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4 Reasons You Need an Annual Insurance Review

When you think about insurance, it’s unlikely you consider an annual insurance review. Most people choose a policy, set the payments on auto-withdrawal, and then don’t think of it again. But a yearly checkup is quite important for your financial security. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our independent insurance agents are here to serve you. From choosing a plan to fine-tuning your needs each year, our team has you covered. Call today to schedule a free annual review of your policies. 

If you’ve never thought about a yearly check-in with your insurance agent, here are four reasons to schedule it now.

1. Peace of Mind

Worrying and wondering about your coverage isn’t how you want to spend your time. And yet, if you have children, a home, a business, or any valuable assets, you probably worry from time to time. With an annual insurance review, you can go to sleep at night, knowing that you have sufficient protection in place. 

Not only that, but you also will have planned for unexpected trouble in advance. A yearly review can ensure that you have someone ready to work on your behalf if a problem strikes. Trying to put pieces into place once an issue arises or a disaster hits doesn’t serve you. Make sure you have the coverage you require now.

2. Life Changes 

Having a child is a good reason to check your insurance coverage.

So much can happen in a year. You may have had a child or bought a house. Maybe you paid off your vehicles or purchased a business. All of these are reasons to sit down and comb through your insurance policies. 

For example, let’s say you get a better-paying job and move into a bigger home with a higher value and mortgage. And imagine that a new neighbor comes to visit and breaks an ankle when they misstep off your front porch. 

You could face a personal liability claim. You need to look at your insurance policies to make sure they will help you cover and maintain your lifestyle.

Some common reasons you might want to add or change your policies include:

  • Marriage or Divorce
  • Buying or Selling Your House
  • Buying or Selling a Rental Property
  • Buying, Starting, or Selling a Business
  • Having or Adopting a Child
  • Buying, Selling, or Paying off Your Car
  • Making a Large Purchase:
    • Boat
    • Snowmobile
    • Valuable Jewelry
    • Fine Art
    • Second Home

3. Save Money 

Policy prices change depending on the coverage they provide. If you skip an annual insurance review, you could be leaving money on the table. 

For example, if you no longer have a car loan, you may want to adjust the coverage to save money. If you need to add new policies for your situation, you might be eligible for multi-policy discounts. These options can offer excellent premium reductions.

Save money with an annual insurance review.

Saving money on premiums isn’t the only benefit to your yearly review. An annual check-in also looks at your deductibles and coverage limits in each policy. 

You may discover that you have a liability limit that won’t come close to replacing your personal property after a disaster. Or you could find that you have policies with really high deductibles that would be hard to meet. Your agent will examine these different pieces to find the plan that makes the most financial sense for your situation.

4. Fill the Coverage Gaps

Just as an annual physical helps you ward off many medical problems, a yearly policy review helps avoid insurance problems.

Many people mistakenly think that their homeowners policy covers much more than it does. They assume that any trouble that comes up with their house will fall under this plan. Unfortunately, they can be in for a terrible surprise if something happens outside of this coverage.

For example, assets and liabilities related to a home-based business may not fall under the protection of a homeowners plan. But many entrepreneurs don’t realize that.

Creating the habit of reviewing your insurance helps your agent suggest the best policies for you. With regular check-ins, they can advise you when it is a good time to add, combine, or remove coverage.

Preparing for an Annual Insurance Review

Insurance review each year

Even if you have nothing prepared, it’s still worth scheduling time for a yearly insurance checkup. Your agent will walk you through your needs and current coverage to help determine if any gaps exist.

But if you are someone who doesn’t mind a little homework, here are some tips to consider as you get ready for your review:

  • Gather information on your assets. Bring a list of your vehicles’ makes, models, and years. Put together an inventory of the high-value items you own, such as jewelry or a boat. Have a general idea of your home’s worth and remaining mortgage. 
  • Be comfortable asking questions. The insurance industry has a lot of specialized jargon that can be confusing. Never hesitate to ask what something means or how it will serve you. And you’re free to ask a question as many times as needed to feel confident in the answer.
  • Determine a general idea of your monthly budget for premiums. This information can help your agent find policies that align with what you are comfortable spending.
  • Be ready to discuss any significant life changes that have happened or that you anticipate happening in the next year.

Schedule a Review Today

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have been serving our Greater Minnesota neighbors for 50 years. With offices in Willmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, we offer convenient locations for you to stop by for a review. 

Our independent agents do not have ties to any particular insurance company or product. We search through all available options to find the one that meets your unique needs. Working with your situation and budget in mind, we help you find sufficient coverage.

We offer free reviews and quotes, so don’t hesitate to reach out and get connected. We can’t wait to help you have the peace of mind that your insurance will give you.

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Why Do I Need Life Insurance in My 20s?

Life insurance is something many people prefer not to consider, especially young adults in the prime of their lives. Many think, “Why do I need life insurance in my 20s? I’m not planning to die soon.” If your goal is to be a financially responsible adult, you need to have life insurance coverage. 

Lake Region Insurance Agency can assist you with all of your insurance needs. Our independent agents serve clients throughout Greater Minnesota. Connect with us today for a free life insurance review and quote. We will discuss your best options for your stage of life. 

How Does Life Insurance Work?

Term life insurance is relatively straightforward. You choose a policy term, generally 10, 20, or 30 years. And you choose how much coverage you want, for example, $500,000. Each policy will have annual premiums that you need to pay.

If you die within the plan’s term, your beneficiary or beneficiaries will receive the amount indicated on the policy. For most people, a spouse or child is their beneficiary, but you get to choose who gets the money. 

Whole life insurance carries higher premiums but builds up a cash value that you or your family can access. Your agent can help you determine which policy fits your needs and your lifestyle.

Why Do I Need Life Insurance in My 20s?

Accidents and sudden illness happen, whether we want to acknowledge the fact or not. Your family’s protection under a life insurance policy is significant, whether you are in your 20s or your 60s.

Here are a few of the primary reasons to consider buying life insurance as a young adult.

