Books Set in Australia – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

A trip to Australia is one that offers endless variety – you could spend your time partying in Sydney, you could make an adventurous journey to the Outback, or you could wallow in the many wineries on offer in several Australian states. Australia is a big country and unless you have months to spend there, you are going to have to make some decisions on how best to spend you time. To help you do that, here are some books set in Australia – five novels depicting different aspects of Australian life and history.

'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

A story of Australia's beginnings, William Thornbill and his wife Sal are sent from London to the fledgling colony of New South Wales in the early 1800's. After some time in Sydney (very different from the Sydney of today!) They decide to try their luck on some land Will has set his eye on along the Hawkesbury River. The challenges they face from their environment, the local Aborigines and fellow settlers reminds us of how harsh the country was for those who decided to make it their home. There are some magnificent descriptions of the landscape as seen by an outsider, and the books gives a 'warts and all' look at the impact of settlement on Australia's indigenous peoples.

'A Town Like Alice' by Neville Shute

While the first part of this novel is set in the Malayan jungle during WWII, what follows is a story that brings you to rugged, country Australia. If you want to know what life was like in a small outback town (more of a hamlet really) in the 1940's and 50's then this novel gives you a good idea. You are subject to the harshness of the landscape and the incredible distinctions involved, as Englishwoman Jean Paget travels to the heart of Australia to find a man she met whilst captured by the Japanese in Malaya. The language and attitudes, particularly in relation to Australia's Aborigines, are true to their time and should be taken as such. But it gives a good indication of the realities of life in rural Australia, something which is still a strong cultural impact on Australians today.

'Breath' by Tim Winton

From the desert to the sea now in this novel by one of Australia's most respected writers. This novel is set in Australia's south-west corner, at a time when the area was more of a home for the logging industry than for the tourists and vineyards of today. Set mainly in the 70's, this is a coming-of-age story about teenager Bruce as he seeks to overcome the boredom of country life with some high risk activities – like surfing off what can be a dangerous and deadly coastline, and developing a Dark friendship with an older woman. As Bruce begins to grow up, both emotionally and sexually, we are grateful to some of the most poetic and exhilarating descriptions you will ever find of the 'religion' that is surfing. And you too, will feel as if you have explored the rugged and beautiful coastline of this part of the country.

'Bad Debts' by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is one of Australia's leading crime writers, and this novel is our introduction to his hero Jack Irish. – an inner-city Melbourne solicitor with a love of Australian Rules Football, gambling, and part time cabinet-making. This is Melbourne in winter, complete with its rain, pubs and shady underworld. Irish has barely been sober for a number of years after one of his dodgy clients murdered his wife, and now Danny, another former client, needs his help. But when Danny is killed, Irish discovers there are plenty of the city's political elite who would like the past to remain undisturbed, and he is determined to get to the truth. Temple's novels may not give you 'sun and sand', but you will be treated to as much genuine Australian vocabulary and city sub-culture as you can handle.

'Summerland' by Malcolm Knox

And finally to Sydney, and a novel that explores the life of the city's idle rich. Four young Sydneysiders have been friends since they were teenagers, and living around the city's northern beaches they have the world at their feet. They form two couples and spend every Christmas at Palm Beach, a popular holiday location for the affluent. But despite all this, their friendship is based on lies, as Richard finds out when he learns of the long-running affair between his wife and his best friend. If you'd like an insight into a live of the privileged few in Sydney, then this novel will take you there.

These novels are just a taste of many books set in Australia, but they are well worth reading in the lead-up to your travels or on the plane. Immersing yourself in a novel about the place you are going to will not only give you an insight into the place itself, but it will whet your appetite for your travels ahead, making it far more enjoyable once you get there.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Books Set in Australia – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

In today's economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings – facing tight family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there's no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

Neverheless, many homeowners are not using insurance discounts to lower rates – even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they're getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today's economy.

Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:

"53 million household responders 'admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply did not know' about policyholder discounts they are reasonably qualify for."

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.

Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts – such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.

How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?

Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It's also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:

  • Dual duty – Do not overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
  • New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
  • Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is evenly 'protected' to boot.
  • Rooftop savings – Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs – naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house – you'll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage alike.
  • Be a new policyholder – You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a 'sign up' discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent may be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
  • Your track record counts – make sure you discover discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record … when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history typically qualifies you for this discount; If you've never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
  • Risk reductions – Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community's fire department also applies.
  • Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Although discount criteria varies, you may be able to get savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar Alarm or home security system.
  • Good breeding gone bad – Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely – be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
  • Score card – Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer's application. Plus, if you've had a less-than-score score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
  • Raise the limit – consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible – $ 2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $ 5,000.
  • Agent vs. Agent and the extended marketplace – Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around – explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents do not usually have the same agility – they're usually limited to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you're committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate rates, discounts and savings offered by the brand's competition.
  • 'Home pride' and stewardship are vital – Even many insurance agents do not understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you'll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible – it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.

So, you'll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.

In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance – even when times are tough.

Get started on discounts for savings ….

  • Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates – what companies provide home insurance in your community?
  • Get guidance on the details – an independent insurance agent is not tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
  • Identify discounts – make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
  • Do the 'homework' – the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
  • Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

Different Types of Life Insurance Policies Available in India

Life insurance is one of the fastest growing financial service sector in India. Currently, there are 24 life insurance companies in India offering various kinds of life insurance policies with many benefits and riders. The main purpose of taking life insurance is to provide financial protection for the dependents of a person in case of his death.

There are some life insurance policies which have inbuilt wealth creation or investment plans along with insurance. Also, these products are offered as specific tailor-made products for different life stages like, child plans, retirement plans, pension plans etc. A few products offer loan facility along with the life insurance plan. Also, all life insurance premiums offer tax benefits to the insured, as per the Indian Income Tax Act.

Here under are different types of life insurance policies that are being offered in India.

Term insurance policy:
Term insurance offers financial protection for the family of the insured in case of his sudden demise. It is the cheapest life insurance policy that offers high sum assured at low cost. This policy provides insurance cover for a period of time. In India, almost all life insurance companies offer term insurance with different product names. The term policy will be usually available for 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The policyholder does not get life cover after the completion of the term policy. Further, in India premium paid on term insurance is eligible for tax exemption under section 80C of Income Tax Act in India.

Money-back policy:
Under this policy, certain portion or percentage of the sum assured is returned back to the insured, in case of survival of policy holder. In the event of death during the period of the policy, the nominee of the policy gets death benefits equal to the sum secured and accumulated cash benefits. The premiums of money-back policy are very high compared to term insurance policy.

The money-back policies are offered for a fixed period of time, usually up to 25 years and the policyholder pays a fixed premium periodically (monthly, quarterly, annually) during the policy period. The premiums paid on money-back insurance policies are eligible for tax exemption under section 80C of Income Tax Act in India.

Whole life insurance policy:
As the name suggests, the policy covers risk for an entire life of the policyholder. This policy continues as long as the policy holder is alive. The policy offers only death benefits to the beneficiary or nominee in case of the death of the insured. This policy does not offer any survival benefits. So, the whole life insurance policy is primarily taken to create wealth for the heirs of the policyholders, as this policy offers payment of the sum assured plus bonus in the event of the death of the policyholder. The premiums of whole life insurance are costlier than term plans.

The policyholder pays premium for whole life or till some age (say 80 years) or for some period of 35-40 years based on the terms and conditions of the policy. The premium paid on whole-life insurance policies is eligible for tax exemption under section 80C of Income Tax Act in India.

Endowment insurance policy:
It is a savings linked insurance policy that provides cover for a specified period of time. The policy holder receives sum assured along with bonus or profits at the end of the policy in case of its survival. This policy is best for those people who do not have a savings or investing habit on a regular basis. In case of the death of the policy holder before the maturity of the policy, the beneficiary of the policy receives only the sum assured amount.

The premiums of the endowment policies in India are costlier than term life and whole life insurance premiums. Also, the premiums paid on endowment insurance policies are eligible for tax exemption under section 80C of Indian Income Tax Act.

Unit linked insurance policy (ULIP):
It is a special kind of investment tool combined with life insurance and serves as investment-linked insurance policy. In this policy, some part of the premiums goes into life cover and some part of the premium goes into investment.

