Silicon Valley Estate Planning Journal

News and Articles from the Law Offices of John C. Martin

The Truth About Personal Risk Management, Part 1: Insurance

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Personal risk management is being aware of the risks in your home and in your life, and then planning how to handle those risks. Insurance plays a big part in managing risk. Most people don’t like paying insurance premiums, but when something happens and the insurance pays for a covered expense, they are relieved they had it. 
The Key Takeaways
Not recognizing and managing risk can set your family up for financial ruin.
Recognizing and managing risk will give you and your family the freedom to live life, without worrying about how you would handle a catastrophic loss.
What kinds of risks should I be aware of?
Property and casualty risks include your car and other vehicles, home and furnishings, jewelry, cameras, and so forth. You would want to protect these from accidents, theft, fire, flood, and earthquake damage. Health and long-term care insurance help protect your finances if you become ill or injured. Disability income and life insurance help replace income in the event of a long-term illness or death. If you volunteer with children or youth, you may need personal liability insurance. An increase to your umbrella policy is warranted once you have teenage drivers. If you are a business owner, you may need insurance as part of a buy-sell agreement with a key employee or business partner in addition to business liability insurance. If you are in a high-risk profession (like health care, construction or real estate), you will probably need additional asset protection planning.
How much insurance do I need?
You need enough insurance to protect your assets in the worst-case scenario. At the same time, the premiums should be an amount you can comfortably afford in your budget. Decide what you need to insure, how much to insure it for, and how much you are able and willing to pay in deductibles and premiums.
What You Need to Know
Your family’s needs for insurance will change over time and will reflect your values at each stage in life. For example, you may need more life insurance when your children are young; you may want long-term care insurance as you near retirement (although it is less expensive when you are younger); you may not need as much personal liability insurance if you retire from volunteering or once your children become independent; and you may not need business insurance if you sell your business.
Actions to Consider
Look at ways you can reduce premiums. For example, installing a home security alarm system or trimming shrubbery may save on your homeowner’s insurance. If you drive an older car, you may not need collision insurance. If you can handle higher deductibles, your premiums will likely be lower.
Look for ways to reduce risk entirely. For example, you may want to sell a property that is high risk or even retire from a high-risk profession.
Some risk may be perfectly acceptable to you. Consider what you might lose if the worst happens and see if you could live with the loss. This is called risk budgeting.
Keep good records on personal property. Review the values and your insurance coverage annually. Values fluctuate, and you don’t want to over- or under-insure.
Determine what you would lose if someone sued you with a liability claim. You worked hard to build your net worth and you do not want to lose wealth if someone files a claim against you. Even if it is a frivolous claim, you may have to spend a small fortune to defend yourself. Take action to protect your assets for yourself and your family.
Health care and long-term care costs are increasing at an alarming pace, people are living longer, and many older Americans have seen their retirement savings decline in recent down markets. A professional can help you evaluate your health care risks and determine how to plan for them.
If you require counsel, contact a Menlo Park trusts and estates attorney today. 

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