Cover Expenses

If you have a spouse, children, a business, or a house, a life insurance policy is crucial. Accidents and sudden illness happen, whether we want to acknowledge the fact or not. Having coverage for your family’s expenses is the top reason young people should have life insurance.

A life insurance policy can help your loved ones cover:

  • Mortgage Payments
  • Childcare Expenses
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Student Loans
  • Funeral Expenses

Having an influx of cash during a difficult time can bring tremendous relief to your family. Even young adults need to think about this. As soon as you have anyone who depends on you for financial support, it is essential to have a sufficient life insurance policy in place.

Work-based life insurance policies are a great perk of your job, but they generally do not offer sufficient coverage. And if you leave that job, you lose the coverage. So it’s essential to have your own policy, too.

Lower Premiums

Insurance becomes costlier as you get older, so it makes sense to buy a policy in your 20s. Premiums go up about 8-10% for each year you wait to get coverage.

Even if you do not yet have dependents, having this protection in place is wise. You can lock in lower premiums, and if you do get married or have children, you can change the beneficiary to indicate that.

Easy to Qualify

Healthy young adults may qualify for life insurance easier.

As you get older, insurance carriers may put more medical stipulations on your ability to qualify for life insurance. Young adults, however, often qualify for coverage by simply answering some screening questions. 

But if you wait, and your health changes, you will find that your ability to qualify is challenging. And your rates will be significantly higher. 

For example, a healthy 25-year-old will find it simple to purchase a life insurance policy. But if that person receives a cancer diagnosis at age 29, they are in a difficult situation and may not be able to obtain a policy at that point.

When you buy a policy as a young adult, you won’t lose it unless you cancel it or stop paying the premiums. Securing a life insurance plan in your 20s is one of the best financial decisions you can make.

Peace of Mind

Life is unpredictable, and no one is immortal. Buying life insurance doesn’t make you morbid. Instead, it shows that you are responsible and thoughtful.

When you secure a policy in your 20s, you are setting up your family for success. Of course, no dollar amount can ever replace a person. But life insurance for young adults helps protect their loved ones just in case a tragedy strikes.

Life insurance provides tremendous peace of mind for your family. And if the worst were to happen, your forethought will make the situation more comfortable for them to bear.

Whether you choose a whole or term life option, you will be able to provide for your family even after you’re gone.

Young parents need life insurance.

How Do You Buy Life Insurance?

There are many, many options on the market. It can feel overwhelming to understand and choose the right policy for your needs. 

It is best to work with an independent agent who can help you find the right fit for your needs. An independent insurance agent is not limited in the policies they can offer. They can shop from multiple carriers to help you choose a plan that works for you.

This is a serious purchase that can affect your loved ones’ future. Work with a trusted individual who will answer your questions and walk you through the process carefully. 

Even if you can’t afford a large policy right now in your 20s, purchase what you can. You are likely to find options that cost less than $20 per month. And talk with your agent about riders that will allow you to increase your coverage as your income goes up.

The Coverage You Need

The team at Lake Region Insurance Agency understands that life insurance is not an easy thing to discuss. This means too many young people ignore it, unfortunately. But in a few short steps, your Lake Region agent can help you secure a policy that will protect your future.

Stop by one of our offices in New London, Willmar, or Cokato, MN. We offer free insurance reviews and quotes and can walk you through the whole process with ease.

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Do I Need Home-Based Business Insurance?

Times have changed, and our world is shifting to a more digital approach to business. Many people are now teleworking from home or running their own business. For the latter situation, it’s essential to consider home-based business insurance.

Make sure you have the protection you and your business deserve. Check in with the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a complimentary policy review and quote. We are here to serve our Greater Minnesota neighbors.

What Counts as a Home-Based Business?

What do Purex, Apple Computer, Hallmark, and Baskin-Robbins have in common? They all began in someone’s home, basement, or garage. So if you have a home-based business, you are in good company. 

And you aren’t alone, since roughly two-thirds of all companies begin in a house somewhere.

Running a home business has tax, liability, and insurance implications, so it’s critical to know if you fall into this category. Some examples of home-based businesses include:

  • Daycare
  • Pet Sitting
  • Dog Grooming
  • Hairdresser
  • Freelance Writer
  • Tutor
  • Professional Consultant
  • Web Designer
  • Online Clothing Boutique

As more and more owners shift to the virtual business model, the list of work-from-home companies continues to grow. If you fall into the category of a home-based business, you need to investigate your insurance requirements.

Daycare is a home-based business

Isn’t My Homeowners Policy Good Enough?

Many people who run a business from their house mistakenly assume that their homeowners insurance provides sufficient coverage. Unfortunately, this is rarely true.

For businesses with minimal equipment and no client foot traffic, a homeowners plan might be enough. But this is a rare situation and still warrants a chat with your agent to clarify your coverage.

If you regularly receive clients in your home or store inventory on-site, you likely need home-based business insurance. Your standard homeowners plan probably doesn’t adequately protect your business.

Be sure to talk with your independent agent to determine what supplemental or separate protection you need to protect your hard work. From property to liability insurance, you need to make sure you have sufficient coverage.

When you rent rather than own your home, you also need to verify your coverage. Just like a homeowners policy, a renters policy will not fully protect your home-based business.

Limitations of Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Most homeowners insurance policies have limits and exclusions that could leave you and your business unprotected. Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies lack the following:

  • Protection for business documents and records
  • Sufficient coverage for loss of files and data
  • Liability coverage if an employee or client sustains an injury in your home
  • Adequate replacement protection for business equipment
  • Coverage for lost revenue if something prevents you from running your business from your house

There are many common scenarios when a business owner may run into one of these limitations. 

For example, let’s say that you are the victim of a home robbery, and they steal your business laptop, desktop, and monitor. Most homeowners policies will limit this business coverage to $2500. Anything beyond that will have no protection without a home-based business insurance policy.

Or imagine that a client is at your house for a meeting, and they trip and fall, breaking their arm. If this were a neighbor visiting for fun, your homeowners policy would kick in. But because this is a business relationship, you are out of luck.

