Through decades of working with couples, we have found that policy onboarding and coverage decision making often falls predominantly to one spouse. This is generally a fine approach. However, our experience has also shown that it is extremely important for the other spouse to have at least some knowledge of what is and is not protected by those policies. Here are several reasons why:
Your spouse brings a different set of facts to the family’s risk management.
Many couples find life to be smoother when familial responsibilities are divvied up, but consider the family in which one spouse buys all the art while the other deals with the insurance. It’s not hard to imagine that some important coverage considerations could be missed, such as pieces not being scheduled and transit or restoration issues not being included.
A lack of knowledge often leads to frustration in the claims process.
Spouses who have not been involved in insurance conversations are likely to make assumptions about how coverage applies and even what is and isn’t covered. Many people, for example, think a flood policy covers water damage from any cause when, in fact, it pertains only to damage perpetrated by rising surface waters. Insurance advisors clarify such information during onboarding and review periods—but only to those privy to such discussions. Those who are not may well be confused and upset when a loss occurs.
Things slip through the cracks.
This issue most often arises around the holidays, when one spouse is not aware that an insurance advisor needs to know about big gifts like jewelry, watches and artwork. But it is a problem we see year-round, such as when a spouse does not know that newly acquired $50,000 bottle of burgundy won’t be fully insured by the family’s $25,000 wine coverage limit.
An uninformed spouse can put coverage in jeopardy.
In today’s tough market, many insurance carriers are not looking to renew policy holders that have repetitive claims or whose risk exposures become increasingly hazardous. Uninformed spouses, then, can unknowingly do something that jeopardizes ongoing coverage. For example, maybe they say something at the scene of an accident or they call a carrier directly when reporting a claim which is then negatively misinterpreted impacting both the claim and future of the family policy.
Knowledge matters in the event of death or divorce.
The less-involved spouse needs to have their own familiarity about what is and isn’t covered, who to contact, and how to handle future matters because their spouse may not be there to depend on.
Here is how we suggest you bring your spouse up to speed, quickly and easily.
Set up a call with your insurance advisor specifically for this purpose.
Rather than the primary insurance handler acting as messenger or go-between, we strongly encourage clients to get their insurance professional to lead this conversation. That will ensure all information is up-to-date and accurate. Let your advisor know the purpose of the conversation in advance so they know to be detailed and comprehensive. In fact, the conversation might actually begin to pay dividends immediately, as the newly looped-in spouse often raises concerns or risks the other had not previously addressed.
Establish a secure place to keep all relevant information.
This can be a physical or virtual space as long as it is one you and your spouse can each find, including essential contact information and paperwork for policies and past claims.
Discuss what to do before a loss.
Perhaps most importantly, your spouse needs to be taught what to do—and not do—during a crisis. Again, you do not want them to call the carrier directly, as an error in communication could result in a denial. Instead, make sure they contact your account executive or the 24/7 claims team, so these professionals can best represent your case to the carrier.
We well understand how complicated day-to-day family life can be. But we promise that a brief conversation with us and your spouse about the family insurance portfolio today can eliminate avoidable problems down the line. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to set up a conversation with the both of you about your coverage.