What kinds of questions should I expect to answer? Why do you need so much information?

Basically, we need to know who you are and what assets you have that needs to be protected. We will usually ask general questions first to get some information about you and your family. That includes:

  • Name (you and others you want on your policy)
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Marriage Status
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License Number

These questions help our carriers determine your Insurance Score. Your Insurance Score plays a big part in your premium so the more information you can give us, the more accurate quote we can provide you.

How does the quote process work and how long does it take?

After we gather your basic information, we will start asking questions about your assets (i.e. home, cars, boat) in order to determine what types and levels of coverage you need.

At that point, you can sit back and relax while you let us do the work for you. We’ll get back to you (typically within 8 business hours) with our recommendations and help you to make a decision. It might seem overwhelming, but we do all the heavy lifting and are always there to help you along the way.


I have an older car whose current market value is very low – do I really need to purchase automobile insurance?

Yes… and it depends. Most states have laws that require drivers to have liability insurance for their vehicles. This is to cover the other driver’s expenses should you be found at fault in an accident. There are other optional coverages that may or may not be beneficial to you, such as comprehensive and collision coverage. We’ll get into those details in a later question, but we recommend you get quoted on all your options and then we’ll work together to determine what you need and what you don’t. As your broker, it’s our job to protect your assets. That includes not spending money that you don’t need to.

What is the difference between collision physical damage coverage and comprehensive physical damage coverage?

Collision is defined as losses you incur when your automobile collides with another car or object. For example, if you hit a car in a parking lot, the damages to your car will be paid under your collision coverage.

Comprehensive provides coverage for most other direct physical damage losses you could incur, including theft. For example, damage to your car from a hailstorm will be covered under your comprehensive coverage.

What factors can affect the cost of my car insurance?

There’s quite a few factors that affect your premium, but the ones of note are the car you drive, your driving record, past claims or accidents (even “not at fault” claims count), what you use your car for (business, commute, pleasure use, etc.), youthful drivers on the policy, insurance score and the list goes on…

The bottom line is this, the more information you give us the more we can help you. As your broker, we work for you. We aren’t trying to play “gotcha”. We are trying to line you up with the carrier that fits your driving profile, which in turn helps to better protect you.


What are some practical things I can do to lower the cost of my homeowners insurance?

One surefire way is to raise your deductible, but it’s not always the best option for you. Let us review your current policy and we can evaluate your coverage to make sure you’re properly covered and then shop around for the carrier that fits your situation.

Things like security systems, deadbolt locks, and a new roof help bring the premium down as well. Those are all things we can identify during our Needs Analysis to ensure we are keeping both your home and wallet protected.

What does homeowners’ insurance cover?

The typical homeowners’ policy has two main sections: Section I covers the property of the insured and Section II provides personal liability coverage for the insured. Almost anyone who owns or leases property has a need for this type of insurance. Usually, homeowners’ insurance is required by the lender to obtain a mortgage.

What is the difference between “actual cash value” and “replacement cost”?

Actual Cash Value, or ACV, takes depreciation into account when paying a covered claim while Replacement Cost, or RCV, will pay to replace the piece of property with one of similar type at the current prices.

RCV really shines when you need to replace furniture, televisions, and other high value items covered under your Personal Property coverage or even things like the roof of a home. Having to pay the difference between ACV and current market price of a new roof really makes the RCV an option you should seriously consider. 

What factors should I consider when purchasing homeowners insurance?

There are a number of factors you should consider when purchasing any product or service, and insurance is no different.

Here is a checklist of things you should consider when you purchase homeowners insurance.

  • Make sure you are properly covered. That means not being over- or under-insured. There are many factors to consider when determining the amount over coverage you need on your home and your possessions. We will walk you through it and help you determine what best suits your needs.
  • Determine if you need any additional endorsements on your policy. An endorsement is “add on” insurance for things like high-value jewelry, firearms, earthquake, etc. We’ll help you assess your needs and make recommendations. It sounds overwhelming, but we’re here to make sure it isn’t.
  • Make sure there are no coverage gaps. A home is one of most people’s biggest investments… don’t leave its protection to the guy trying to save you time and money. Let us conduct a Needs Analysis with you to ensure your biggest investment is protected (and it usually doesn’t take much longer then the guys trying to sell you on saving time).

What are the policy limits (i.e., coverage limits) in the standard homeowners policy?

A simplified way of looking at it is that a standard homeowner policy covers the home, any other structures on the property, the stuff inside the home, and the people that live in the home.