Business liability insurance

You’ve worked too hard to leave your business unprotected. Make sure you get a sufficient policy in place.

You probably need a business insurance policy if:

  • You conduct business in your house, including receiving clients.
  • You have employees.
  • You store inventory in your house.
  • You have business-related equipment, such as computers or cell phones.
  • Your company owns one or more vehicles.
  • You store sensitive data.
  • You rely on your business income to pay your bills.

What Should a Home-Based Business Insurance Policy Cover?

When speaking with your independent insurance agent, you should discuss coverage for all of the following needs.

Business Property

As mentioned, most renters and homeowners plans have strict limits on what they will replace from a home-based business. Typically, business equipment far surpasses that amount. 

Additionally, a homeowners policy only covers equipment if it’s in the home. If your business laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re working in a coffee shop, you won’t have coverage. 

Company Vehicle

Do you use your vehicle for business activities? Your car insurance policy may not cover you if something happens while you’re conducting business. Business auto insurance is a crucial component of your coverage.

Liability

General liability coverage protects you if a client or employee gets hurt in your home office or on your property. It can also cover an employee who sustains an injury off-site while conducting company business.

Product liability is necessary if you sell physical products. This plan protects you if an item doesn’t work correctly or harms a person or their property.

Professional liability insurance offers protection for service-based businesses. This coverage can kick in if someone claims damages stemming from your services or advice.

Since legal and medical bills can escalate quickly, adequate liability coverage is crucial for your business.

Cyber Liability

Cyber liability coverage

Cyber liability insurance is critical for most businesses today. Unless you operate solely with paper and pencil, you should consider this type of policy. It protects you against losses stemming from hackers and data breaches.

Any business that relies on electronic storage or transmission of client and company information should have this coverage in place. 

Consider an Endorsement

In some situations, you may not require a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy. Talk with your agent to see if an endorsement makes more sense for your needs.

For example, for a small additional fee, you may be able to raise your homeowners policy limits for business coverage. Typically, an endorsement is only available to businesses that have few or no on-site visitors. 

Get the Perfect Policy 

Do you have any questions about your homeowners insurance policy and how you can protect your home-based business? The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to help.

With offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, we can meet your personal and professional insurance needs. Reach out today to get started.

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How Do I Purchase Private Health Insurance For My Family?

Right now, millions of Americans are without medical coverage. This situation is leading many to wonder how they can purchase private health insurance for themselves. 

Medical debt can be devastating and is a significant contributor to people needing to file for bankruptcy. One hospitalization can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. If tests or procedures are necessary, the bill can skyrocket. Even outpatient costs can be shockingly high if there is no medical insurance in place.

Lake Region Insurance Agency is proud to serve its neighbors in Greater Minnesota. Our independent brokers are not tied to one company or product to find the right fit for you.  

Our health insurance products cover individuals, families, and businesses. Let us assist you in making a sound and informed decision about your health insurance needs. Call today for an insurance review or quote. 

Purchase Private Health Insurance on the Marketplace

Private health insurance is medical coverage that does not come through an employer. Job-based insurance only remains while you work for that employer. If your job ends, you are no longer eligible for their group health insurance plans.

To buy your own policy, it is best to work with an independent insurance broker to find the right option. Most people who need private insurance go through the health insurance marketplace. It has information about the available options and how to buy insurance. In Minnesota, the marketplace used to purchase private health insurance is MNSure

Need to buy private medical insurance

By using the marketplace, also known as the health insurance exchange, you may receive credits to lower your private health insurance premiums. Brokers help find the plan that will cover your needs and give you the full assistance for which you qualify. 

Typically, you need to provide documentation of your household’s income. So the exchange may ask for pay stubs and tax returns to verify your eligibility for the marketplace policies.

If you qualify for low-income or free health insurance, you will not purchase coverage from the marketplace. In this case, insurance options will be available through a government-sponsored program such as Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care. The Department of Human Services manages these programs. 

Affordable Care Act

All plans offered on the health insurance marketplace meet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) baseline for benefit standards. The ACA is the legislation that provides financial help in the form of tax credits or subsidies when buying insurance. 

Individuals and families have to fall within specified income ranges to qualify, and it can be quite confusing to understand all the intricacies. Though you can shop and compare plans yourself, many people prefer to work with an independent broker. This step can bring significant peace of mind.

Open Enrollment Periods for Private Health Insurance 

Every year, the health insurance exchange has a designated open enrollment period when you can purchase new coverage. In most states, this period runs from the beginning of November through mid-December, but be sure to check with your broker for specific dates.

Open enrollment dates for medical insurance

You could be eligible for a special enrollment period if you experience a qualifying life event. These events include:

  • Job Loss – Even if you leave a job voluntarily, if it causes you to lose insurance, you likely will be eligible for a special enrollment period.
  • Finishing College – Many students are on their parent’s medical plan. But once they are no longer in school, they must get their own coverage.
  • Divorce – If you had insurance under a spouse’s plan, you might be able to enroll in a new policy outside of open enrollment.
  • Moving Towns – Some insurance plans only cover specific areas. If you move outside your insurer’s service area, you should be eligible for special enrollment.
  • Family Size Changes – A special enrollment period begins if you have a child, adopt a child, or a child moves out of your household. 

Typically, you have 60 days from the qualifying life event to purchase a new plan. Your broker will be able to help with this.

Private Health Insurance Company Options

You also can purchase your medical coverage directly from an insurance company rather than through the exchange. If you don’t qualify for subsidies or don’t want to take advantage of them, this can be a simpler path.

Your independent agent will work with you to determine the right fit. They will look at your preferred doctors and hospitals and any medications you need to cover. Then they show you the options available and help you choose one and enroll.

How To Choose the Right Private Health Insurance Plan

There is a lot to consider when selecting a plan. For most people, they will have the policy for at least a year due to enrollment restrictions. So, you want to find the best option for your needs.

It is helpful to estimate your current healthcare costs before you purchase private health insurance for your family. Having a clear picture of ongoing medications and treatments will guide you as you select a coverage plan.