The policy consists of investment mix where some percentage of the premium can go into 100% equity funds or 100% debt funds or a mixture of both. Here, the policyholder has an option of choosing funds or he can select the strategy of investing. The policyholder can also have the choice of switching from one fund to other fund. The returns from ULIPS are based only on the performance of the funds. The main drawback of ULIPs is that, it contains high charges (responsibilities) for managing funds.

In India, ULIPs allow you to claim tax benefits against the premium payment by two ways – deduction and exemption. You can deduct up to Rs.1 lakh of your taxable income by investing in ULIPs under section 80C of Indian Income Tax Act. You can exempt from gross income under section 10 (10) D for any sum received from insurance.

Insurance policies have a great role to play in assuring tax savings. As per the policy in India, all regular-premium life insurance policies (except pension plans) in India issued after April 2012, should offer protection cover of at least 10 times the annual income to be eligible for tax benefits under section 80C and 10 ( 10) D.

Choose and get a best life insurance policy to protect your family's financial condition in your absence.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Different Types of Life Insurance Policies Available in India

Monopoly Game Rules

One game has always been a favorite with all people associated to all age groups and that is Monopoly. The game has its fans across borders and all around the world. Still, a lot of people are unaware of all the rules of this game. It is imperative to know and understand Monopoly Game Rules in order to be a champion while playing this game. Let us have a closer look at the Monopoly Game Rules:

  1. Build Hotels: Many people think that they only need to have four houses on every property in group color before they can actually start buying hotels. Well, it is not correct. Apart from this condition, optimum number of houses should be available in the bank as well. In absence of enough homes, one can not buy hotels.
  2. Going to Jail: If as a player one goes in the jail then even though he scores doubles, his turn will come to an end. Such a player will not get an opportunity to roll again.
  3. Income Tax: As a player, if a person ends up on income tax block after passing GO, his money worth $ 200 is included in his total worth. In this case a player gets to decide whether he wants to pay 10% of his total worth of $ 200.
  4. Fine amount in case of Utilities: A player is not required to roll again to determine the amount of fine on utilities. The numbers which come from the dice in first roll are considered for the fine amount.
  5. Together try to win: Mergers are not considered as part of the official Monopoly Game Rules, however, there are many players who add it in their personal rule book. In this situation, two players can decide to play together as partners. In such a situation, the assets of both the players can not be combined. Instead of this, one of the two players has to quit the game and then the second one continues playing.
  6. Quitting the Monopoly Game: At any point of time, if a player wants to quit the game then his assets are returned to the bank. The player can not gift his assets to any other player. Yes of course, a player can decide to sell off his property to some other player even gifting is not possible.
  7. No immunity against rent: At no point in the game a player can offer immunity to another player against rent.

Players often forget these simple rules and end up losing the game. There are many people who have twisted the rules of this game as per their convenience though the fun of playing Monopoly is more when played with the original rules of the game. Monopoly Game Rules were designed keeping in mind all the possibilities in this game and here one should follow them to play the game in the best and accurate manner. If one plays the game with all the rules then the chances of disagreements on various things can be avoided and game can be enjoyed thoroughly.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Monopoly Game Rules

Construction Site Management – Accessibility

Construction sites offer different challenges as far as accessibility is concerned. This follows the fact that there is a mass movement of men (labor) as well as material haulers. These range from pick up trucks to trailers. Depending on the items being moved, the weight is different and as such the capacity of the route to and from site should match these requirements. There will also be visitors in light personal vehicles, especially consultants and prospective property buyers in case of commercial projects or prospective tenants in case of residential or other rental spaces. The available or provided access should well cater for these requirements as far as is possible. The different site conditions include;

· Virgin sites: This reflects to a new site where no other construction activity has been done before. This means that there is no access to the specific point of construction. Where such route may be available, it may not be sufficient and may need improvement. This may include works like cutting down trees, cutting high sections and filling low ones, dumping murram or other appropriate material. It will also include compact, wetting and curing of the dumped material. Being a new and sometimes temporary route, it will need maintenance. Where such access is to pass through other people's property, appropriate permissions should be thought. The local authorities must also be informed and provided with plans like ways of averting problems like ecological disturbance. It is usually wise to have the access route for construction being also the permanent access to the permanent route for accessing the completed facility.

