How to choose the perfect appraiser for your property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other valuables

appraiserIf you have highly valuable, treasured property or possessions, you may need to get them appraised for insurance purposes. Many insurance carriers will insist on accurate valuation of property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other items so they can ensure the correct level of coverage and premium payment.

When you’re seeking out a good appraiser, here are some areas to consider:

Talk to your friends and colleagues

If you know other people who need to insure high-value items, talk to them about their experiences. Get recommendations on good appraisers and create a shortlist.

Look at professional qualifications

There are a variety of professional accreditations and qualifications depending on the fields an appraiser trains in. These include:

  • International Society of Appraiser’s credentials for fine art, antiques, and personal property.
  • A diploma in gemology for jewelry appraisal.
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice exam for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Principles of Valuation courses for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Property appraisers should have one of the following designations from the Appraisal Institute — MAI Designation, SRPA Designation, SRA Designation, AI-GRS Designation, AI-RRS Designation.

There are various other exams and certifications available. Always check an appraiser’s qualifications to ensure they’re qualified to provide expert advice.

Check if they’re members of professional appraiser organizations

There are several industry bodies for appraisers. They include:

Many of these websites have membership directories for their appraisers.

Professional appraisers are required to uphold a strong code of ethics, including:

  • Providing truly independent valuation services, with no external influences.
  • Have no outside interest in the valued item, other than as providing a professional service.
  • Only carry out appraisal work in their area of expertise.
  • Consider all relevant factors when arriving at a valuation.
  • Treat and document property with the right level of care and respect.
  • Ensure personal remuneration and pay is independent of the value of property being appraised.

Interview your shortlist

When you have a shortlist of appraisers, call each one and ask questions about their area of expertise, qualifications, professional standards, and membership of industry bodies. Get a feel for what each appraiser is like and use that to decide which one would be right for your needs.

Remember that valuations change with time, many carriers will require updated valuations on a regular basis.

As always, if you have any questions about your scheduled property or how to get your property appraised, we are a phone call away!

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager


How High-Net-Worth Individuals Can Protect Their Assets from Lawsuits

Flood Insurance Rethinking Coastal LivingHigh-net-worth individuals face a greater risk of being sued, especially when unemployment is high and economic growth is tenuous.

According to a survey by ACE Private Risk Services, 80% of households with $5 million or more in assets believe their wealth makes them a target for lawsuits. These are real fears. Under the doctrine of joint and several liability, any defendant can be held accountable for a plaintiff’s injury, so smart lawyers will target the defendant with the highest net worth.

In spite of this, less than 40% have coverage of more than $5 million and 21% have no coverage at all.

Many wealthy families leave themselves open to liability and preventable lawsuits for two reasons:

  1. They underestimate the cost of damages they could be forced to pay.
  2. They assume the cost of effective protection is higher than it really is.

Typical homeowners’ and auto insurance policies will only cover $300,000 to $500,000 in damages, but lawsuits in the millions are common.

It’s important to purchase coverage that prepares for the extreme cases, not just the likely ones. Trusts and foreign accounts can shield some assets from litigation, but courts have tremendous reach. The best way to protect yourself is with excess liability or umbrella liability insurance.

Both policies are far cheaper than most people realize. They often cost just a few hundred dollars per policy for millions of dollars of coverage. This cost can be offset with slightly higher deductibles in other policies.

People often confuse umbrella liability insurance and excess liability insurance. While both protect people and businesses from dramatic loses by giving them access to additional coverage, they have a few differences.

What is excess liability insurance?

Excess liability insurance is an extension for another type of liability insurance. When a claim is reported to your insurance company, the underlying primary policy is the first to pay. If there are more damages, the excess liability insurance picks up the rest (up to your policy limit).

Excess liability insurance adds additional coverage to only that policy. It can’t be applied to another policy. If coverage isn’t provided by your underlying policy, it isn’t provided by the excess liability policy either. Excess liability insurance usually pays for the legal costs of defending the claim.

What is umbrella liability insurance?

Umbrella liability insurance is similar to excess liability insurance, but it can be applied to multiple underlying policies. It can also cover claims that are not included in the underlying policies.

For an umbrella policy to cover a claim, clients need to pay self-insured retention. This is like a deductible, but it’s paid directly to the claimant.

It’s important to make sure your policies work together without gaps. For example, if your umbrella policy is set to pay damages in excess of $500,000, make sure your other policies cover you up to $500,000. If there’s a gap, you could be forced to pay.

