July 26, 2018, 7:01 AM

How to Prepare for a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

By Modera's Financial Planning Committee

There’s little to like about experiencing a loss of personal property in your home. But the process of recouping your loss can be made much easier by preparing and knowing what to do if you need to file an insurance claim.

Pre-Loss Preparation

Proof of purchase and supporting evidence of ownership provided to the insurance company are likely to boost a claim’s credibility. Therefore, to help the claims process go smoothly, plan ahead, be organized and keep accurate records before a loss occurs. 

There are a several steps homeowners can take ahead of time:

  • Create a home inventory worksheet documenting the contents, descriptions and values of items in each room.
  • Make a video of each room in the house and talk aloud about the items within. In addition to videos, take close-up photos at different angles of the more valuable items. Use the highest quality camera available, but newer mobile phones can usually take adequate videos and photos.
  • Keep all relevant documentation, including receipts, credit card statements, instruction manuals with serial numbers, and one copy of the latest insurance policy, for reference. Put all hard copies in a fireproof safe.
  • Create digital file copies of all of the above and save them in an online or “cloud” storage system such as Dropbox, OneDrive or Box. This way, regardless of the circumstances of the loss, these files will remain safe and accessible. It will also protect the integrity of the documents from their original state, as some receipts and other paper documents can be easily damaged or begin to fade.

Homeowners must review these preparations regularly, particularly if making larger-valued purchases in the interim. It is an ongoing process but worth the effort if you want to recoup losses. 

Post-Loss Checklist

In the event of an actual loss, keep the following checklist handy. It can take some of the emotion out of a bad situation and help more efficiently implement the necessary steps toward loss recovery:

  • Take an inventory of losses: Take pictures and make a list of destroyed, damaged or stolen property (including date and location of loss, where applicable). When possible, save a portion of the damaged property, such as flooring or carpeting, to help document the loss. Separate damaged from undamaged goods, prepare an inventory list of all items and resist throwing anything away (if you discard items, the insurance company may refuse to compensate you). Discuss salvage efforts with the adjuster before disposing of damaged property.
  • Review your insurance policy and make note of the policy number prior to contacting the insurance company.
  • Notify the necessary authorities: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after a loss is incurred. In the case of vandalism, theft or injury, also notify the police promptly and retain a copy of any police reports. Bank and credit card companies may also need to be contacted, depending on the situation.
  • Keep a paper trail: Retain and file all expenses and receipts of any property that is replaced. Insist on detailed invoices for all loss expenses. Write down and save the claims number that is assigned. Request all insurance-related information in writing (e.g., via email) wherever possible.
  • Don’t make hasty judgements: When losses are severe, avoid premature guesses, overly optimistic evaluations or quick settlements. 
  • Above all, stay safe!

While the above suggestions should prepare you under many circumstances, every situation is different and claims processes will vary by carrier. It is always advisable in pre-loss preparation to call the insurance company’s service department and verify their particular guidelines for preparing for and submitting claims. For example, ask them if they require the replacement of the items (in which case they may require submission of receipts for reimbursement) or if they mail a claims check based on the size of the claim.

Planning ahead, being organized and maintaining good records in a safe place can all make a huge difference in smoothing the claims process. Please contact your Modera Wealth Manager if you have questions about your specific situation when it comes to preparedness for loss claims. We are always here to help and welcome your questions and comments.

Modera Wealth Management, LLC is an SEC registered investment adviser.  SEC registration does not imply any level of skill or training.  Modera may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from notice filing requirements. 

For information pertaining to Modera’s registration status, its fees and services and/or a copy of our Form ADV disclosure statement, please contact Modera or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov).  A full description of the firm’s business operations and service offerings is contained in our Disclosure Brochure which appears as Part 2A of Form ADV.  Please read the Disclosure Brochure carefully before you invest or send money.

This article contains content that is not suitable for everyone and is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Modera’s financial planning, investing and wealth management services.  Nothing contained herein should be interpreted as legal, tax or accounting advice nor should it be construed as personalized financial planning, tax, investing or other advice.  For legal, tax and accounting-related matters, we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney or accountant.  This article is not a substitute for personalized financial planning from Modera, and there is no guarantee that the views and opinions herein will come to pass.


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