· Existing sites: These are sites that have already been built upon previously. They may have existing access. The only hurdle would be where such access is still in use by others, as it will create an inconvenience and delivery use may be regulated to low peak periods only. There could also arise the need to provide alternative routes for the existing users. A good example here is road maintenance or improvement works, wherey diversions are created and maintained in good order during the construction period. Appropriate arrangements should be made to minimize inconvenience as well as prevent accidents.

· Tight Sites: These are unique sites in the fact that they have minimal space for maneuverability. Examples here are found in town centers or institutions. Regulation here is very strict and as such stringent measures should be put in place to follow such regulations. These sites are very difficult to manage as far as accessibility is concerned. An example is where concrete is to be delivered on site already mixed (In premix trucks). This presents the headache of timing as well as preventing inconvenience to other users.

The provision of access to sites should be a well thought out activity. Maintenance should be in top priority. The design of such access roads should also cater for the traffic envisaged for the said project. Road signage and other such furniture should also be provided and well maintained.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Construction Site Management – Accessibility

Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover Woodpecker Damage

Meet Amy, City Girl that became a small town resident upon her marriage to George. The stark difference between living in the very center of urbanized civilization and township dwelling was somewhat of an adjustment for Amy. Sure she loved the sights and sounds of nature exposed: the lake, the trees, grass, flowers and the vibrant color of winged birds. Nonetheless, how she missed the hustle and bustle and – yes – even the noise of what she had always recognized as the center of commercial shopping, auto and bus traffic – honking included – and life as she had been bred to appreciate!

Though noise has always been the core of her existence, the incessant pecking on the side of her roof in small town America where she currently had set up residence did absolutely no good for her nerves. Five o’clock in the morning, you see was far too early for a woman of the world such as she to be rudely awoken from her slumbering state. And the fact that the pecking was coming from a fine feathered ‘friend’ known most commonly as the woodpecker did little to placate her uneasiness.

Then came the crunch that really threw Amy off. It appeared as the bothersome woodpecker had begun to incur damage on her lovely home! But nothing could appease Amy when she discovered that her standard homeowners insurance policy did not even cover the damages and losses she now suffered!

“You see, Ma’am,” explained the nice insurance agent, “insurance companies simply do not cover general home liability that has been wrought through negligence. In fact, they view woodpecker damage as something that could have been avoided through proper home maintenance.”

If only Amy had known! She most certainly would have confronted the little peril with a vengeance. Now it appeared that it was too late and she and her husband would have to bear the losses through out of the pocket expenditures.

They say life is a great teacher. Amy knows better than most.

“Learn from me,” says Amy, former city dweller. “Don’t let pests get the better of you or your home risks will!”

How does one tackle a woodpecker problem? There are a number of hands-on methods:

• Go out and purchase a tool that’s on the market in regard to woodpecker deterrence.

• Surround outside home spots that connect to the roof with wired fencing.

• Attach colorful tape below roof and around the roof’s gutters.

• Seal attic holes and house siding with caulk or other materials.

• Hire a pest eliminating firm to take care of the problem.

• Explore your own creative to tackle the nasty wood-pecking problem.

Ask Amy. She’ll tell you forearmed is indeed forewarned: speak to an independent insurance agent about your homeowners insurance policy to make sure it is tailored to your needs.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover Woodpecker Damage

What Are the Factors to Consider When Buying Life Insurance?

As you are shopping around for insurance quotes and insurance companies, these are a few basic factors you need to consider before you make any decision.

1. HOW MUCH LIFE INSURANCE COVER DO YOU NEED?

Here is a quick guide if you are not doing this with a financial planning professional yet. For ease of calculation and explanation, we are not taking time value of money and inflation into consideration.

Financial Obligations

Take into account any financial obligation that needs to be paid off if premature death or unfortunate event such as total & permanent disability or critical illness should occur. Examples could be business or personal loans or debts to be repaid or mortgage loan repayments.