For the best protection, combine your insurance policies with a single company. This reduces the overall cost of your insurance and provides a single, coordinated legal defense in the event of a lawsuit.

Rachel Winslow

Personal Lines Account Executive

How High-Net-Worth Individuals Can Protect Their Assets from Lawsuits


Are You Protecting Your Invaluable Collections?

How to Insure Valuables Fine Art, Wine, Jewelry & MoreOver the years, you may have developed a knowledge and love of wine and picked up a few special bottles, which turned into a few more and, before you knew it, you had an extensive – and expensive – wine collection.  What would happen if there was a flood in your home or you experienced a power outage that impacted your temperature-controlled cedar wine cellar? 

From wine to art to fine jewelry to exotic cars and yachts, many people fail to recognize these items that they enjoy for their aesthetic or leisurely qualities as the valuable investments they truly are and therefore, don’t properly protect them.   

Additionally, as people do estate planning, they also often overlook outlining their plans for these non-traditional valuables, like an antique jewelry collection or Bentley.

Here are five tips to ensure you properly protect your collections:

  • Secure Specialized and Periodic Appraisals: Make sure the person appraising your items has   expertise in your type of collectible so you get the most accurate appraisalRe-appraise your collectibles every two to three years and make sure you share them with your financial advisor, insurance company, tax attorney and estate planner so they can understand the value of your collection and the potential risks and benefits within your overall portfolio as well as any implications to your charitable giving wishes or estate planning.
  • Keep a Detailed Inventory: Document your collectibles, where and when they were purchased and for how much.  Update every time a new item is added to the collection and ensure there’s a complete, properly appraised inventory at all times as well as information on where certificates of authenticity are housed.
  • Assemble a Smart and Specialized Advisory Team Early: Work with an insurance firm, financial planner, tax attorney and estate planner who have expertise protecting and planning for the issues associated with these non-traditional investments.  It’s important to do this early, as your collection could have implications on your overall wealth, taxes and estate plans as it grows or diminishes in value.
  • Properly Insure your Collectibles: Make sure you choose an insurance company with expertise in providing coverage for your unique collection and coverage options that would truly account for their value.   These prized collections often mistakenly get tacked onto an existing homeowner’s insurance policy with very limited coverage that would never provide the value they truly hold if they needed to be replaced.
  • Make an Early Succession Plan: Whether you want to hand down your fine art collection to your son, donate it to a museum or have it auctioned off for charity, be sure to work with your team to detail your plans and to get their input on how to properly include them in your estate planning. 

By treating your collectibles like your other assets, you can enjoy your passions and ensure their potential returns and risks are managed and that they’re properly protected.  This will allow you – and your loved ones –to enjoy your collections now and in the future.

Mary McGrath

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Mary McGrath

Thinking about hiring domestic staff? Following these smart practices will help minimize risk

Steve DavisBusy professionals reaching ever higher levels of success often find that as their assets grow, free time shrinks. To recapture some of life’s most precious and ever dwindling commodity, many families hire domestic staff in the form of housekeepers, nannies, drivers, chefs, and other personal service providers.

Once your family’s needs go beyond just having a weekly cleaning service for some laundry and light dusting, you may be considering retaining full- or part-time employees to tackle a variety of tasks, including childcare and elder adult care.

Before doing so, it pays to have a comprehensive risk management strategy in place that will protect your financial assets and more importantly you and your family members against a new suite of potential perils that come with the territory.

Best practices for hiring domestic help start with proper screening procedures and continue with having the right insurance in place. Indeed, there’s really no difference between hiring someone to help in your personal life versus hiring a new employee at your business.

Too many smart executives, who wouldn’t dream of hiring a key employee who didn’t thI7C1CJFQundergo a substantial vetting process, don’t follow that same practice when hiring someone at home — even though domestic employees may have unlimited access to their home, knowledge of financial affairs, credit/debit card privileges, driving duties, and most importantly, unsupervised responsibility for the safety of children or elderly parents on a daily basis.

Whether you’ve already employed domestic staff or are just thinking about it, here are several aspects to consider, courtesy of our partners at ACE Private Risk Services.

The laws are complex — The U.S. Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and Fair Labor Standards Act each have a strict set of guidelines for families employing domestic staff to follow. Each state also has its own labor department with guidelines. Violating these guidelines can result in fines and liability lawsuits that are not only costly but damaging to a family’s reputation. Is your new hire an employee or independent contractor? What are the tax implications of hiring a domestic employee? What are your obligations to pay overtime and how is it measured?

