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About a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, John Sumberg, managing partner of Bilzin Sumberg Dunn Baena Price & Axelrod in Miami, called the head of his firm’s tax and estate planning department. “I need to update my will,” Sumberg told him. Sumberg travels frequently for business and couldn’t keep the images of the collapsing World Trade Center towers out of his head. With three young children, he decided it was time to take a new look at his 15-year-old will. “There are all kinds of things in that will that aren’t appropriate any more,” Sumberg says. “I changed who would be responsible for my kids if something happened to me, I made accommodations to the tax law changes, I changed the date when my kids get their trust. Almost everything.” Sumberg is not alone. South Florida estate planning lawyers, insurance brokers and financial planners report being inundated with calls from existing and new clients who, shaken by the events of Sept. 11, are updating their wills, checking their life insurance policies and making sure their families will be provided for if they aren’t around. Many of those clients travel frequently for business. Some clients are so worried that they insist on having their wills updated before their next plane trip, lawyers say. “People are very hesitant to fly on planes,” says Jim Davis, a partner and estate planning and tax lawyer in Gunster Yoakley’s Fort Lauderdale office. “They are reviewing their estate plans to make sure they are properly covered. There’s been a resurgence of interest in insurance products.” Davis says his clients are buying life insurance and irrevocable life insurance trusts, but not travel insurance. The big question everyone is asking: Does my existing life insurance policy cover terrorist acts and acts of war? That question has been posed to lawyers, insurance brokers and insurance wholesalers. The general answer is “yes” for terrorist acts, but “it depends” for acts of war, the experts say. Jimmy Weiss, a solo estate planning lawyer in Coral Springs, has seen a surge in business from an unexpected quarter — people in their early 30s. “The older clients had their ducks in a row already, but this is causing action and concern, if not paranoia, in the younger clients,” he says. “They want to make sure things are set up for their children, to provide financially and in terms of custody for their children.” The new business, he says, is offsetting another client service area that’s dipped due to the economy: older people making gifts to family members to reduce their taxes. Couples with young children are particularly anxious. “The number one concern with my clients is about simultaneous deaths,” says Martin Press, a partner and estate planning lawyer in Broad and Cassel’s Fort Lauderdale office, whose business is up 20 percent to 30 percent. “They’re now making sure guardians are appointed.” ACTS OF WAR People with life insurance policies issued decades ago may have exclusions for acts of war, insurance experts say. But in more recent years, insurance companies eliminated such exclusions, given the long period during which the United States has not been involved in a major war. “First Colony Life told me it’s a holdover from World War I and World War II,” says broker David Schulman, the principal of DBS Financial in Fort Lauderdale. “Now most policies don’t even have an exclusion for active military. If you have old policies, you may want to review them and buy new policies.” Wholesaler David Fuerst of Special Risk Underwriters of Fort Lauderdale is offering that same advice to the 600 insurance brokers to whom he sells products in South Florida. The question Fuerst and other brokers can’t answer yet is whether in the future the insurance industry will exclude terrorist acts and acts of war from policies. Reeling from multibillion-dollar losses associated with the Sept. 11 events, the insurance industry is considering exclusions for terrorist acts in property insurance, says Fuerst. And Schulman speculates that insurance companies will either begin charging a premium for terrorist coverage in life insurance policies or excluding it altogether. Already, say experts, insurance companies have begun adding terrorist exclusionary clauses on all private plane policies. SCARE STORIES The Sept. 11 attacks have brought Schulman the busiest period he’s seen in his 26 years of business. Business is up 10 percent to 20 percent, mainly from business clients and high net-worth individuals. “People who travel a lot are making sure their life insurance is covered for acts of terrorism,” he says. Schulman says he hears a lot of stories of well-to-do executives killed in the World Trade Center who did not have much life insurance but insists he is not spreading any such tales to clients to take advantage of the fear factor. “We’re not calling and saying, ‘Did you hear about this or that individual, all they had was their group life insurance?’ ” he says. Still, people have heard those stories and they’ve hit home. Gary Gerson, a senior member of the CPA firm Gerson Preston & Robinson in Miami Beach, says he is getting a lot of questions from business clients, primarily hoteliers and manufacturers. They want to know whether their company has business interruption insurance, if it’s covered for terrorist acts, and if it’s covered if an employee contracts anthrax. Gerson learned from Florida Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher Wednesday that one Florida insurance company plans to triple its rates on all policies as of Jan. 1 to make up for the heavy losses from the Sept. 11 disaster. As a result, he is encouraging all clients to renew their business insurance as soon as possible to save money. Estate planning lawyers have also been deluged with calls. Many of the calls are from clients who say they were going to review their financial situations anyway, due to enormous changes in tax laws recently enacted, but the events of Sept. 11 jump-started their plans. “We sent out letters to people telling them they need to come and meet with us to discuss changes in the tax law,” says Sumberg. “So they were going to do it anyway. This just gave some, like me, a kick in the butt to get it done.”

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