When you have an insurance claim, the last thing you want to discover is that you didn't buy the right coverage. While it's easy to point the finger at agents, coverage gaps could be a two-way street. Sometimes friends and family members offer bad advice, including tenuous, illogical and even illegal strategies, hoping to save you a few bucks. But the eventual losses can be huge. "When people shop for insurance, a lot of times they're looking for the best deal," says Ron Reitz, an independent insurance adjuster and president of Quality Claims Management in San Diego. We asked some insurance veterans about the bad advice they've heard over the years. Here's what makes them cringe.
1. Lock up all insurance policies and other important documents in a safe deposit box.
Do not keep your life insurance policy in a safe deposit box. If yours is the only name on the safe deposit box, no one but the executor of your will can get into it without Power of Attorney. If your life insurance policy is locked in there, your beneficiaries will have to wait until the estate is opened by a government entity and an executor is appointed. If you want the assurance of having important documents locked up, buy a fire-safe box. "Just make sure documents aren't stored in a place where they can be lost in a flood or fire," says Reitz. With today's technology, there's no excuse not to scan everything and create electronic copies of important papers that can be put on disks or in other storage devices.
2. You don't need flood, earthquake or other disaster insurance.
If an earthquake destroys your home, you won't recover a penny unless you have an earthquake insurance policy. The same rule applies to floods. Decisions about flood insurance should be based on your proximity to a body of water that could overflow, not whether the area flooded before. On the plus side, if you're in a low-risk area, your policy will cost less while still providing the maximum protection. "Floods occur in all 50 states, and in many cases flood damage happens in areas that aren't high-risk flood zones," explains Peter Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California.
3. Renter's insurance is a waste of money.
Many renters mistakenly assume that their belongings are covered under the landlord's policy. Not the case! If some calamity were to occur, such as a fire, your landlord's insurance won't cover the contents in your apartment, nor will it pay for you to live in a temporary space while your place is uninhabitable, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders.