What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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The Pros and Cons of Discount Travel Clubs

If you love to travel, but can not seam to do it as often as you would like, you should consider looking into a good travel club.

My wife LOVES to travel the world as I am sure many of you do, but it was always so expensive. I am here to tell you, it does not have to be.

This is how travel clubs work.

When you think about it owning a resort property is just like any other business. They need a steady flow of customers to be profitable. Their unique challenge is, they also need a consistent flow of customers preferably evenly spaced through the entire year other many issues start to become problems for them. To many customers all at once is lost business, probably to your competition. Not enough customers means empty rooms and lost business and revenue, which makes staffing as well as many other things VERY difficult.

The challenge is to keep a steady flow of customers, preferably even spaced all year long. But how do they do that?

One way resort owners have discovered to help with this is by affiliating with travel clubs to offer club members unreserved rooms at deep discounts. This helps keep a steady flow of customers all year long, and helps the owner keep a properly staffed business running.

Think about it from their perspective, would you rather have an empty room and NO income, and have a staff to pay with no customers to serve or income being produced? Or, to keep a good quality staff busy, have customers that may only be paying enough to cover your expenses with little or no profit?

It does not take long as a business owner to figure out that "when possible" you sell at full price, when necessary you take a discount and less profit, and when push comes to shove at least cover expenses to avoid taking a loss.

Even taking some loss is acceptable if it helps with staffing issues, inventory, food shelf life, advertising, budgeting, exposure and many other business issues. As long as it is not the norm, obviously.

Now, keep in mind, all travel clubs are NOT created equal.

The owner of the travel club is also doing business. He wants to provide his members with an attractive offer to build membership, but also wants to make money in HIS business, which IS the travel club. If the owner is more concerned about profit, than they are about giving value to their members, that club has a limited future.

The saying that just popped into my head was "It is better to have a little bit of something, than a whole lot of nothing."

The resort owners are constantly negotiating transactions (level of discount) with hundreds of travel club owners.

The owner of a particular travel club may have negotiated with the resort owners the best prices for his club, but if he is trying to make to much profit with his travel club, his members would not be getting the best deals!

It is very hard to negotiate regardless, without something the other party wants. Therefore, the more members you have in your club the easier it is to negotiate great deals. But getting lots of members is no easy task in itself.

The most successful travel club owner has figured out how to build a large following (with minimal cost) so they have the leverage to negotiate great deals other clubs can not, but because of their low overhead they can pass most of the savings along to Their members.

We all know that the BEST form of advertising is, word of mouth. As luck would have it, it is also the least expensive. (Free) So, if you (as a club owner) were to pay your current members (for new memberships) to advertise by word of mouth or however they choose, and generate members for you just by telling potential members about your club and the Huge savings they had received, you would have a growing membership with minimal expenses, therefore, you could pass dramatic savings on to your members which in turn would help generate more members more easily and get better discounts.

As I stated earlier, not all travel clubs are created equal, just as with any other business. You must do your research to find a club that offers a large inventory of locations, at deep discounts to its members, without charging too much for their membership. That travel club will continue to grow in size and value, and provide you with a lifetime of deeply discounted travel for minimal cost so you can travel the world and enjoy what the world has to offer.

Travel clubs can be a great opportunity to save your hard earned money. Just make sure you do your research and find the right one, otherwise you are not going to get the most value possible for your money.

Good luck, and I'll see you on the beaches of the world.

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The Importance of a Balance Sheet

An individual has two primary tools for managing personal finances. The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances.

Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets. They are the positive side of your Balance Sheet but the real picture of how much gold you have in your Fort Knox is your Net Worth. So just as important to your Balance sheet is your Liabilities. The total of your Liabilities is subtracted from the total of your Assets to give you your Net Worth.

You fill out your Balance Sheet and total up your Assets and Liabilities. You subtract the total of your Liabilities from your Assets. That number, your Net Worth will come out to either a negative amount, an amount of or near zero, or it will be substantially positive. These are the only 3 scenarios possible.

