By Sheryl Young
It’s an insurance agency with a simple name, “Insurance and Trust,” and owner Michael Chernoff has indeed built his Carrollwood/North Tampa-based company on trust. For more than 25 years, Chernoff has committed himself to providing the best possible service to his clients by putting together attractive and dependable insurance coverage packages, using the most highly rated insurance companies.
“Our company stays between only six and seven people strong, yet with immediate and personal customer service,” Chernoff says. “When you call, you won’t get a phone message asking you to answer recorded questions or push a hundred options.”
When he started Insurance and Trust 1984, Chernoff decided the only way to get customers and keep them happy was to be honest, knowledgeable, thorough and accessible.
“My clients always have a way to reach me,” he says.
And, it works. Most of Insurance and Trust’s business comes by way of referrals or some sort of customer connection. Chernoff says he has now added some of his original clients’ grown children to his customer base.
And, speaking of children, joining Chernoff in the business several years ago was his son Jeff.
Although the Insurance & Trust office is in North Tampa on N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Jeff says, “I live in the Arbor Greene subdivision of New Tampa. I’m happy to visit clients and prospective clients in the entire New Tampa and Wesley Chapel area as well as in nearby neighborhoods. I will come to you.”
The Chernoffs specialize in insurance for high-value homes and personal assets, cars, excess liability (umbrella insurance), long-term care and life insurance.
“For high-net-worth homeowners, the way to insure a home and other structures on the property is not by placing the value on the price of the home, but on what it would cost to re-build it,” Michael says. “We’ll usually advise insuring these homes at 1.5 times their value. And, because we’re one of the few agencies in the area who’ve been doing this for so long, our relationship with insurance companies is such that we’re allowed to (offer) ready-made insurance coverage plans and add tailor-made options according to a client’s needs.”
He classifies high-net worth homes as those above 4,000 square feet. However, Insurance and Trust does also have clients insuring smaller home sizes.
Michael advises that, by using one agency like Insurance and Trust for all of your family’s insurance needs, creating this kind of policy package can result in an overall savings of 20 to 30 percent.
He says, “We can, in many cases, even bundle the homeowner, car and various life insurance elements into one policy, instead of a client needing to manage and keep track of several separate paperwork packages.”
But, he adds that Insurance and Trust also respects a person’s loyalty to certain insurance companies and can get creative to help them use an existing service, or find a new one.
“We’re a full-service broker,” he notes. “We can look at each insurance risk and do whatever works for our client – whatever they’re passionate about. We’ll also be there to assist (you) when damages occur.”
For example, they will do long-term care and life insurance policy packages separate from home and car to accommodate a customer.
“We’ll also meet with clients to personally deliver the policy paperwork, rather than use fax or snail mail,” Jeff says. “We can put the policies on flash drives or Email them – whatever makes the most sense.”
One client, attorney Mary Ellen Hogan of Carrollwood, testifies to the Chernoffs’ level of personal and convenient service.
“My husband, Dr. Robert Lavey, and I moved here three years ago from California,” Hogan says. “We had to transfer all of our insurance, get our cars re-registered…it was just overwhelming. Someone referred us to Michael. From the very first minute we talked to him, our minds were set at ease. The service has always been prompt and personal and has given us a feeling of confidence.”
She adds, “We carry our long-term care and other services through Insurance and Trust, and have had a couple of claims which, because of Michael, have caused us no headache at all. We’re secure in the fact that he’s not just pushing a product to get a commission. There are packages he could have recommended to us where he would have made more money.”
Regarding long-term care insurance, Jeff says, “It is more valuable than people know. We can obtain a policy for you that could pay for someone who becomes disabled or for elderly people. For example, say you decided to carry $9,000 per month of care. Your premiums would stop the minute you activate your need for the policy. That $9,000 could pay for live-in assistance to help someone stay in their own house, or it could fully pay monthly rent at a nice assisted living facility, or help you get into an upscale nursing home. Plus, the checks are mailed without having to submit bills.”
Other insurance ideas that people may not usually think to include:
• They recommend member-owned insurance companies. It’s hard to get in, but since the policy holder owns part of the company, cancellation is highly unlikely.
• People with a life insurance policy of less than $99,000 can charge their premiums to their credit card and earn points for paying it off in full.
• Sometimes insurance companies insist on separate car insurance packages if a person owns more than three cars. Insurance and Trust can get all of your cars placed under one policy.
• Wine collections, and the generators needed to keep the wine at the right temperature, can be insured.
• The Chernoffs offer a hurricane protection service – licensed people that can go into areas that have been evacuated before homeowners are allowed back – to secure or repair a house at no extra charge.
• There are even insurance policies for kidnap and ransom cases, illness while traveling, identity theft, insurance for Boards of Directors of non-profit agencies, staff theft insurance for employers in certain instances and more.
Insurance and Trust is located at 8548 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., near Humphrey St., in Carrollwood. The phone number is 933-7333. For additional information, visit InsuranceAndTrust.com.