There are many different limits of coverage, types of coverage, etc. that our various carriers offer. We feel these are very important points of discussion and take them too seriously to just list out in the FAQ. Call us and let us tell you about them. We want to make sure we get this right for you.

Where and when is my personal property covered?

Personal property (except property that is specifically excluded) is covered anywhere in the world. On most policies for example, suppose that while traveling, you purchased a dresser and you want to ship it home. Your homeowners’ policy would provide coverage for the named perils while the dresser is in transit — even though the dresser has never been in your home before. 


How much life insurance should an individual own?

The purpose of life insurance is to ensure your loved ones are taken care of when you pass away. Some agents will give you a “rule of thumb” to go by and wait for you to make a decision. At River Tree, we are more strategic than that. We take into account multiple factors such as policies already in place (i.e. employer provided), outstanding debts like home or business loans, earned income, number of financial dependents, and several other factors. After analyzing all the data, we make recommendations on the type, amounts, and/or combination of the types and amounts so that your family is still taken care of after you are gone.

What about purchasing life insurance on a spouse and on children?

This is definitely something you should consider, but only after you have purchased life insurance for the main “breadwinners” of the family. Even if one spouse doesn’t work outside the home, they still need coverage to pay for services they provide such as caring for children or other family members.

We also recommend life insurance for children. Getting smaller policies on them can be viewed almost as disability insurance for the parents in the event of the untimely death of a child. The life insurance benefits would allow the parents to take a leave of absence from work in order to recover from the tragic loss

What’s the difference between term and permanent insurance?

For starters, the definition is in the name of each, but we’ll go a little deeper than that.

Term is usually purchased for a 20- or 30-year period and it’s historically used to cover debts that you won’t always have like a mortgage, car payments, business loans, or educational expenses. Since it expires at the end of the designated term, it is cheaper than permanent insurance.

Permanent, like the name says, doesn’t expire (unless you quit paying the premium). There are many types of permanent that we can discuss with you, but they all mainly focus on retirement and estate planning. Some policies allow you to borrow from the cash value of the policy. Since it doesn’t expire, it is more expensive.

The best option for most people is usually a combination of the two. Give us a call so we can see what’s right for you.

Is there a policy that can provide income for me in the event I get disabled and can no longer pursue my current profession?

Yes, it’s called Disability Income Insurance. It’s designed to replace anywhere from 45 – 65% of your gross income on a tax-free basis should an illness or injury prevent you from returning to your current profession. There are several different types of Disability Income Insurance available. If you give us a call, we’ll be glad to help you figure out which one is best for you and your family.


Why would I want to buy renters insurance?

If you live in an apartment or a rented house, renters’ insurance provides important coverage for both you and your possessions. A standard renters’ policy protects your personal property in many cases of theft or damage and may pay for temporary living expenses if your rental is damaged. It can also cover your personal liability up to the specified limit. Anyone who leases a house or apartment should consider this type of coverage.

How does a renters’ policy protect my personal property?

A renters’ insurance policy provides named perils coverage. This means that the policy only pays when your property is damaged or destroyed by any of the ways specifically described in the policy. These usually include:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Explosions
  • Riots
  • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
  • Freezing
  • Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current
  • Volcanic eruptions (but this doesn’t include earthquake or tremors)

Renters’ coverage applies to your personal property no matter where you are in the world. This means you’re covered when you are on vacation as well as at home.

Why do some apartment complexes require tenants to have renters’ insurance?

Owners of apartment complexes buy insurance policies for their liability and to cover their buildings and personal property. However, these policies do not cover any of the tenant’s property or liability. By requiring their tenants to have renters insurance, the apartment owner is assured that the tenants will not mistakenly believe the apartment complex owner’s policy will provide coverage for a tenant’s property or personal liability. Although this type of requirement benefits that apartment complex owner, there are benefits to the renter as well. We recommend that you purchase renters’ insurance regardless of what your landlord requires.

What if I share my apartment with a roommate? Do we both need to have renters insurance?

Yes. Most renters’ policies are only going to cover your personal property or that of a relative that lives with you.


What is a personal umbrella liability policy?

We like to call it your “sleep well” policy. It acts as a backup, so to speak, to your liability coverage in your home and/or auto policies. For instance, if you are “at fault” in an accident and get sued, your umbrella policy offers higher limits if you are sued for more than your auto policy covers.

When you compare the small expense to what the policy provides, this one is a no-brainer.