You’ll need a team — To answer these important questions and to help with other aspects of hiring domestic help, you should seek guidance from a range of experts, including household risk advisors, attorneys, accountants, employment agencies, background checking firms, identity theft consultants, and insurance agents.

It pays to be thorough — These advisors can help perform a comprehensive screening process that includes substantial background checks, interviews, reference checks, and document validation. In addition, they can write employee contracts and produce an employee manual that clearly spells out expectations for all parties.

You’ll need more than the typical insurance portfolio — Even the best household management practices cannot completely eliminate all risk. Insurance plays a critical role. At Sinclair Risk, we’ve helped many high-achieving families manage risk associated with hiring and employing domestic staff. We work with carriers that offer comprehensive insurance coverage that protects against perils such as reputation damage, kidnap and ransom, and other perils that the average household does not face. Talk to us today about how we can help you navigate the complex world of employing domestic staff.

Stephen Davis
Vice President

Hiring a contractor? Don’t get caught without ‘Additional Insured’ protection

It’s that time in your home’s life that fortunately only comes around once every 20 to 25 years or so…roof replacement time! Or maybe it’s time to tackle a big task with a shorter life span, like painting the house.

Either way, for projects at this scale you wisely skip the DIY approach and instead find yourself in the market for a contractor.

Let’s take roof replacement as an example. The roofer contractor you’ve zeroed in on came with a great recommendation from a friend, supported by an attractive portfolio and sharp online presence. Is he insured? Of course! You sign a contract, pick out the shingles and are ready to go, right? Not so fast.

Even though your contractor has proof of insurance and you carry homeowner’s insurance, you could still face a coverage gap and corresponding risk, plus the potential of higher premiums should you have to file a claim on your policy because of a peril related to your roofing project.

To close the gap and eliminate all potential pitfalls, make sure your roofer at the very least adds you as an “additional insured” to his general liability policy before you sign the contract. It’s easy and cost efficient for him to do so and the right move for both of you.

When you’re added as an additional insured, it means the insurance carrier underwriting the policy extends its coverage to you for a certain term. There are many reasons for why this can come in quite handy. Consider these two examples:

Your contractor is in your attic checking the roof sheeting. It’s dark and he accidently falls through a hole in the floor and gets hurt. If you are named as an additional insured, you’re protected against a lawsuit because his policy coverage for accidents such as this now Constructionapplies to you as well. However, as part of the contract between you and the roofer, it’s important to include a “waiver of subrogation clause, which would prevent the contractor’s insurer from pursuing your insurance company (or you) for costs related to any worker’s compensation claim that may be filed. No claims filed against your policy means your premiums stay in check.

Another important clause to your additional insured policy is “completed operations” coverage, which essentially means the coverage survives the end of the job. Let’s suppose the roof is complete and the contractor has cleaned up and gone on to his next job. The following day, a UPS driver is walking up your driveway to deliver a package and steps on an overlooked roofing nail, causing an injury. The driver sues, but since this was the fault of the roofing company AND you had additional insured with completed operations coverage, the roofer’s insurance carrier is still yours in this case and will handle the litigation and any payout. You are liability free and again, your homeowner’s insurance stays untouched.

Additional insured clauses are an easy way to protect yourself when contractors are working on your home. They are commonly used and take almost no time to secure, so make sure you insist on one for your next home improvement project.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant


How shopping for a cell phone can lead to identity theft

_JBK5366We all know that acquiring the latest and greatest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S comes with a price, but in the case of 15 million consumers, it also came with the now real threat of serious identity theft.

The New York Times recently reported that hackers stole data of T-Mobile customers from the credit reporting bureau Experian, one of the “big three” data conglomerates that has files on nearly all of us.

The wide-ranging breach affects customers and those who provided information but never actually became customers, from Sept. 1, 2013, to last month. Hackers stole Social Security numbers, home addresses, birthdates, and other personal information.

Now, those who innocently shopped for a cell phone two or three years ago (or even just a few weeks ago!) have to worry about things like false tax returns and loan applicationsGLobal security concept filed in their name.

Scary, and becoming all too common. Remember Target’s 40 million customer data breach in 2013?

Fittingly, October is Cyber Liability Month, which is a good time to think about how protect yourself. You can’t control the security practices of every company you do business with, but you can take steps to minimize the damage if you are one of the unfortunate few caught up in a breach.