Using an Insurance Broker

The health insurance world is confusing. Whether you use the marketplace or not, it is challenging for non-experts to know all of the intricacies of different options. 

An independent broker will help remove the confusion. They do this all day long and understand all the jargon and terminology. And they can look at all available plans quickly to give you the best information possible.

When working with an agent, be ready to provide the following information:

  • Preferred Providers
  • Preferred Hospitals or Facilities
  • List of Prescription Drug Needs
  • List of Ongoing Therapies – physical, speech, occupational, etc.

Your health insurance broker will be able to save you time and money while they search for the perfect product to meet your needs

Let Us Help You with This Critical Piece

Do not risk financial devastation by going without health insurance. Let the Lake Region Insurance Agency team find the right fit for your circumstances. 

Our friendly staff has been caring for our neighbors in Willmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, for years. Stop in or give us a call today to get started on finding your next medical policy.

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How to Avoid Chimney Fires and Protect Your Home

There’s nothing like a warm fire on a chilly winter night. But did you know that your fireplace ambiance comes with a maintenance requirement? The effort of maintaining your fireplace chimney is a small price to pay to avoid chimney fires.

You love your home and take good care of it. But sometimes problems happen anyway. Part of caring for your home is being ready to handle damages when they occur. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free insurance review and policy quote.

How Can a Chimney Catch Fire? 

Your chimney removes smoke from your home while providing fresh air to feed the fire in the fireplace. Hot, smoky air rises through the center of the chimney, the flue, and out of your house. 

The hot air rising through the chimney flue creates a draft, which is like a vacuum that draws the smoke up the chimney. 

A strong draft will carry the airborne debris to the outside. A weaker one will deposit soot and creosote on your chimney’s walls. This happens when the fire isn’t hot enough, or your chimney is too short, 

Creosote is a thick, flaky residue that can coat the walls of the chimney. It’s highly combustible, so if the temperature inside your chimney gets high enough, the creosote will catch fire. 

Preventing Chimney Fires

chimney safety

A chimney fire occurs about 22,000 times a year in the United States, so homeowners need to monitor this. To avoid a disaster in your house, keep the following tips in mind.

Keep It Clean

Your chimney won’t catch fire if it’s clean. Creosote is fuel for chimney fires, and if it ignites, the heat may be much higher than your chimney can withstand.

Have your chimney serviced by a certified chimney sweep once a year. They’ll check the flue walls and identify and address any potential problems. 

Chimney maintenance is always less expensive than repair. It is much more straightforward to repair cracks in mortar joints or masonry than to replace a warped flue. So stay on top of your chimney’s servicing needs to keep your home safe and avoid costly repairs.

Put a Damper on It

The damper is a metal plate in the chimney that controls the air supply to your fireplace. It closes off the fireplace when you don’t have a fire going, and swings up to open the flue when needed.

Make sure to open the damper when you light a fire. You want the maximum draft to pull airborne particles up and out of your house. 

When you aren’t using the fireplace, keep the damper closed. This habit will help to insulate your home from outside temperatures. It can even deter the occasional bird or bat that might find a way into your chimney. 

Pay Attention to What You Burn

chimney safety

The wood you choose can affect the amount of creosote buildup on your chimney walls. Hardwoods like oak, ash, and elm are excellent firewood choices because they burn hotter and longer than softwoods.

Avoid softwoods like fir, pine, and cypress. These wood species are fine for a bonfire outdoors, but they burn up quickly and leave excess creosote on your chimney walls. 

Your wood needs to be dry throughout before you add it to your fire. Wet wood equals more smoke and less heat. The high water content also makes for a thicker, stickier smoke compound. This substance can coat the glass on your fireplace and stick to your chimney flue’s walls.

Freshly-cut trees or branches contain sap, and it takes 6-12 months for logs to dry out completely. Season your firewood by stacking it outside and letting it sit for at least six months. 

Split the wood to speed the drying process, and stack it off the ground in a single row to increase airflow. Keep your wood stack in a sheltered area or cover it in wet weather. 

If you’re just starting, look for wood that is already seasoned. Get enough seasoned wood to last through this winter. 

At the same time, get unseasoned wood for the following winter. By the time you need it next year, your wood will be ready. Keep stocking your lumber a year ahead to continue the cycle.

If you aren’t sure whether your wood is dry enough to use, measure it with a moisture meter. You can find this simple tool for around $20 at your hardware store or online. 

Don’t Go Overboard

It’s so tempting to poke, prod, and add more wood to your crackling fire. But adding too much wood at one time can create a blanket over the flames. This situation creates a cooler, dirtier fire. 

Overfilling your firebox, known as over-firing, can create a more massive fire than your structure can contain. The heat can transfer through the fireplace to the surrounding, non-fireproof parts of your home.

What Should I Do If I Have a Chimney Fire?

chimney fires

A fast-burning fire will be apparent.

  • You’ll hear a sound like a large bonfire coming from the chimney. Some people have described a sound like a plane taking off.
  • Thick, dense smoke may push down the chimney and into the house. 
  • You will see flames and burning pieces of creosote erupting from the top of the chimney. 

Slow-burning chimney fires are common. They occur when the creosote is hot enough to burn, but there isn’t enough to cause a big blaze. Sometimes these fires burn themselves out, but they still can damage the chimney. 

Consider keeping a chimney fire extinguishing product on hand. Chimfex and Fire-Ex are products that work by quickly reducing the available oxygen in the flue to starve the fire. 

If you think you had or have a chimney fire, even a small one, always call 911. A firefighter can make sure your home is safe. And then be sure to have a certified professional do a chimney inspection to check for damage.

Let’s Make Sure You’re Covered

Accidents happen even with chimney safety protocols in place. So it’s essential to be sure you have adequate coverage. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free review of your homeowners or other policies. 

As independent agents, we access plans from many providers so that you can choose from the best options out there. Visit us in Cokato, Willmar, or New London, MN, to get a quote today.

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What Does a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy Cover?

A personal liability umbrella policy is an additional insurance plan you can purchase. It is supplemental and doesn’t stand alone as an insurance package. Instead, it protects you against expenses that your homeowners or auto insurance policies don’t cover. 