• If your net worth is a minus number, you are not managing your financial resources properly. Your Balance sheet is your report card and you are failing. It is that simple. If you are managing your money to deal with life's challenges and planning your personal finances with your retirement in mind, your Net Worth should be positive and growing. If your net Worth is positive, you can ride out financial storms like the current situation. At the time of your retirement, your Net Worth must be substantially positive so that you will be able to keep costs down and have investment income to replace your working income. During your working years, your Net Worth should be growing steadily because a retirement nest egg does not grow without years of nurturing.

• There are circumstances where where it is acceptable to have a Net Worth of Zero or near Zero. The first is when you are just starting out. It just makes sense that it would be zero. You may have student loans but that is offset by some form of education that will allow you to make more money in the course of your lifetime. The key is that this is the best time to start building your net worth. It allows the principal of compounding value to work its magic on your assets for decades. That saves you a lot of work later in life. However, most of us are not that wise and we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s with little or no Net Worth. This means you have less time for compounding to work. So you have to work harder and especially manage your money smarter to prepare for the financial challenges you face going forward. The nice thing is that you have probably made some mistakes that have made you much wiser. You should be able to recover much faster than you would have in your undisciplined youth.

• If you have a positive net worth that means that you are building assets. Just as important is that you are controlling your debt. This is the key that has probably gotten you to this situation. The key to a positive Balance Sheet is that debt offsets the value of your assets when you look at your personal finances as a complete picture so your debt / equity ratio should be less than one and get smaller and smaller. Debt servicing saps cash flow on your budget that could have been used to build assets that can be used to produce income in your retirement years. Clear title ownership of assets such as your home reduce cash draw and this is incredibly important as you approach retirement.

The financial crisis we are in now is described as a Balance Sheet crisis. We are in this crisis because nobody was paying attention to their Balance Sheets, not even at the rising heights of our financial infrastructure. The symptoms were everywhere. While researching I found that the top sites on the internet for Balance Sheet are those who want to sell you something so that they can gain access to any assets on your balance sheet that might be left after this disaster. Before the disaster, the only thing that had any importance was whether a potential buyer of anything could afford to make the payments on whatever he was buying assuming he made 120% of his declared income. The most outrageous symptom was that people would take appreciating home equity and borrow against it to buy depreciating assets and consumer goods. They overbooked their budgets and now they have gutted their balance sheet.

The resulting loss of home values ​​is the disaster we have now where people have either a zero or minus Net Worth. The other aspect is that we are now wiser. For the good of our society and our financial infrastructure we had better be. Going forward we must pay attention to our Balance Sheets and recognize that is where the gold is. You must save and protect your gold. Net Worth is where financial power is and that is the Importance of a Balance Sheet.

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Four Unconventional Ways to Land a $5K Loan With Bad Credit

A lot of folks got lifted high during the early part of the 21st Century. Times were good and promised to be so for a long time. Fearless about future debt, many consumers over-extended themselves. The economy fell flat thanks in part to this vast over-extension and the banking and mortgage industry that fed off of it.

As a result, loans came due with no cash flow to pay them. Foreclosures became normal. Credit card companies felt the pinch as members defaulted. Credit ratings suffered greatly. Presently, those folks have no recourse to any venues that could offer them any financial relief. A minimal $5,000 bad credit loan is unreachable.

People in this situation do have some options that they should consider while they try to rebuild their financial lives as well as their financial credibility. These options are perhaps not those that they would normally consider, but the times are not normal.

One: Familiar Loans

In one way this is the best scenario to get a much needed cash injection. In another, it could be the worst. Embarrassment is probably the biggest bar to approaching friends or family members for cash to get you through tough times. On the other hand, the terms for repayment can be quite flexible and interest rates can be low or nonexistent. Certainly, a loan such as this does not require a credit check. It would be wise and friendly to draw up a contract so each party knows what is expected.

Two: Salary Potentialities

Should a person in need of cash be to uncomfortable approaching family or friends, they might look to the workplace. Some progressive companies have opportunities for employees who have hit on hard times. A credit union may serve the company and it may be very happy to extend a loan at low interest rates and easy payback terms. If there is no credit union, sometimes an employer can be approached for a loan that can be deducted directly from future paychecks. Sometimes this sort of loan is available to promote loyalty and productivity.