Watch for it — Don’t ignore odd mail from financial institutions you don’t recognize. It might be a sales pitch, but it might be correspondence about “your” new loan. On the flip side, if financial mail you are supposed to receive suddenly stops, it could be a sign of a fraudulent change of address.

Know your credit — You can get a free credit report once a year from the “big three” bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Trans Union) at Continually monitor by marking your calendar to pull a report from just ONE of them every four months (Jan. 1, May 1, Sept. 1). Certain credit cards will provide you with your actual credit score for free, which is valuable if you’re loan shopping. But to guard against identity theft, you need to be proactive and check the reports themselves for fraudulent accounts. Even if the thief is paying on time, you don’t want anybody piggybacking on your good credit.

If you’re a victim — First, don’t panic. Notify the “big three” and insist a “fraud alert” warning be added to your record. Document all fraudulent activity and share with the bureaus. Get in touch with us to discuss how your homeowner’s insurance will provide coverage that will help you.

Though homeowner’s policies do include identity theft coverage, everybody’s needs are different, so talk to us today to make sure you have the right coverage in place.

Steve Davis

Don’t get caught without kidnap and ransom insurance

_JBK5366Once you’re above the preteen years, kidnap and ransom sounds like a rather exotic peril…something that only happens to drug kingpins on shadowy, private islands. But the threat for adults is real, especially for high net worth individuals who travel internationally.

How real? Well, author Ann Auerbach spent two years chronicling kidnap and ransom cases and estimated more than 30,000 take place every year. The FBI says there are more 60,000 missing American adults whose disappearance is unexplained and for whom there’s a reasonable concern about their safety.

For United States citizens, high net worth — or just the perception of it — equals high profile and the assumption by nefarious elements of ready access to liquid capital. It’s a tempting combination for brazen criminals thinking they can score a big payoff by taking a hostage and demanding cash for his or her release.6 1 Davis Kidnap and Ransom V2

The costs of a kidnapping incident go beyond any ransom demanded. Paying a ransom — if it’s even advisable! — is certainly not a simple task.  It could require a small army of consultants and advisors such as negotiators, investigators, attorneys, public relations professionals, forensic analysts, and a security force, to name a few. Reward money and extensive medical costs not covered by traditional insurance plans add to the grim picture. No matter how successful you may be, it adds up to a potentially significant financial drain.

You may even be blackmailed for payments without even being taken hostage! In some cases, perpetrators make increasingly detailed and scary threats to the safety of you, your family, and your employees, demanding payment to make it stop.

Thankfully, there are insurance products that can help mitigate this potential financial jeopardy and provide expert support from firms who specialize in handling this type of crisis. They can help negotiate a ransom, safely make the transfer, and evacuate the kidnapped out of a foreign country. These are priceless  skills that you can acquire just by carrying the right insurance.

At Sinclair Risk, we have the expertise needed to tailor a kidnap and ransom policy that makes sense for you and your business. Our clients are our partners, and we pride ourselves on getting to know all aspects of your business AND your risk management needs. Concerned about this growing threat? Talk to us today about kidnap and ransom insurance.

Stephen Davis

VP Personal & Commercial Lines, Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Stay afloat with these boating safety tips

_JBK5366Shorts, flip-flops, BBQs and cold brews. Tis the season of sunshine and Topsiders. (They’re back. Just ask Hip Daddy.)6-1 Davis Boating safety tips

As the mercury creeps up, so does the popularity of those who own boats. Popular you may be, but what you don’t want are claims against your watercraft insurance policies. (Boat and yacht owners -…you do have watercraft insurance right?)

Yes, owning a boat carries extra risk, but with the right precautions, you can cruise carefree all season. Follow these tips to keep things safe on the high seas or the local lake:

Expert Safety Check — Don’t float your boat without first having the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary perform a FREE inspection. Yes, that’s right…FREE. Just fill out the form on this website to get the process started.

Know Your Driver Knows His Stuff — Whether you’re the captain of the ship or just along for the ride, make sure your driver has the knowledge and skills to keep things safe. There are several online options, such as this one, that offer state-specific safety courses and tests for earning a Safe Boating Certificate. Note: Completing a course like this is mandatory for watercraft operators in Connecticut.