This includes damages beyond the maximum your other coverage will pay. It also covers some situations that don’t fall under a standard policy, such as the expense of a lawsuit. 

Don’t leave your financial security to chance. Find out about the options available to you and get a free quote from Lake Region Insurance Agency today.

Why Would I Need an Umbrella Policy? 

Umbrella insurance coverage starts where your other policies end. It can protect you if a car accident or other incident creates damage that outpaces what your plan covers. Expenses can stack up quickly and leave you buried in debt if you don’t have adequate insurance.

Here is a sample scenario:

You are on your way home from the airport. It starts to rain, and then it turns to freezing rain. You try to find a safe place to park, but your car slides and swipes three vehicles. Naturally, one of them is a Lamborghini.

Luckily, you have auto insurance, right? 

In most situations, your auto insurance is going to do a great job of covering you. Your run-of-the-mill fender benders typically don’t rack up astronomical damages. But every policy has limits. 

While it might seem impossible to do hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, it actually isn’t that hard. Depending on the value of items and vehicles damaged, or if there are injuries, one accident can put you over the limit.

If your auto insurance has a $300,000 limit, but you’re held responsible for $500,000 worth of damage, you are accountable for the other $200,000. That amount will sink most people, and you could end up losing your assets.

Now, let’s run that again with an umbrella policy in place: 

The weather is awful. You lose traction and slide into the parked vehicles, including the Lamborghini.

Your auto insurance kicks in to cover the damage, and you pay your deductible. The insurance company pays out $300,000, and your umbrella policy picks up the rest.

This scenario helps you protect your life savings because you don’t have a judgment hanging over you. You can move on with your life.

A personal liability umbrella policy also helps protect you in the case of a lawsuit. For example, if someone falls on your steps and sustains an injury, they might sue you. If your dog gets in a fight with the neighbor’s dog or bites the neighbor, they could bring charges. 

Umbrella insurance can pay the medical bills of the person who fell down your steps. It can compensate your neighbor for his dog’s lost show earnings. And it can help you protect your personal assets in the case of a judgment against you.

I’m Not a Millionaire. Do I Really Need More Insurance? 

Many people go their whole lives without filing a homeowner’s insurance claim, having a severe accident, or getting sued. Others figure that if they don’t have considerable assets, they don’t need to worry about lawsuits.

Yes, the chances of being named in a suit are relatively small. But the financial consequences can be devastating.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • No matter the size of your life’s savings, it could be wiped out if you lose a lawsuit.
  • Even if you win the legal battle, you may be responsible for fees to defend yourself. Legal defense costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more.
  • If you have no assets currently, the court can still attach a judgment to your future earnings. 
  • Personal liability umbrella insurance can cover unusual circumstances that you would not typically carry coverage for, such as renting a jet ski.
  • Umbrella insurance covers libel and slander.

There are plenty of situations that may increase your risk of being named in a lawsuit. For example, you and your assets may be at higher risk if you:

  • Own a rental property
  • Coach a children’s sports team
  • Volunteer at a nonprofit
  • Hunt
  • Participate in contact sports
  • Own particular breeds of dog
  • Own a trampoline or swimming pool
  • Have significant assets
  • Have high potential earnings – Liability judgments can attach to future income.

What Doesn’t Umbrella Insurance Cover? 

Umbrella policies cover your liability. That means they pay the cost of other people’s losses if you are responsible for it. 

But they don’t cover your losses. For example, if a burst pipe floods your apartment, an umbrella policy won’t pay for damage to your things. But if the water ruins your downstairs neighbor’s items, an umbrella policy can kick in.

Your umbrella policy will not come into play until after your homeowners or auto insurance pays. It also won’t eliminate your deductible on those policies. 

This plan also won’t pay out for damage you cause intentionally. If you throw a brick through your neighbor’s window, the repercussions of that will be yours alone. Your homeowner’ insurance will also refuse to pay in this type of circumstance. 

A personal umbrella liability policy also excludes any liability you incur performing business or professional activities. You need a business liability policy to meet that need.

How Much Insurance Do I Need?

Just as with any insurance decision, there is no one-size-fits-all personal umbrella insurance plan. You will need to work with your independent broker to determine the best extra liability coverage for you. By looking at your budget and total assets, your agent can help you settle on an appropriate amount of coverage.

Talk to Lake Region About a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy

This type of insurance plan is an inexpensive way to give yourself a sense of security. You can feel confident and prepared for almost any liability circumstance. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today and find out how you can have this peace of mind.

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A Guide to Choosing Group Health Insurance Plans

When it comes to choosing a group health insurance plan, the array of options can be overwhelming. Insurance is a crowded market with plenty of options on the table. As an employer, your responsibility is to your workers, and you want to offer them the best coverage.

Note that not all group health insurance plans are created equal. Some may be a better fit for your team than others. Engaging the services of an independent broker, such as Lake Region Insurance Agency, narrows down the search. Reach out today to talk with a team member.

Why Should I Consider Group Health Insurance Plans?

If your company’s workforce includes 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you are likely required to offer them medical coverage. The Affordable Care Act lays out guidelines and requirements

But even companies that do not have to provide insurance coverage often choose to do so as an employee perk. It is an excellent way to find and retain highly-qualified talent for your team.

Opting for group coverage offers a range of benefits for both the employee and employer, including:

  • Greater Choice – As an employer, you can shop from many insurance companies to find the best offering for your workers and yourself. And employees generally can choose from several plans that they otherwise would not be able to access. 
  • Affordability – The larger number of subscribers in group plans spreads the risk for the insurer. A lower risk for the underwriters translates into a lower premium for all of the people on the plan. 
  • Better Coverage – Group health insurance plans often cover more services than individual coverage. They may offer lower copays or more visits to specialists, such as physical therapists.
  • Tax Benefits – As the employer, you may qualify for tax credits when you offer group coverage and pay part of the premiums. 
  • Benefits For The Job Market – Offering health insurance is a sure-fire way to make your workplace more appealing to employees. It demonstrates that you have their interests at heart and value your staff. In addition, providing health insurance coverage can cut down on sick days and reduced productivity.