Three: Non-Traditional Bad Credit Loans

Should the previous venues turn up dry, unsecured personal loans are available, either locally or via online lenders. Traditional lenders such as banks are not going to be forthcoming with any help for borrowers with poor credit. Online lenders do not consider credit scores and are usually eager to grant unsecured loans in the range of $500 to $10,000. The requirements are few; having steady employment and a bank account are often enough. The application process is easy and you can usually have cash in your account within 24 hours.

Four: Neighborhood Pawnshops

Do not cringe. For centuries shops such as this have been able to offer affordable loans to people in the community who find themselves a little shy of cash from time to time. Your loan will require security in the form of personal property offered as collateral that is equal to the worth of the loan. You will sign a document acknowledging your obligation. If you do not return to redeem the collateral, the shop is allowed to sell it to cover the loan.

No matter what sort of credit history you may have, you should be able to put your hands on some cash using the outlets described above. Just be sure you do not allow yourself to become a victim to any sort of fraud. Just be sure any money you do get is used responsibly and paid back according to the terms of any agreements.

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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Know About the Consequences of Not Having Public Liability Insurance Coverage

Public liability insurance is an important insurance policy that protects your business during the time of adversities. Especially, if your business handles risky activities like construction, plumbing, etc., or if the public enters into your business premises like in retailing, then this insurance plan is a must have. Owing to the uncertainty of accidents and the huge costs of legal claims, your business may run into crisis if you are not properly guarded by the right insurance plan, i.e. public liability insurance.

This article gives you a little insight into the consequences your business might face, if you do not have public liability insurance coverage.

Financial burden: Depending on the damage or loss caused to the third-party, the amount claimed may vary. But the third parties generally sue the company for heavy amounts as small amounts do not matter for both company and the sufferers. These claims will add up to the company’s existing costs and become a financial burden to the company. Managing the finances between the company’s needs and legal claims is not wise as it halts the business operations.

Legal battles: Apart from the amount to be reimbursed, a company has to face legal battles which occur as a result of lawsuits filed against the business by the third parties. The legal costs and expenses are generally high. You need to deal legal authorities with utmost care. These legal battles are hectic. The time and effort required to fight these legal battles is also high. It diverts you from your core business. But if you have a public liability policy, the insurance company assists you and takes charge in fighting these legal battles till the case is closed, besides paying the legal expenses.

Chances of bankruptcy: Inability to pay the outstanding charges claimed by the third parties may lead the business to go bankrupt. Unless a business has outstanding capital, it cannot afford to pay these legal expenses. Moreover, you are needed to provide additional financial assistance in the form of medical aid as in case of accidents and repairing charges in case of property damage, besides paying the lump sum amount and the legal costs.

Investment at risk: In case your business is facing a third-party legal claim, and if you are in a position where you cannot pay the claimed amount instantly, then, the bank or the court gives permission to seize your various monetary investments or fixed assets such as land, furniture or machinery to cover the legal expenses and the claimed amount.

Lack of mental peace: With the all the above issues, you will surely lose mental peace. These legal claims not only eat away the business’ time and effort but in some cases may ruin the business’ existence. Legal claims should be dealt instantly; any delay will only aggravate the tension and loss.

A good business will always be prepared for the future crisis. Having a public liability insurance policy is a wise decision. It provides timely financial help to pay the claimed amount and the legal costs without putting the business at stake.

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Insurance Auto Auctions – Get Great Deals on Salvaged Cars and Trucks

Insurance auto auctions are a great way to get a great deal on salvaged cars and trucks. In fact, the company Insurance Auto Auctions is one of the most commonly used specialists in this area with auto auction locations throughout the United States. The company has been around since the early 1990s providing a variety of auto auction services for car owners, car buyers, and car sellers. If you are looking for a good way to get a car at a cheaper rate, insurance salvage deals are a great option!

