insurance funds. This process delays the benefit payment, while subjecting your loved ones to a complicated and costly legal process as they grieve.

HOW TO CHOOSE A BENEFICIARY


Choosing a beneficiary depends largely on how you’d like your life insurance to be used upon your death. If you have young children, naming a spouse or close family member you trust as your beneficiary and memorializing your wishes may be one way to provide for your children’s care in your absence. Grown children could use the insurance benefit to help pay for college. And if you choose a charity, the funds will go toward a cause close to your heart.

In short, who you choose as a beneficiary is dependent on your values and lifestyle. Here are some answers to common questions about beneficiaries to help you make your decision:

  • What if my beneficiary dies?
    In the event you outlive your beneficiary, you should always call your insurance agent to update your policy. And ideally, you should always name a primary and contingent or secondary, beneficiary. Naming a contingent beneficiary makes it clear who should receive your insurance benefit if a primary beneficiary is deceased.
  • What if my beneficiary is a minor?
    If you name a minor as a beneficiary, you should also name a guardian – someone who can manage the insurance funds until they turn 18. If you don’t want to name a guardian, you can always name your estate or living trust as the beneficiary, then include instructions on how the insurance money should be used. But when it comes to estate planning and wills and trusts, you should consult a legal and or tax professional.
  • What if I don’t have any children?
    Your life insurance beneficiary should be a person or entity that you are comfortable naming as the beneficiary of your life insurance proceeds. If your beneficiary is a person, that individual should have an insurable interest in your life. An important part of choosing a beneficiary is making sure the funds are used in a way that honors your wishes.
  • What if I want to leave money to a charity, school, or church?
    Your local ERIE agent can help you determine a way to honor your charitable wishes while making sure your family is protected, too. If you decide to name a charity as a beneficiary, it’s recommended that the amount should be consistent with an established pattern of giving or support.
  • Can you choose a pet as a beneficiary?
    This isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. Some people have left small fortunes behind to their pets. However, most insurance companies, including ERIE, won’t let you name a pet as a beneficiary. If you’re concerned about protecting your furry friends, name a trustee that will care for them after you’re gone.

WHAT DO I DO AFTER SELECTING A BENEFICIARY?

After you find the right fit, you can inform your beneficiary of their new role.. Here’s how to put them in the best position possible:

  • Discuss your policy. No one likes talking about death. But it’s important to have a conversation with your beneficiary. You may want to discuss who your insurance company is and where they can find your policies when you pass. You can advise your beneficiary of why you chose them and what your final wishes are. Be prepared if they suggest an alternative or need more information.
  • Update your information. When your funds are being distributed, any inaccuracy in policy documents can slow down the payment process. List your beneficiary with up-to-date contact information including an address, phone number and his or her relationship to you. This goes for organizations, too.
  • Review your policy frequently. As your priorities change, so will your policy. Review your policy at least once a year and after significant events like the birth of a child, death of a beneficiary, marriage or divorce. Update your beneficiaries as needed and make sure your funds are in the right hands based on your current situation.

PROTECT THE ONES YOU LOVE

Your life insurance policy should reflect what you value most. Choosing the right beneficiary is as personal as choosing the right coverage. That’s why we’re here to help you do both.

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Prevent Frozen Pipes

How To Prevent Frozen Pipes

Frozen PipesFrigid winter temperatures can cause pipes to freeze – or even burst. Do you know how to tell if pipes are frozen? We’ve pulled together tips to help prevent frozen pipes and a list of suggestions for you to follow if they do freeze.

Pro tip: Know ahead of time how your homeowners insurance can kick in to help repair damage from a frozen and burst water pipe. Not sure if you’re covered? Talk to a local ERIE agent to find out.

SYMPTOMS OF FROZEN PIPES

One of the earliest signs of a frozen pipe is when no water comes out of your faucet when you turn it on. If you notice that, head first to the basement and check to see that the water is still turned on and that you don’t have a leak. Once you’ve confirmed these two things, continue your inspection to make sure one of your pipes has not burst. If your search reveals that your pipes are frozen but none have ruptured, you have two choices:

  • Call a plumber to help thaw your frozen pipes. Most times, this is a better idea if you don’t think you can safely thaw the pipes yourself, you don’t know where the frozen pipes are or you can’t access the frozen area.
  • Attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself. Be aware this option can be dangerous if not done correctly.

HOW TO FIX FROZEN PIPES

If you’re not an experienced DIY-er, it’s safer to defer this one to a professional. However, there are fast fixes you can try if you’re experienced with home maintenance work. If you attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep your faucet open. Water and steam will be created during the thawing process, and your pipes need an opening to discharge this. Keeping the faucet open also allows for moving water to run through the pipe, which will expedite the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen. This can be done by wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, heating the area with a hair dryer or both. If you lack either of these items, using towels soaked in hot water will help as well.  Remember, this is a temporary fix and the heating pad should not be left unattended to prevent a fire.
  • Know what not to do. Never use a blowtorch, propane or kerosene heaters, a charcoal stove or any other open flame device to thaw your frozen pipes. That presents a severe fire hazard. You should also avoid using a space heater unless you are sure the area is clear of any flammable material. Again, never leave the space heater unattended.
  • Continue applying heat until water flow returns to normal. Once you have successfully thawed the pipe, turn on other faucets in your home to check for any more frozen water pipes.
  • Take swift action if the frozen pipes are located inside an exterior wall. This is a serious situation when you should call a professional contractor, as repairs may involve cutting a hole in the wall toward the inside of the house to expose those pipes to warmer air.

HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES

While we can’t control the weather, there are things we can do to prevent pipes from freezing. To prevent pipes from freezing and causing major damage, follow these steps:

  • Drain water from pipes that are likely to freeze. This includes your swimming pool and sprinkler water supply lines.
  • Disconnect any hoses from the outside of your home, drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Make sure to close the indoor valves supplying these outdoor access points.
  • Insulate the area around vents and light fixtures. This helps prevent heat from escaping into the attic.
  • Seal any wall cracks. Be sure to pay careful attention to the areas around utility service lines.
  • Open kitchen cabinets. This allows the warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Keep the garage doors closed to protect water lines.
  • Allow your faucets to drip cold water on the coldest days. The movement will make it harder for the water to freeze.
  • Keep your thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Never let it fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave your home.
  • Ensure you have proper seals on all doors and windows.
  • Place a 60-watt bulb in areas where you’re concerned about pipes freezing. Make sure there are no combustible materials near the bulb.

PROTECTION FROM FROZEN WATER PIPES

Frozen water pipes and the damage they can cause are a reality for thousands of people each year. That’s especially the case when you are at below freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. That’s because the damage can be extensive.

“We see about 2,000 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of claims for Erie Insurance. “A number of them are due to frozen water pipes.”

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