Financial Support

Is there anybody who is dependent on you for financial support? Maybe aged parents, spouse or children? If there is, you may want to plan for the financial support to continue should any unfortunate event happen. For example, you may be planning to provide for your aged parents or a young kid for the next 20 years with an annual sum of $20,000. You would need a sum assured of $400,000 should that sum of money be needed right now.

Financial Gift

Is there a lump sum of money you would like to provide if an unfortunate event should happen? Is there someone you would like to leave a financial gift for when you are not around anymore? Or maybe a charitable cause you would like to contribute to? If there is, be sure to take this into consideration in your calculation of how much insurance cover to buy.

Replacement of Income

This is the tricky one where you will read of many differing opinions. The reason why this question is not so straightforward to answer is that guesswork of your income growth rate is involved.

There are general (very general) rules of thumb for this though.

You need to know how many years you would like your income to be replaced for. For example, if you would like your income replacement to be for 10 years. You will need a $500,000 sum assured if you are earning $50,000 currently. That will enable you to withdraw $50,000 per year for 10 years.

Alternatively, some may suggest for you to have insurance cover of 20 times your annual income. If you have a cover of 20 times your annual income, an investment return of 5% from your insurance proceeds will be able to replace your current income perpetually.

2. HOW LONG DO YOU NEED THE INSURANCE COVER FOR?

Knowing how long you need the protection of insurance for will play a part in knowing what types of life insurance products may be suitable. Do you need the insurance cover for a specific number of years only such as for a specific loan payment period or do you prefer the insurance protection for the whole of your life?

3. WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET FOR INSURANCE PREMIUMS?

Knowing how much sum assured and how long you need the coverage for is one thing but your ability to pay the insurance premiums also need to be considered. For example, if you require a specific sum assured but your budget is limited, you may need to buy a term life insurance policy to get the required insurance cover even if you may prefer an insurance policy that can accumulate cash values.

4. WHAT TYPES OF INSURANCE POLICIES SHOULD YOU BUY?

There are different life insurance products to suit different financial needs and wants. Find one that is suitable for yours. There are mainly four types of life insurance products.

Term Insurance

For protection needs with no accumulation of cash value

Whole-Life Insurance

Mainly for protection needs with accumulation of cash value

Endowment Insurance

Mainly for savings needs with accumulation of cash value

Investment-Linked Insurance

Accumulation of cash value through investments. Whether it is for protection or investment needs depends on the specific policy.

The pointers listed above is catered to the Singapore market. They are meant for general information and discussion. It is not intended to provide any insurance or financial advice and you should always seek advice from a qualified adviser if in doubt.

Benjamin Ang has a Bachelor of Business Administration and holds the designation of Associate Financial Consultant (AFC) and Associate Estate Planning Practitioner (AEPP). He writes about wealth matters to share financial knowledge with the public and also writes regularly on living and experiencing all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Find out more about him at http://www.benjamin-ang.com/

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on What Are the Factors to Consider When Buying Life Insurance?

How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

Best Finds From the Antiques Roadshow

The comforting, familiar nature of the Antiques Roadshow has been likened to ‘the feel of a warm bath’. From its beginnings in 1977, the show delved through the possessions of others, with guests telling us stories of the current owners, past owners and beyond. Usually the item might be worth a few hundred or few thousand pounds, but rarely – and most excitingly – a true gem would be uncovered.

The Halt in the Desert – a painting by Richard Dadd

In 1987, a couple from Barnstaple, North Devon, came along to a show with a painting. Unbeknown to them, the painting was actually The Holt in the Desert by Richard Dadd – a national treasure which had been missing for more than 100 years. After authentication, the painting was valued at £100,000.

In the watercolour, a camping party is seen on the shore of the Dead Sea with Dadd himself seen at the far right. The scene was painted from memory by Dadd from a mental institution, as after coming home from the expedition to Greece, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt he murdered his own father ‘supposedly at the behest of the Egyptian god Osiris[*].

Spider’s Web Bottle – by William Burges

A guest brought in a little brown bottle his dad had picked up in 1950 to the Antiques Roadshow in Skegness. The expert was delighted to reveal that in fact, the bottle was an original by William Burges – the renowned Victorian designer – which had been lost for most of the 20th century. The bottle was engraved with a spider’s web design of silver, enamel, moonstone and pearl and was valued at £20,000 – £30,000.