Salvage vehicle auctions involve several elements – including a facilitation between buyer and seller as arranged by the Insurance Auto Auctions company. Although IAA is one of the more well known companies in this part of the automotive industry, many other companies exist with the same auto salvage specialty.

Automotive salvage occurs when an insurer considers a vehicle to be a "total loss" in insurance terminology. Essentially, this means that the vehicle is of no use to the insurance provider and the insurance carrier. When this happens, the salvaged vehicle can be sold or parted out. Many major insurance companies work with Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. And similar companies. You will not be surprised to learn that Farmer's Insurance, and even GEICO are just some of the names on the IAA list of regular clients.

Percentage salvage auction sales are more common these days as such companies work hard to get a piece of the action! When a salvaged car is sold at rock-bottom prices, the insurance agency provider is very interested in obtaining rights to at least a small percentage of the insurance auto auction. Since this practice has become more common in recent years, more and more insurance agents and their representatives are seeking percentage shares with companies like Insurance Auto Auctions.

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Characteristics of Universal Life Insurance

As we mentioned in the previous article, universal life (UL) was introduced in 1981-82, in response to a historically high interest environment and a consumer awareness of the value of self-directed investments because traditional insurance could not compete with short-term interest rates.

Here are some characteristics as follow

1. Account Value

The account value of a universal life plan is the sum of the gross values of all the investment accounts within the policy, including income, after deductions for the current month expenses.

2. Cash Surrender Value

The cash surrender value of a universal life plan is the current account value, less outstanding loans and surrender charges. Surrender charges are usually based upon a multiple of the minimum required premium for the policy back-end charges are larger than front-end charges.

3. Premiums & Contributions

Premiums are those amounts needed to pay the cost of insurance charges and other expenses for the policy. Deposits are those excess amounts that are of a pure investment nature.

4. Death Benefit Options

The amount of death benefit payable under a universal life policy is based upon 1 of 4 different options

a)Level death benefit: Level coverage throughout the lifetime of the policy.

b) Level death benefit plus cumulative gross premiums: Death benefit increases by the amount of each gross deposit to the policy.

c) Level death benefit, indexed: The amount of death benefit increases, yearly, by a predetermined percentage.

d) Level death benefit plus account value: The total amount of death benefit is always equal to the initial face amount, plus the gross account value. This is the most popular chose by 90% of universal life insurance policies’ owners because

the gross account value is tax free.

5. Premium Flexibility

The premium deposits, plus accrued investment income, must be sufficient to pay for all expenses and deductions, so as to keep the policy in force, tax exempt life insurance contract, flexible premium.

Universal life is not for every consumer

It’s flexibility tends to be reflected in much higher administration costs than are found in traditional whole life plans and the variable nature of the plan may make it unsuitable for those clients wanting guarantees

I hope this information will help. If you need more information, you can read the complete series of the above subject at my home page:

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OUTLAWED: Six Home Insurance Deal Killers Florida Homeowners Should Be Aware Of

As affordable Home Insurance in Florida gets more difficult to attain, it is extremely important for home owners and future home owners to be fully informed before purchasing a new home or shopping for new home owners insurance.

If one of these SIX conditions exist in the home, "BUYER BEWARE" as insurance may be difficult and potentially impossible to bind.

1) Fuse Panel

A properly installed FUSE PANEL by itself is typically not a safety issue, although most insurance companies have banned this type of electrical service for all new policies written. There are a number of reasons, some of these are noted below.

The main safety issues from fuses come into play when a homeowner replaces a blown fuse with too large of a fuse (ie a blown 15 amp fuse replaced with a 30 amp fuse which is readily available on the utility room shelf). The circuit is designed to "blow" if a load greater than 15 amps passes through. Now the "trigger" is set at 30 amps. An extra 15 amps just might be enough for the wiring or other components to heat up enough to cause a fire or other serious injury or damage.

A typical fuse panel can be replaced with a circuit breaker panel for $ 750 to $ 2,000 depending on any other upgrades that may have to be made in the replacement. Always get a minimum of THREE QUOTES from reputable Contractors before authorizing any work done.

2) Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and Tube Wiring (K & T) was used from the 1880's into the 1930's. This early method of electrical wiring did a great job for many years and is still used today in some select governmental and industrial applications. However this old rubber or cloth covered wiring that strings along on porcelain knobs has outlived its useful life and is no longer insurable or even legal in residential applications per the National Electrical Code.

An average size home re-wire can run from $ 8,000 to $ 20,000 depending on the unique layout and access to electrical components. Always get a minimum of THREE QUOTES from reputable Contractors before authorizing any work done.

3) Aluminum Branch Wiring

In Florida, Aluminum Wiring has been in the spot light since 2010 when tens of thousands of Florida home owners learned they could not get insurance if they have this common wiring that was used frequently between 1965 and 1973.

Aluminum wiring is known to "cold creep". The wiring expanss as it heats up and contracts as it cools down, this can cause the wire to come loose at the connection and this can cause an arc which can heat up fixtures and start fires. Aluminum also oxidizes over time which can contribute to this fire safety issue.

There are two options to get insurance if you have aluminum branch wiring. First, and most costly (but the one we highly recommend) is to completely rewire your branch wiring to copper. This can cost on average, $ 8,000 to $ 20,000 depending on how easily or difficult your electrical components are to access.

The second option is to use AlumiConn or CopAlum crimps that in essence crimp a copper "pig tail" to your aluminum wire so that the copper wiring is what is making the connection to your electrical fixture. This option, on average, costs between $ 1,500 and $ 3,000 depending on how many electrical fixtures there are in the home. We recommend staying away from this when possible as we fear that the ever changing insurance industry may indeed OUTLAW the crimp method as well. We also do not like the idea of ​​going from the average fixture having 3 connections to having 6 connections. The more connections the more chance of failure.

4) Less Than a 100 Amp Electrical Service

A more recent industry change in our "power consumption hungry world" is requiring homes to have 100 amps or more of service feeding the home. With the heavy consumption of electrical power the average homeowner uses, insurance companies appear to be fearful that smaller services can overheat when using typical high consumption appliances.

The cost to upgrade an electrical service can range depending on if the size of the electrical wiring can handle the increased electrical load. If it can not, the feeder line will also have to be replaced. As always, get at least 3 quotes from reputable electrical contractors.

5) Polybutylene Plumbing

This popular plumbing pipe was used heavily through the 1980's and into the early 1990's. It is usually "blue or gray colored", is flexible, and has caused flood damage in thousands of homes across the country. Up until recently a few insurance companies did not ask about the type of plumbing pipe so agents would place homeowners with those companies, however starting September 1, 2012 Citizens Insurance Company specifically outlawed Polybutylene Plumbing.

A typical re-plumbing cost can run from $ 4,000 to $ 10,000 depending on the ease of running the new pipe (in attics or under homes). We recommend using copper or CPVC piping as some insurance companies are also taking issue with PEX pipeline that has become very popular over the past decade. We'll cover more on PEX in a later article.

6) Roof with less than 3 Years of life

The final INSURANCE DEAL KILLER in today's article addresses your first line of defense in a wind or rain event, THE ROOF! If your roof has less than three years of useful life left on it you will likely be denied insurance coverage. In our hot Florida sunshine, an average three tab shingle roof will last between 10 and 15 years. An average dimensional shingle roof will last between 15 and 25 years. Other popular roofing options include tile and metal roofing. These options have significantly longer life expectancy of upwards of 50 years if installed and maintained properly.

A re-roof is normally calculated on a per square basis. A square is equal to 100 sq ft of shingle. In the Pensacola area that per square cost can run anywhere from $ 225 to $ 300 per square making the average 30 square roof cost between $ 6,750 and $ 9,000 depending on the quality of products used.

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Problem #1

Prospects have more sales resistance training than agents usually have in sales presentation skill.

Prospect response to insurance agents is designed to get as much information as possible and be in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead insurance agents about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.

The prospect intent is designed to turn agents into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their quotes to compare with their current agent or a competitor.

