Posts Tagged ‘family life’


Families who decide to personally employ a nanny often fail to understand that their legal obligations as an employer begin the moment their new nanny walks through the front door. Even more dangerous, after years of satisfactory performance, many families regard their nanny not as an employee, but as part of the family. However, state and federal employment laws apply to all domestic employees, and many families place themselves at high risk if they do not manage their nanny and any other staff members as employees and in strict accordance with employment laws.

Failure to understand the employer – employee relationship can expose all family members to personal litigation for violations of employment related conduct towards those they employ. Even inappropriate conduct among different members of the household staff can create a legal exposure for the family. Because the household is seen as a safe and informal space and vague verbal contracts are all too common, many families either ignore or fail to comply with their legal responsibilities as employers. 

One example that frequently invites litigation: given the challenging economic climate, families with older children seeking to trim their costs may terminate the employment of a nanny whose services are no longer essential. To protect against allegations that the dismissal was a wrongful termination, or possibly motivated by age or racial bias, experts advise household employers should document performance expectations and keep a well documented human resources file on every employee. Additionally, a written agreement between the household employer and employee should contain an “employment at will” clause that allows termination without cause for any reason. Precautionary background checks that go beyond simple internet searches are also recommended for any family employing domestic staff. Meanwhile, no matter how attentive, household employers need to know that they cannot totally control the work environment. Just as in a traditional workplace, household employers can be held liable for conduct viewed by their staff as obscene, discriminatory or offensive.

Given these many risks, a select group of personal insurance carriers have developed specialized coverage solutions to address the employment practices risk exposure facing families employing household help.  Such solutions provide coverage not only for damages that may be awarded by a court, but far more importantly, both the legal costs to defend the family such allegations, and the services of a public relations firm to help the family minimize the damage to their reputation.  Often, these same carriers can assist policyholders with services that include comprehensive pre-employment background checks.  Most who learn of the broad coverage that is available agree the protection is well worth the cost.  Those facing this risk should consider securing this valuable form of protection.

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I was surprised at the level of interest in my post a few weeks ago referencing the often overlooked (and uninsured) risk of “personal injury”. For those who missed it, I reminded readers of the need to be aware of this risk, especially for those with children who are active on social media websites.

I recently learned that Peter Spicer, one of the personal insurance industry’s true thought leaders, sat down with NJ.com last year to explain the often overlooked consequences of sharing so much information so freely on the internet.  To read Spicer’s thoughts on on NJ.com click here(it should be noted that while Spicer was working at Chubb at the time of the interview, he’s now working with Ace Private Risk Services, and remains a great source of information on this and other topics concerning personal risk).   

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There are many examples to support my strongly held belief that proper insurance planning is not a DIY project. One recent example: when the mainstream press offers guidance on how to manage your risks, be aware that such stories often omit important pieces of information that can leave you and your family’s assets exposed to uncovered losses

In a recent article by Paul Sullivan, the highly acclaimed Wealth Matters columnist for The New York Times, readers are urged to understand and manage the many insurable risks associated with children attending college. Mr. Sullivan begins by reminding his readers that “insurable risks faced by college students have gone up tremendously in the decades since their parents lugged stereos and crates of vinyl records into dormitory rooms”.  So far, so good. 

So, you ask, just what are these new risks facing college students in the 21st Century? Surprisingly, instead of learning about any new insurable risks that have “gone up tremendously”, readers are simply reminded of the usual and obvious risks that I sure hope every parent already knows to prepare for: theft of valuable items, automobile claims, serving alcohol, trip and fall injuries, and identity theft.  While the risk of identity theft has surely risen in the past decade, readers are left to wonder what are the other risks that have actually “gone up tremendously in the decades since…stereos and…records”, as the article forewarns???  

Unfortunately, there actually are risks facing college students and their families that are on the rise, and although these risks were not revealed in this article, you can learn about them here.  Consider for a moment the liability risks (and defense costs) that can arise from your student’s improper use of e mail, blogs, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and webcams.  Had The New York Times consulted this risk advisor, they would have learned to warn readers of the increased risk of “personal injury” — the very broad and overlooked category of risks that all parents of teenagers should understand and secure protection for.  Not to be confused with bodily injury, “personal injury” refers to those injuries that don’t affect the body. These include false arrest, wrongful eviction or entry, invasion of the right of privacy in a room or dwelling, slander and defamation, or the violation of the person’s right to privacy.

Few consumers (or even traditional insurance agents, for that matter) ever examine whether coverage for the increasingly real risk of “personal injury” is even covered by the policies that provide their family’s personal liability protection.  Especially for families with children in high school or college, consumers should learn if the liability insurance covering the actions of their family members includes coverage for “personal injury”, as a great many personal insurance policies do not. If your policies do not provide this important protection, contact me for access to the handful of carriers that provide policies that do.  And —- please do not rely on newspaper articles for guidance on how to craft your insurance program, even those appearing in The New York Times.  