Carbon Monoxide…Not Just An Indoor Threat — It’s not pleasant to think about, but carbon monoxide from malfunctioning generators and motors is a silent killer that can creep up on boating passengers. Install and test a CO detector in enclosed spaces, and be aware that even without a roof overhead, CO can build up and cause problems for those nearby. CO symptoms are similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication. CO can affect you whether you’re underway, moored, or anchored. It’s odorless and tasteless and can cause serious illness very quickly.

Don’t Drink and Drive…Your Boat Either!  — This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t even be driving a bike while intoxicated, let alone a boat. The solution on the sea is the same on the land: If you or your captain just can’t resist the gin and tonics, turn the wheel over to your designated driver.

Life Jackets…For Swimmers and Non-Swimmers Alike — There should be a life jacket (that fits) for everyone on board your boat…and all should be wearing them! Gone are the days of puffy orange for all. Modern life jackets come in all sorts of styles and colors. Some are super thin and inflate when they hit water. There’s no excuse to not wear one. If you have any doubt, just focus on the first word in the item’s name.

Have a safe summer!

Stephen Davis

VP of Commercial & Personal Lines
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management


Preserving Your Fine Art Collection


Protecting the high-value collections in your home with appropriate insurance coverage is imperative. However, with any big investment, you’ll want to physically shield it from damage as well. Here are just a few preventive and maintenance tips to preserve your fine arts collection.

Keep your home at a consistent temperature.  The ideal climate for valuable art is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. To maintain this temperature near your art, it is best to place the piece in a location that is clear from any outside air flow passage. Relative humidity needs to be taken into consideration as well, since too much humidity may cause mold and too much dry air can cause paintings and wood to crack. Home thermostats can be imprecise, so you may want to purchase a digital thermo-hygrometer to monitor humidity and temperatures.

Keep art out of direct sunlight. Ultraviolet rays and high-wattage lighting can cause significant damage to paintings and other high-value pieces of art. To further prevent damage and fading, it’s also a good idea to rotate your collection periodically.

Don’t store art in basements or attics. Because these areas are susceptible to dramatic temperature and relative humidity changes, this is not a good location for art, especially paintings. If you must store your art, do so in a centralized room or designated dry space, keeping the artwork face-to-back in a vertical position.

Hire a professional art hanger. Objects need to be hung correctly to ensure support and reduce the chance of falling. A professional art hanger is more likely to use the proper hardware and structural supports than a general contractor would. Also, they know where not to hang the piece. For example, art should never be over a fireplace since heat, smoke, and ash can easily ruin it.

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management offers selected programs designed exclusively for our affluent clientele and their Connecticut high value homes. These homeowners programs provide higher limits and broader coverage than standard policies and are designed for houses worth millions that often include expensive furnishings and cutting edge technology and equipment. Contact us today for more information about our Connecticut Fine Art Collection Insurance . (877) 602-2305

Maintaining Your Yacht

Maintaining Your Yacht Maintaining Your Yacht

In our last post we discussed what factors you should take into consideration when purchasing a yacht. In addition to having the right insurance coverage to protect your investment, you should also know how to properly maintain your vessel, so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

The most important thing you can do to help maintain your boat is to take a few minutes to check it out before your trip departure. Here’s a basic checklist.

  • Check the current weather forecast.
  • Check your fluid levels in the engine and bilges, fresh water levels, and check for any contamination.
  • Check battery levels, voltages, and check pump operation for fluids.
  • Check navigation lights and VHF radio.
  • Brief any new crew about using winches, moving around on deck, where safety items are, and how to use the head.
  • Walk around the deck and check boat hook, anchor, shackles, and halyards.
  • Start your engine and check exhaust water and gear operation before you drop the morning lines.

Regular servicing is another important factor when it comes to maintaining your yacht. Just a few of the services that are recommended annually include;

  • Engine Services and Sail Drive Services (per manufacturer’s recommendations)
  • Hull and Deck Polishing
  • Steering System Inspection
  • Battery Test
  • LPG System Check
  • Full Interior Detail/ Steam Clean and Scotch Guard
  • Bilge Clean

You may be surprised by how much just a simple washing on a regular basis can counteract the long-term effects of environmental wear and tear on your boat. Proper yacht maintenance will truly extend the life of your vessel, and reduce the need for costly repairs. Most importantly, it will help ensure boating safety.

The Yacht insurance specialists at the Sinclair Risk & Financial Management have the years of experience necessary to navigate through myriad risks and policy features to protect you and your yacht from those risks. Contact us today at 203.265.0996.