By Ruth Owens Parsons, CLU, ChFC, CPCU
Spring has arrived officially, though we’ve been fortunate enough here in North Georgia to have had lovely weather a little earlier than usual this year. The flowers and warm weather, art shows and festivals, concerts and sporting events, and weddings, of course, are all things that inspire us to get outside and get active, and to enjoy life with our family and friends. With my mind on the excitement and busyness of all things spring, I had to really stop and consider what risk would be shared across all of these seasonal events, and…. It’s getting out of the house!
Because these activities are typically not held at your home, they all present the same exposure and all of them can involve personal property that requires special coverage. Unlike personal property at your home, personal property that moves around requires protection that the average home insurance policy likely offers little, if any, coverage for off your premises. Some examples of this “movable” property would be the jewelry you wear to a wedding, a musical instrument used in a spring concert, or even sports equipment being lugged around from game to game. Sometimes these items aren’t just movable, but they could also be high value or specialty items. Their mobility, uniqueness, and/or high value are all reasons for special insurance. This is commonly referred to as Inland Marine, or a “floater” policy. Funny name, huh? The name originates from early boat cargo insurance which protected the cargo of ships as they crossed oceans. Once the cargo would move from ocean ports to inland waterways, they required ‘inland marine’ protection. For the purpose of insuring the cargo as it traveled across oceans, the items and their value, should there be a loss to the ship, must be established in advance of the ship leaving the port. Your items, which leave the home premises, similarly must be valued in advance of a loss. For example, if you lose a diamond ring in the grass at a spring concert, a valuation determined BEFORE the loss is necessary, since it can’t be evaluated after the fact!
The mobility of these items also exposes them to new hazards which aren’t considered by a homeowner policy, such as a mysterious disappearance, aka, losing something. Since you can’t “lose” your house, the homeowner policy doesn’t consider it as a covered peril, or risk. It makes sense then to insure valuable musical instruments, expensive athletic equipment like golf clubs, and jewelry due to their high value and mobility. But what about items which are high value and/or unique that don’t usually leave the house? Perhaps while out this spring perusing an antique market, you come across a fabulous antique table for a steal. This item’s uniqueness, due to the likelihood that it would be difficult to replace with another one like it, makes it a candidate for inland marine coverage as well. As in the other examples, an appraisal would be required to determine a value for coverage. The same could apply for a beautiful piece of art. Art and antiques, in particular, need to be appraised by a professional and updated periodically, so your investment is protected over time. Updating the appraisal every few years is inexpensive after the initial appraisal and should be sent to the insuring agent for coverage updates.
Now you know about the risk your personal property faces this spring and your option to protect it. Maybe now a call to let your insurance agent know about that new $2,000 violin you bought Junior would be appropriate. That way when Junior tells you he’s not sure if he remembered to grab that violin when he left the spring concert try-outs, you’ll have peace of mind.