For a link to the New York Times article that omits this important information: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/18/your-money/home-insurance/18wealth.html?pagewanted=print

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If you were to key word search the term “hurricane forecast”, among the first entries you’d find is a reference to Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University.  To those of us who obsess about risk, Dr. Gray is quite the celebrity.  Each year Dr. Gray and his team of research scientists dares to announce how many hurricanes we can expect during the season.  For the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Forecast, Dr. Gray and his Colorado State University staff are predicting 18 named storms, 10 of which are estimated to develop into hurricanes. They estimate a 76 percent likelihood that a major hurricane, with winds of 111 mph (178 kph) or greater, will strike the U.S. This figures represents a 24% increase over the average for the past century.  For those wondering why, few should be surprised to learn that meteorological conditions around the globe are optimal for hurricane development. Sea surface temperatures in the Lesser Antilles and off the western coast of the African continent are the warmest in recorded history. Combined with an absence of high altitude wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean,  Gray advises the 2010 season will be particularly active.

Unlike Dr. Gray and other climate experts, I can actually provide several GUARANTEES regarding this hurricane season: Whether a major hurricane makes landfall in the U.S. or not, the vast majority of Americans will elect not to prepare for one. Rather than take precautions, most Americans will simply gamble that their homes, possessions and families will remain safe from natural disaster. Many will be correct, but some will be wrong.  Buta select few will make sure they are prepared for a natural disaster and will have a plan in place, just in case. Do you need help on how best to prepare for a hurricane? I can provide clear guidance and a list of available solutions and resources, but I cannot help unless you let me.  Call me or send me an e-mail.

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Co-authored by security experts Douglas R. Kane and Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., Ph.D. Silent Safety is a must read for those who provide counsel to affluent and highly affluent clients. Subtitled “Best Practices for Protecting the Affluent”, this great new book reminds us that as the financial crisis continues to make headlines, the hidden dangers facing many affluent families are often largely ignored. Despite the fact that significant wealth attracts considerable unwanted attention and exposure for many families, the appropriate countermeasures are often only implemented after costly, disruptive or embarrassing events unfold.  The authors offer many solutions to avoid this scenario.

The authors’ firm – Risk Control Strategies (RCS) – is a leading threat management, investigative and security consulting firm specializing in serving the affluent community, corporations and governmental agencies. Silent Safety serves as a personal security best-practices reference tool for affluent families and their trusted advisors. The book shines a spotlight on the many risks facing affluent families every day. Silent Safety provides pragmatic advice and strategic countermeasures that can be immediately deployed to contain a crisis, as well as recommendations to preemptively mitigate risk. This book will provide the reader with Risk Control Strategies’ proven methodology for protecting the wealthy and providing them with peace of mind.

To more closely examine the RCS suite of security services, visit their web site at www.riskcontrolstrategies.com  To request more information about Silent Safety, contact silentsafety@sandowmedia.com.

Finally, should you wish to meet with one of the partners of this fine firm, please contact me and I will arrange an introduction.

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 I’m often surprised by the number of wealthy families I meet who buy only “best in class” services and products, yet accept far less than this standard from the organizations that are responsible to manage their family’s healthcare experience.  While it often seems that we have little real control over the quality of our family’s healthcare experience, several new organizations are helping their members to receive far greater control than most would have imagined possible. 

PinnacleCare is one of a new breed of “private patient advocacy” service providers that empower their members to take back control of the entire healthcare experience.  PinnacleCare members receive efficient access to the finest healthcare experiences, expert guidance through the complex healthcare system and the assurance of leading the healthiest lives possible, whether at home or while traveling or living abroad. 

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with representatives of this fine organization, and urge all professional advisors serving HNW families to learn how this firm can help you and your clients.  Click this linkto access a video about PinnacleCare’s services, or this link to be directed to the section on their website that details the many membership options available.  

As always, feel welcome to contact me for a personal introduction to this firm, or a short list of other organizations with similar services, and a great article from the Wall Street Journal summarizing this topic.  

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simplify4For families (especially multi-generational families) who own many residences in different states, it can be overwhelming trying to keep track of all the insurance coverage protecting each home, every outbuilding, and the personal contents and valuables located in each residence.

NOW: imagine replacing those many policies with a single “Family Blanket Policy” that aggregates the various forms of coverage provided by each of the policies currently covering all of an extended family’s residences, outbuildings, and personal possessions.  Of course, to be viable this innovative solution would need to provide world class coverage and claims service, and be backed by a carrier with superior financial stabilityInsurance, simplified: this innovative new solution exemplifies the benefits of “less is more”.

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While having a fire and burglar alarm system can offer some peace of mind, most property owners are curious to know how technology can help them better protect their home — and their families while at home. While I am not an expert on home security, I am a good resource in directing homeowners to the select group of specialists focused on advanced home security and “smart home” technology.


One organization I’ve worked with locally has merged advances in home security with smart home technology in an easy to use way that offers great home security and utility. Connected Hearth is an exciting service provider, with a website that lets you monitor and control your home from anywhere in the world. Through ConnectedHearth.com, you can control your security system, your heat and A/C, your indoor and outdoor lighting. You can pan a camera throughout your house. You can even have a hot cup of espresso waiting for you when you arrive. All this, from a computer. Wherever you happen to be.  Click on this link to be re-directed  to their web site.


Or, feel welcome to contact me for information on other new advances in home security, and to learn which carriers are providing real incentives to improve the loss prevention features in the homes they insure.

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