Long Insurance Services of Kernersville, NC


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All Posts in Category: Personal Insurance

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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Medicare Supplement Insurance

Is a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan Worth It?

Medicare Supplement InsuranceWhen you sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, you also have the option to apply for a Medicare Supplement insurance plan.

Medicare Supplement plan, sometimes called “Medigap,” is a private insurance policy that can help pay for some of the health care costs that Medicare doesn’t cover. But is this coverage really necessary? And more importantly — is it worth it?

WHY CHOOSE A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN?

To answer those questions, it may help to understand why you’d want to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan in the first place. Here are some important reasons:

  • It helps pay the portion of approved expenses not covered by Medicare. This can include out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.
  • There are a variety of plans to meet your needs. Erie Family Life offers four supplemental insurance plans designed to fit your life and your budget.
  • With no network, you can choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Original Medicare.
  • Coverage is guaranteed to renew each year (unless you make untrue statements, commit fraud, or fail to pay premiums).

IS IT WORTH IT?

As with any insurance policy, the answer to whether the cost is “worth it” will largely depend on your personal financial situation.

But health care and out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare participants are on the rise. If you’re concerned about your ability to pay unforeseen health care costs, you’ll probably find that the peace of mind a Medicare Supplement plan can provide is worth the cost.

And if you’re already an ERIE customer, you may be eligible to get lower premiums with discounts, including:

  • Household Discount: Available if someone else in your home has an ERIE Medicare Supplement plan. The availability and amount of this discount  varies from state to state. Ask your agent for details.
  • Multi-policy Discount: Available when the Medicare Supplement plan covers an ERIE auto, home or life policyholder. Not available in all states.

TALK TO AN ERIE AGENT

When it comes to reviewing and choosing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, the decisions can be daunting. But you don’t need to be an expert because we’re here to help. Contact your ERIE agent or find an agent in your neighborhood for your free Medicare Supplement guide.

Erie Family Life and our agents can help you select the best supplemental plan for your life and your budget. And we’ll be here when you need us, ready to answer your questions. That’s our promise of service.

ERIE® Medicare Supplement insurance products and services are provided by Erie Family Life Insurance Company.  Go to erieinsurance.com for company licensure information.

The policy has exclusions, limitations and terms under which the policy may be continued in force or discontinued. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your ERIE agent or refer to the government guide Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People With Medicare.

Eligibility for insurance coverage will be determined at the time of application based on applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

ERIE Medicare Supplement insurance is not available in the District of Columbia, New York and Wisconsin.  Life insurance not available in New York.

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tree falls in my yard

What Happens If My Neighbor’s Tree Falls in My Yard?

Trees can be tricky, but for the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. So if a storm causes your neighbor’s tree to fall in your yard, your homeowners insurance could help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused on your property, after your deductible.

The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should contact his or her insurance company to determine what type of coverage is available for damage or cleanup in their yard.

In most cases, neighbors are able to work things out without too much trouble. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to file a homeowners insurance claim. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover the cost of tree cleanup, depending on your policy and the company you work with.

Good news: Homeowners insurance from ERIE typically pays for the cost (subject to sublimits) of removal of fallen trees if it’s due to a covered peril, such as a storm.

If there’s ever an issue between neighbors, you can rely on your claims adjuster to help straighten everything out.

THE CLAIMS PROCESS

If a tree falls on your house, the first thing to do, if it’s safe, is to try to prevent further damage to your home and property. Make sure to take some photos to document what happened. Then call your insurance agent, who can explain your options and help you understand if and how to file a claim. When you file a claim, a claims adjuster will come by to evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It’s recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed.

Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it’s not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. (Again, talk to your insurance agent and a claims adjuster first and take a few photos of the fallen tree on your car.) Depending on the damage and terms of your insurance coverage, the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss.

PREVENTING TREE DAMAGE

Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.

Homeowners should be concerned about the health of their trees. It’s possible for you to be held responsible for resulting damage to your neighbor’s house or property, if your tree falls due (in whole or part) to your own neglect. One of the best things to do is to regularly have large trees trimmed. (The Tree Care Industry Association lists accredited tree care professionals.)

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