Doctor's visit covered under group health plans

Consider Voluntary Plans

If you are a small or microbusiness, a voluntary plan might be the best fit. This option allows employees to contribute a specific amount to a group plan while saving money on the total cost. This option carries little to no cost for employers. Premiums come from the worker’s paycheck pre-tax, so there is a tax saving for them, too.

How to Choose a Compliant Plan

Choosing a group health plan can be tricky, and it’s crucial that it is compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. In addition to the rules regarding the number of employees, group health insurance plans must also meet the following criteria:

Must Cover Essential Health Benefits

Any group plan you offer to your workforce must include coverage for the ten essential health benefits (EHBs):

  1. Hospitalization Services
  2. Ambulatory Care – This includes doctor visits and outpatient care.
  3. Emergency Services 
  4. Maternity and Newborn Care
  5. Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Treatment
  6. Lab Tests  
  7. Prescription Drugs
  8. Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services – These can include things such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
  9. Pediatric Services for Children – This section must include vision and dental care under most circumstances.
  10. Preventive Care, “Well Check” Visits, and Chronic Disease Management

To be compliant, a group plan must not place a dollar limit on EHBs. It may, however, set a limit on the number of visits in some categories, such as rehabilitative services. 

Physical therapy under group health plans

Must Qualify as Affordable 

In 2020, requirements state that the lowest coverage option must have premiums costing less than 9.78% of your employee’s overall income.

Must Provide Minimum Value

The plan must cover at least 60% of the expected total cost of services.

Making the Decision

Whether you have a legal obligation to provide insurance or not, having a group health plan is valuable. As you work with your independent insurance broker, here are some things to consider.

Make Sure It Fits Your Budget

If your staff has fewer than 50 employees, you are exempt from the ACA’s shared responsibility provision. As a result, you legally do not have to pay a percentage of the premiums. You will be able to choose to pay 100% of your employee’s premiums, pay a smaller portion, or have your employees pay the full cost.

It is essential to do your research in advance. You want a plan that balances the needs of your employees with the company budget.

Consider Health Spending Accounts

A health spending account can allow you to offer the flexibility employees need, at a price your business can afford. Employers and employees may contribute to these accounts, and then employees can use the funds for qualified health expenses. 

Group health plans and HSAs for medications

Work with an Expert

Trying to navigate this decision on your own is frustrating at best and costly, at worst. You will have hundreds of plans from insurance companies to consider. And finding the right fit is overwhelming for most business owners.

Companies may bombard you with options ranging from PPOs to HMOs. You will see lists of percentages and copayments. Comparing these plans as you try to decide which one to choose is enough to give business owners nightmares.

Instead, find an independent agent to help you make the right choice for your workers. An independent broker is not limited to a particular plan or company. They help you select what you need without stress.

How Can We Help?

Choosing your group insurance policy is time-consuming on your own because there are so many factors to take into account. Here at Lake Region, we have the autonomy to access the very best deals. 

We work hard to make sure you have a clear view of your options. And we help you understand the health insurance marketplace.

As an independent agency, we do not have ties to a particular firm, group, or policy. This objectivity means that we will be able to build the perfect plan for your business. Get in touch today to see how we can help. Our team members in New London, Cokato, and Willmar, MN, are here to serve.

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How Does Farm Insurance Coverage Work?

Of all the insurance types on the market, farm coverage is perhaps one of the less well-known examples. Despite its relative obscurity, farm insurance coverage can be a lifesaver for those in the agricultural sector. The right policy can offer tremendous advantages and significant peace of mind.

From protecting machinery to covering livestock, a farm policy can help guard the essentials you need for your livelihood. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know how crucial this coverage is for our farming neighbors. Reach out to a team member today for a free insurance review and quote.

What Is Farm Insurance Coverage?

Also known as agricultural or ranch coverage, farm insurance is protection designed for those in agribusiness. It can protect you in the event of many different losses, including loss of:

  • Business 
  • Buildings
  • Livestock
  • Machinery
  • Equipment
  • Tools

Farming is an unpredictable industry at the best of times. It is reassuring to know that your business and livelihood have protection. From unexpected events to freak weather conditions, strange things can happen that damage your ability to earn a living.

What Is Covered By Farm Insurance?

Farm and ranch insurance is a unique type of policy. It can protect you commercially and personally. Its foundation is similar to homeowners insurance, and then the farm owner can add more coverage for commercial property. 

There are four main components to consider in your farm insurance coverage. It’s crucial that you discuss each of these with your independent insurance broker so that you have the protection you need. Not every policy automatically includes all of the following:

1. Farm Machinery and Equipment

Machinery and equipment are integral to any farming operation, and losing them can have significant consequences. 

Damage or loss can also result in a hefty bill if you need to replace anything. A tractor alone can cost more than $200,000 but is essential for any farmer. By taking out an insurance policy, you protect your finances and ensure that the farm can still operate in the face of property casualty.

This category is broad and covers most essential farming property, including:

  • Tractors 
  • Planters 
  • Field Equipment 
  • Hay Rakers
  • Combines 

In addition, portable structures and fences may also have coverage, depending on your policy.

2. Livestock

Livestock is often the heart of commercial agribusiness, so insurance saves you tremendous difficulty if something happens to your animals. 

Your insurance plan will outline the types of peril that have coverage: basic, broad, or special. If livestock is killed or injured due to a covered hazard, you will be able to recoup your cost for the animal. Examples of peril may include:

  • Lightning
  • Windstorm
  • Hit by Vehicle
  • Theft
  • Sinkhole
  • Attack by Wild Animal

Some policies will also protect against freak weather conditions such as floods or earthquakes. Speak with your insurance agent for a full understanding of your plan’s coverage.

