Estate Planning & Professional Wills
Kristen Lambert, Esq., MSW, LICSW, CPHRM, FASHRM
Vice President, Psychiatric and Professional Liability Risk Management Group

Estate planning, including how to handle your practice in the event of illness and death, is a critical issue when practicing medicine. However, this is often an after-thought unless you are considering retiring or closing your practice. The American Medical Association recently published an article, “The one thing most young physicians put off–but shouldn’t.”1   A professional will is a separate document as compared to a will or a trust which handles distribution of your personal effects. A professional will focuses on your business/practice and how your practice should be handled in the event of your illness or death. A professional will designed to protect you as well as your patients is particularly helpful to solo practitioners but also for those employed by a group or in a hospital setting.

Some of the issues to consider include:

  • What are your state/federal/professional ethical obligations? Are there state guidelines or regulations which you must adhere to? In other words, are you required to plan ahead in the event of an illness or death?
  • How will your patients be contacted?
  • Who needs to be notified (board of medicine, professional liability insurance company, etc.)?
  • How/where will your medical records be stored?
  • How will outstanding business issues be handled (i.e. Billing)?
  • Who will assume patient care?
  • Will the practice be transferred to another provider, sold or closed?
  • How should you handle employees (pay, insurance, etc.)?

estate_insession_wint17_smallLong before you close your practice, it is recommended that you engage in planning. Finally, it is important to seek out an attorney in your state who specializes in estate planning along with experience working with medical practices.

The one thing most young physicians put off–but shouldn’t,” AMA Wire. https://wire.ama-assn.org/education/medical-residents-dont-ignore-preparing-accidents-or-illnesses [last accessed 8/9/2016].

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