Silver Drinking Vessels Collection

After inheriting a collection of silver drinking vessels, a young man from Crawley brought them in to the Antiques Roadshow for examination. In an amazing discovery, each piece that emerged seemed to be more valuable than the last. The haul was valued at a remarkable £100,000, and later sold at auction for £78,000, needing some serious antiques insurance cover.

Faberge Brooch

A lady with a love for jewellery brought in a bumper bag of brooches to expert Geoffrey Munn at Chatsworth House. The guest had bought the bag at auction for just £30, and was shocked to when the expert pulled out each of the brooches and valued them successively for £125 – £150. That was until he spotted the real gem – a genuine pink Faberge brooch – valued at £10,000.

Lalique Vase

Possibly one of the canniest purchases to have appeared on the Antiques Roadshow was this 1929 work by celebrated designer Rene Lalique which later sold at auction for £32,450. The owner had bought it at a car boot sale in south Scotland for just £1.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Best Finds From the Antiques Roadshow

Do You Have Sufficient Auto Insurance Coverage?

Imagine getting ready to leave your house and you open your door and the rain is pouring down. Now you start to frantically look for your umbrella…. ah, there it is! You step outside, open your umbrella, and you are now protected from that pouring rain. If it were a bright sunny day with no rain in sight you probably would not even care about where your umbrella is or if you even had one! The same is true about insurance. Until you need it, do you really care about it? Unfortunately, too many people realize that they have insufficient coverage only when an unexpected incident occurs and they have to place a claim with their insurance company.

So, a logical starting point to determine if you have proper insurance coverage is to understand the basics. To ensure that you do have the proper coverage, you first need to acquire a good understanding of the basics of auto, home, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. For this article, we will focus on auto insurance coverage.

Auto Insurance basically covers you for liability and property damage as it relates to your motor vehicle. There are other optional areas of coverage as well, but for our discussion let’s stay focused on the basics, which are the most important anyway. Your auto insurance policy’s first and/or second pages are the declaration pages of your auto insurance policy. The declarations pages describe your auto coverage limits in numeric dollar values.

Here is a sample of what you may see on your auto insurance policy’s declaration pages:

-Bodily Injury/Property (BIPD) 250/500/100

-Limited or Unlimited

-Medical (Med) $5,000

-Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 250 w/250 Ded

-Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) 250/500/100

-Collision $500 (Coll) Deductible

-Comprehensive (Comp) $500 Deductible

-Rental Insurance (RI) 80%/1500

Let’s take a look at each of these coverage definitions and amounts in more detail.

The BIPD represents Bodily Injury (BI) / Property Damage (PD). Basically, in the example above, this individual policyholder has liability protection for $250,000 per individual or $500,000 maximum per incident, plus $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle in a collision. Liability coverage is protection for times when you have been deemed and proven negligent in an auto accident and you therefore become legally liable for the resulting compensatory and/or punitive damages to the other party or parties. The BI, of the BIPD, will cover you for negligence on your part that resulted in bodily injury to the other party or parties. BI also covers the cost of attorney fees associated with any litigation brought against you by the other party. In the above example, this person has $250,000 in coverage for all inclusive liability and attorney fees per individual injured or $500,000 for the entire incident.

The PD, of the BIPD, covers the damage to the other party’s vehicle as a result of your negligence; thus, in the above example, up to $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle or property. Now, being cognizant of the litigious society that we live in, we ask if $250,000 per person or $500,000 per incident is enough BI coverage? This is a personal decision for every individual to make depending upon their current assets and net worth, and their knowledge of recent jury decisions and awards on BI cases. A major factor affecting this decision is an understanding that you are self-insured for any amounts awarded in excess of your BI coverage amount, should the jury award compensatory and punitive damages greater than your BI coverage amount. So, in this example, should the jury award $750,000 to the individual driving the other vehicle who suffered bodily injury because you collided with them as a result of your negligence, then you are self-insured for the amount in excess of $250,000 which in this case would be $500,000. If you do not have the $500,000 to settle the award, then the judge has many other options to ensure restitution to the injured party such as: garnishing your wages, selling off some of your assets, placing a lien on your property, etc. Now, you can get an umbrella policy to cover you up to a certain amount in excess of your underlying auto BI coverage. We will look at how an umbrella policy works in more detail in an upcoming article.