If you own horses, you also may be able to purchase coverage specifically for equines. Due to their range of functions, from showing to breeding, horses are significant investments and require specialized coverage. You will generally be able to claim for incidents including:

  • Mortality due to perils or theft
  • Death due to illness
  • Major medical expenses, including surgical costs
  • Compensation for loss of use – This coverage may apply if a horse’s illness or injury forces them to miss breeding or showing season.

Ensuring that your livestock has coverage can protect you from a financial nightmare. When comparing agribusiness insurance carriers, be sure you are clear on the protection you need.

3. Farm Products 

In addition to the machinery and livestock you own, your farm also requires specific products to function. Silage, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal feed need coverage in your farm insurance policy, as well. 

It is critical to note that this kind of insurance only covers your seeds while they are in storage. Once they go into the ground, a farm or ranch insurance policy no longer applies. 

Crops do not have protection under this type of plan. Talk to your insurance agent about a policy that provides that level of coverage.

4. Farm Liability Coverage

Farms are inherently dangerous places. With heavy machinery and unpredictable animals, accidents are likely to happen. 

Liability coverage can apply to a wide range of situations. For example, if a visitor to your farm gets hurt, it may help cover their medical bills. Or if your cows escape and run through a neighbor’s fence, the policy can cover the damage.

Legal fees from injuries or loss of personal property can add up quickly. So liability coverage is vital to protect your farm and livelihood. 

Are Any Items Not Covered?

Farm and ranch insurance products can carry many caveats. It is essential that you understand what your policy will and will not cover. Most farm plans exclude the following:

  • Fencing – You may be able to purchase a policy extension to cover this.
  • Specific Perils – Be sure you understand all covered and excluded events.
  • Fire – Your insurance agent should discuss any situations in which coverage would not apply to fire damage or loss. For example, there may be specific guidelines surrounding road accessibility for fire trucks.
  • Crops – To protect planted seeds and the crops that you grow, you need a separate policy.

Do I Need Farm Insurance?

Farming can be a volatile industry with thin profit margins. A great deal of your profit potential resides in your physical structures, equipment, and livestock. Taking the time to purchase insurance now could save heartbreak down the line. 

How Can We Help?

Farm insurance is a unique niche, and many insurance companies are touting their services. How do you pick the best option?

Here at Lake Region, your protection is our priority.  As independent brokers, we can access a range of agribusiness insurance providers. This means that we work to find perfect coverage options for you without being obligated to a particular  carrier. 

If you are a farmer or rancher, call or stop in one of our Greater Minnesota offices to get started. We serve our community in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. 

 

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Dealing with Aggressive Drivers on the Road

Tailgating. Spontaneous swerves in no-passing zones. Flashing the high beams. Leaning on the horn and flipping a one-finger salute. Running red lights or jumping stop signs. When dealing with aggressive drivers, you are likely to encounter these behaviors and more.

Protecting yourself on the road takes effort and planning. Be sure you have coverage in place in case the worst happens, and you find yourself in an accident. The Lake Region Insurance Agency independent agents are here to help.

Visit our website today for a free quote and insurance review. We’ll make sure you can breathe easy no matter what or who you encounter on the roads of Greater Minnesota.

Alarming Aggressive Driving Statistics

Here is a stark reality check. The vast majority of car crashes are due to human error. And about a third of those are a result of road rage.

Incidents involving angry horn honks, sudden lane changes, rude hand gestures, and cursing are far too common. Even more concerning, almost 40% of these incidents involve firearms.

With those aggressive driving statistics, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of at least some of this behavior. In fact, statistics indicate you may have even dished a little of it out, as well. 

Having a game plan for dealing with aggressive drivers and managing frustration while driving is crucial. This planning can help keep you and others safe. Working through a highly-charged moment on the road requires some thought ahead of time. The temptation to engage with an aggressive driver can be strong, but with preparation, you can navigate it carefully.

Tips for Dealing With Aggressive Drivers

You cannot control every driver around you, no matter how conscientious and skilled you are behind the wheel. So how do you stay safe when someone else drives aggressively and unpredictably?

Here are several tips that allow you to go high when others go low. And often, non-action may be the name of the game when it comes to escaping road rage accident-free.

  • Stay out of the way. If a road hog needs their space, give it to them. It’ll be a temporary inconvenience for you and could save your life and ensure your passengers’ safety.
  • Resist the invitation to the crazy dance. You may want to hold your ground and not let the other driver get away with bad behavior. But, challenging a reckless or aggressive driver on the road is dangerous. Speeding up, staying level, or “revenge-passing” only puts you at more risk and escalates a bad situation. Stay in your lane, drive the speed limit, and keep your breathing slow and calm.
  • Keep your eyes ahead. Making eye contact with an angry driver can appear confrontational. We know you’re not a marshmallow, but you also don’t have to prove it. Allow a temporary situation to remain short-lived by keeping your eyes focused on the road.
  • Buckle up. Of course, we know you had your seat belt on before your key hit the ignition, right? Being strapped in when confronted with an aggressive driver provides extra safety. If things get out of hand, and you have to maneuver your car quickly, you have a level of protection in place. Always use your seatbelt and stay safe. Be sure that everyone in your vehicle does the same.
  • Ignore, breathe, and focus. That hand gesture someone just offered? It’s unimportant in the grand scheme of life. Instead of returning the “greeting,” focus on the road. Let them pass while you take several slow, deep breaths. Although you can certainly report them later, you need to remain calm in the moment.
  • Record and report. Once it is safe to do so, it’s okay to pull over and report the car to the authorities. If you have a passenger who can help you record or remember the license plate number, that will be useful information for the police. 
  • Stay put. Remain inside your vehicle when road rage rears its ugly head. Sometimes there is a temptation to get out at a light and deal with the other driver. This rarely, if ever, ends well. Your car is likely the safest place to be, assuming you keep your cool in a sensitive situation.

 

 

Tools to Avoid Raging 

Rush hour traffic, accidents, construction delays, and detours can cause the most level-headed drivers to lose their cool once in a while. So what do you do if you’re the one feeling the rage?

We’ve all had those moments of extreme annoyance. We’re late for an appointment and stuck behind a person driving 10 miles below the speed limit. It’s really difficult to stay calm.