When prospects have what they need, they stop returning the agent’s phone calls.

Does this make prospects bad people?

Of course not.

We all use this system for dealing with salespeople…it’s almost second nature.

Why do prospects do this?

It’s simple.

It works.

The stereotype of an agent is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a way to deal with agents. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of agents that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall.

So how do most agents deal with the prospects system of defense? Most play right into it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. The agent eagerly:

o gives their knowledge

o makes commitments without getting any in return

o wastes resources on pursuing deals that will never close

o gives quotes to non-prospects who never buy

o misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale

How do most sales organizations contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts products fit best with.

The solution: Train agents on a systematic approach to making presentations so they have “a track to run on.” The training should balance both the prospect and agent’s best interest.

Problem #2

Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.

A manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they give quotes to the prospect.” Why is this true?

Agents don’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry, they are afraid they will lose something they don’t have. Most agents think their job is to close everybody.

Over the years sales training has emphasized, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Insurance agents are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial closes…always be closing…and yes, even be manipulative. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to shield themselves!

Prospects realize agents don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do, they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a agent is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?

The solution: Agents need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects in, not qualifying them out. The top agents learn to ask the hard questions up-front, saving precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most agents, but it can take all the pressure off the agent and increase productivity. This approach allows prospects to feel in control, this then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold.”

Problem #3

Agents talk too much.

A manager recently said, “My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my agents don’t understand them or their issues.

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”

So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reason, not the agents reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, the agent just becomes another agent to the prospect, and then to the prospect, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach insurance agents to stop regurgitating to the prospect and start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions.

Questions gather information. Ask questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does during an office visit. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.

Problem #4

Weak Agents focus on price.

Price is never the real issue! Agents focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have, or improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.

The solution: Teach agents to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in making sales.

Problem #5

Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting.”

Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Agents, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Unpaid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospects problem, which is where it belongs.

The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our agents need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.

Problem #6

Agents fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front. Many insurance agents are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many agents avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that agents have.

The solution: Knowing whether there is money upfront will help the insurance agent distinguish between a prospects who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to management, where resources are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your agents to find out two things about money:

o How much the problem is costing the prospect; in other words the amount at risk.

o How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.

Without a candid discussion about money, the agent is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Problem #7

Agents fail to get firm commitments from prospects.

Insurance agents are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a quote, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive.

How many quotes has your team/distribution sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your team/distribution on an annual basis to do quotes that go nowhere?

The solution: Agents must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects’ level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.

Problem #8

Lack of sufficient prospecting.

A quote from a manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.'” All professional agents will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar?

o Over 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales

o And 80% of all new agents who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

The Solution: Insurance agents need to develop a realistic activity plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.

Problem #9

The insurance agent has a strong need for approval.

It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be an insurance agent.” You end up with an insurance agent that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite: a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.

The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to ask pre-hire screening questions that helps to hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.

Problem #10

Insurance agents don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and CPAs’ all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many insurance agents are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to invest in top performers and help them grow their skills. Ego stunts your growth so managers have to be willing to set their ego aside and be willing to grow, modeling behavior that demonstrates it is more important to the manager to be effective than to be right. We can all learn from each other.

In Summary:

Hiring: Distributions, supervisors and managers must complete, step-by-step, a formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Look to hire goal achievers not goal setters. Most managers hire goal setters and are surprised when agents never achieve their goals. The truth is the agent only had a wish list. Ask the agent when interviewing or coaching to describe goals they set and “how” they achieved the goal. If they didn’t achieve then it was it a goal or only a wish list?

Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.

Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective recruiting, hiring, coaching, growing, and developing agents. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance from yourself and your agent, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your team production-if you are not meeting standards. how can you expect to hold your agents accountable?. In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect. Remember, you manage things – you lead people.

Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time.

Phone scripts and rebuttals are intended to assist in moving your management and sales career forward or allowing you to increase you current volume of business.

Remember these are only meant to be sales tools, they do not work, you have to work them.

The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.

Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!

The clock starts NOW!

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