Next, we have “limited right to sue” versus “unlimited right to sue” coverage. Basically, under the “limited” right to sue lawsuit option, you agree not to sue the person who caused the auto accident for your pain and suffering unless you sustain one of the permanent injuries listed below:

-Loss of body part

-Significant disfigurement or scarring

-A displaced fracture

-Loss of a fetus

-Permanent injury

-Death

Please note that choosing this option does not waive your right to sue for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.

Under the “Unlimited” right to sue lawsuit option, you retain the right to sue the person who caused an auto accident for pain and suffering for any injury. Most people will choose the “limited” option because it is far less costly and it provides the ability to sue the negligent party for most major and permanent injuries. However, many attorneys will usually choose the “unlimited option” for their own personal coverage and pay the significant extra cost because they want the right to sue for any injury.

PIP coverage stands for Personal Injury Protection coverage. PIP is paid from your own policy. PIP covers medical expenses, and possibly lost wages and other damages. PIP is sometimes referred to as “no-fault” coverage, because the statutes that enacted it are generally known as no-fault laws. PIP is designed to be paid without regard to “fault,” or more properly, without regard to legal liability. PIP is also called “no-fault” because, by definition, a claimant’s, or insured’s, insurance premium should not increase due to a PIP claim. A PIP claim may be subrogated by your insurance against the other party’s insurance company if the other party was determined to be the neglligent party in the accident. PIP is a mandatory coverage in some states.

Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) is coverage from your policy that may pay for injuries to you and your passengers, and possibly damage to your property, when as a result of an auto accident the other driver is both legally responsible for the accident and determined to be “uninsured” or “underinsured.”

An uninsured driver is a person who has no auto insurance coverage, or had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim or was not financially able to pay it. In most states, a hit-and-run driver is also considered an uninsured driver as it pertains to paying for injuries to you or your passengers.

An underinsured driver is a person who had insurance that met minimum legal requirements, but did not have high enough coverage limits to pay for the damage caused by the accident. In these situations, UIM coverage can pay you for your damages. It is important to note that uninsured and underinsured is separate coverage, although in many states they can or must be purchased together. Some states mandate purchase of UM/UIM, but many do not.

Collision coverage insures you for damage to your vehicle. No matter if it is a collision between your car and another car, or your car and a stone wall. You are covered if your car sustains damage as a result of colliding into something or something colliding into it, whether you are at fault or not. Your deductible will usually apply. If you collide with another vehicle and the other party is at fault, then your insurance company may subrogate the claim against the at fault party’s insurance company to recover the claim amount.

Comprehensive (Comp) basically covers what collision coverage does not. When your car sustains damage that did not result from colliding with another motor vehicle or object, the comprehensive portion of your policy will pay for the damages. If you do not have comprehensive coverage then you would have to pay out of your own pocket for any damage to your vehicle not related to a collision. Here are the perils typically covered by comprehensive auto insurance coverage: fire, theft, vandalism, broken or damaged glass, animal inflicted damage, falling objects, storms (hail, wind, etc.), and water damage. Your deductible will usually apply.

Rental Insurance (RI) is coverage for you to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired because of a covered incident. In the above example of declaration page values, the 80%/1500 means that you have coverage for $80 per day and $1,500 maximum total cost to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired. This is an optional coverage that many people take, but some do not.

Well, that is it! That is the basics of understanding your auto insurance coverage. Not so bad, right? Now that you understand the basics of auto insurance coverage you can review and analyze your personal auto insurance policy’s declaration page coverage information while taking into consideration your personal financials to determine whether or not you have sufficient coverage.

Stay tuned for future articles that will explain the basics of understanding homeowner’s, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. You never know when it is going to rain!

Joseph Rubino, Agent

NJ Licensed Property & Casualty, Health, and Life

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Do You Have Sufficient Auto Insurance Coverage?