Try out a few of these behind-the-wheel calming techniques, and give the drivers around you the benefit of the doubt.

  • Allow more travel time. If you leave your house a few minutes earlier for an appointment, you’ll have some wiggle room if you get in a gnarly road situation on the way.
  • Play relaxing or enjoyable music. Sing along, loudly and poorly, if necessary.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply. When you feel yourself getting tense, slow down your thoughts, and remind yourself that you’re not alone in your frustration. Getting angry and exploding might give you temporary satisfaction, but could cause real harm and long-term damage to all parties. If you need to pull off the road to walk, stretch, or let off some steam, do that. 

Call Lake Region Insurance Agency

If you’ve been in an accident from dealing with aggressive drivers, call your Lake Region agent right away. We are by your side through each step of your claim for a fair settlement, speedy processing, and quick pay-out. When the road becomes not-so-friendly, your friends at Lake Region can help you get back on track.

If you aren’t sure about your auto coverage, call us today for a free car insurance review and quote. Our friendly agents in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN, are here to help. As independent brokers, we can shop from multiple providers to find the best fit for you. 

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What is Cyber Liability Insurance and Why Do I Need It?

Business owners, we can guess that you practically have your “life” on your laptop. It’s certainly the way of modern business. Cyber liability insurance is your protection in a digitally vulnerable culture.

Customer data and sensitive information are just a few of the items most owners store online as part of their operations. Hackers want to access your systems and your company information for many kinds of exploitation.

When you purchase a cyber liability business policy from Lake Region Insurance Agency, you help protect everything you’ve worked tirelessly to build. Your operations, livelihood, and customers depend on safe and secure online systems. 

And if an issue arises for your business, your neighbors at Lake Region help you get back on your (cyber) feet with quick claims processing and payouts. Reach out today for a complimentary quote and insurance review.

Who Needs Cyber Liability Coverage?

There are more and more cyber data breaches each year, and hackers continually up their game and hone their skills. Malware and ransomware are getting more sophisticated. With each passing week, it’s more likely you or your business could be the target of cybercrime. 

You should consider getting cyber liability insurance if your business:

  • Emails Clients, Vendors, or Employees
  • Takes Payments Online
  • Advertises Online
  • Stores Customer, Vendor, and Client Data Electronically
  • Sends and Receives Documents Online
  • Maintains Social Media Business Pages 

These are just a few of the business scenarios where cyber liability insurance makes sense. The bottom line is that almost every business now has a virtual, online component to it. This fact makes just about every company vulnerable to cybersecurity concerns.

Policy coverage

Not only is your company data at risk online, but so are your operations and revenue streams if you lose control over your information. It’s crucial to ensure your policy covers lost income in addition to data recovery and system repair. Talk with your independent agent about including the following components in your policy coverage.

First-Party Damages

  • Electronic Data Damage or Loss: You could get hit by a hacker, a virus, or a denial-of-service attack. You want a policy that can cover costs associated with data recovery and system repair. Do you store data for someone else? Would you need to hire an expert to help you recover what you lost? You can include this kind of coverage in your cyber liability policy.
  • Ransom Attacks: Increasingly, there are situations where a hacker gains control of your data. Then they send a ransom note demanding payment from you to obtain data access. Or they threaten to launch a virus or further exploit confidential customer data. Your policy can protect you in this event, as well. Cyber liability insurance pays the ransom demand as well as other expenses you may incur in the demand response.
  • Income Loss and Extra Expenses: If your business operations cease or slow down while navigating a cyber attack, your policy should cover any lost income. Further, if you incur extra expenses while getting your business back up and running, your insurance should cover those, too.
  • Crisis Management: Hackers don’t just steal your data. They also damage your reputation. Your business success depends on your “know, like, and trust” factor. You may need to spend time and money rebuilding trust with your clients, customers, and industry. Your policy should cover expenses related to managing your reputation after a data breach.
  • Notification Costs: After a data breach, you have a legal obligation to notify anyone impacted by the crime. Reaching out to each of your clients, vendors, and employees can be costly and time-consuming. An effective liability policy will cover these cyber-repair costs. 

Third-party damages

  • Regulatory Proceedings: Depending on the situation, your company may incur a fine or penalty for non-compliance with data breach regulations. A cyber liability policy can defray the costs of legal representation during your response to the proceedings.
  • Network Privacy Liability: Your policy should protect you in the event of a negligence claim around your data privacy policies and procedures. For example, an employee could open a virus-containing email that compromises your system. Or you could fall victim to a denial-of-service attack. A sufficient business policy covers you if you are found negligent in your protection of customer and vendor data.
  • Electronic Media Liability: This coverage kicks in when there is a lawsuit for slander, libel, defamation, copyright infringement, or privacy invasion. This legal trouble often happens after the publication of data on social media or other internet platforms after a cyber attack.

Take Time to Understand Your Policy

Each cyber liability insurance policy is unique. Work with your agent to carefully examine your coverage requirements and craft the plan that best fits your business operations. For example, a medical office may need more extensive data privacy negligence coverage than a clothing boutique. 

Gone are the days when cybercrime seemed to impact only giant corporations or those in the financial field. Any company that utilizes an online platform to receive, send, or store customer data is at risk. 

Feel Secure Online with Lake Region Insurance Agency

At Lake Region, our customers are also our neighbors. We understand how hard you’ve worked to launch and build your business. 

And we know how essential a solid reputation is for small businesses across Greater Minnesota. We’ll help you guard your good standing in the event you are the target of cybercriminals.

For over 50 years, we’ve built our agency on the trust of our neighbors in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN. Our knowledgeable staff will help you select the policies that meet your budget and needs. 

As independent agents, the Lake Region team can search for precisely what you need among hundreds of policy options. Sufficient coverage provides the peace of mind you need, whether you are online or running a brick-and-mortar.

Contact one of our independent agents today for a free insurance review and quote. We won’t stop until you and your business have excellent protection in the event of cybercrime. We hope the worst never happens, but with our coverage and customer service, you’ll be prepared if it does.