Practice Management Blog

What to Include in a Professional Will (+ Template)

Healthcare practitioners know firsthand that crises can occur at any time. However, they don’t always consider the logistics of how a personal crisis in their own life might impact their work. Having a professional will for your practice provides a structured roadmap for managing your business logistics should something unexpected happen.

In this article, we’ll cover why professional wills matter and elements to consider when drafting yours.

Please note: This guide is not a substitute for legal advice. Healthcare practitioners should consult an attorney and defer to local and state laws and licensing board regulations for specific guidance.

Why is Having a Professional Will Important?

Your clients depend on you to provide them with your expertise and offer consistent care. With that in mind, it’s your responsibility to prepare for what might happen to your clients if you’re suddenly unable to work. Just as many people use a living trust or will to manage their personal affairs, a professional will serves a similar function. It outlines what will happen in your practice if you can’t see your clients.

Professional wills can also help protect your own estate. With a plan in place, you may have more protection should a client try to sue your personal estate if their care is disrupted. This may help reduce or eliminate the chance of you experiencing legal or regulatory issues.

Some professional boards require their practitioners to maintain professional wills. Others advise it as part of their code of ethics. Regardless of your profession’s specific requirements, it’s important to consider the potential consequences of not having a plan in place. Your duty to care doesn’t arbitrarily end due to incapacity or death. You have an obligation to best maintain continuity of care and look after your clients’ well-being.

Elements to Include in a Professional Will

Professional wills come in different formats ranging from fairly broad to highly detailed. If you’re unsure about a specific logistical issue, consult with an attorney.

The following are some of the most essential elements to consider when developing your professional will:

Professional Executor

The professional executor acts on your behalf if you die or are incapacitated and unable to work. This individual is usually another practitioner in your field, such as a trusted colleague or supervisor. However, in some cases, you may be able to designate a family member or friend.

Your executor is responsible for notifying clients about your departure, managing your records appropriately, and handling referrals to other providers. They’ll also oversee the duties of permanently closing down your practice.

You should consider designating a secondary professional executor in the event that the first one becomes unavailable or cannot perform the designated duties. Before designating any executors, discuss your will with them in advance and ensure they understand and agree to your conditions.

Client Notification

The professional executor is instructed on how and when to notify clients if an unexpected absence or practice closure occurs. Include how you expect the executor to contact clients (i.e. via phone or email) and the type of detail you’d like disclosed.

Most practitioners instruct their executors to use their best clinical discretion in how they notify clients about the emergency. Consider writing specific instructions for how to respond to incoming email or voicemail messages to your practice business line.

Keep in mind that client notification methods must still adhere to each client’s right to confidentiality. Remember this as you consider how you intend your executor to communicate with clients.

Client Records Management

Your professional will needs to include the location of client records and how to access them.

If you use electronic medical records, indicate the specific URL for logging in and share your username and password. You’ll also need to share the username and password for accessing your computer or logging into any other relevant emails or websites. If you have paper records, indicate the address and location of keys for accessing these documents.

Financial Management

Your professional will needs to include instructions for reviewing client balances and outstanding debts. You may instruct the executor to work with your family to use current practice funds to continue paying any direct expenses (i.e. your office rent or credit card bill). If you wish to forgive any unpaid client debts, indicate that in your professional will.

Consider which accounts you’ll need your executor to close. This can include online directory platforms, web hosting subscriptions and liability insurance premiums. Spend some time reviewing your recurring annual and monthly expenses to ensure you have a plan in place for handling a sudden practice closure.

Technology and Software

Your professional will should outline who has access to any practice management software and how you prefer outstanding client appointments and cancellations to be handled.

It’s reasonable to instruct the executor to use their best clinical judgment to proceed with managing ongoing client treatment.

Succession Planning

If you have a set of preferred referrals for client treatment, indicate them in your professional will. Your executor should be instructed to provide this list as part of continuity of care. You can also include your executor as a referral source if desired.

Additional Considerations

Your professional will should also include any miscellaneous information about managing or closing your practice. This may include notifying insurance companies, handling social media profiles and contacting your licensing board.

Even with a plan in place, executing the tasks of a professional will can be burdensome and time-consuming. With that in mind, some practitioners compensate their executors at a specified rate per hour or a flat fee. If you opt to do this, indicate the monetary amount in your will.

Be sure to give copies of your professional will to your designated executors and to your attorney. Review your will at least once per year or any time after making any significant changes to your practice. Ensure that it’s up to date and adheres to your and your clients’ best interests.

Finally, remember that clients have the legal right to give or withhold consent to their treatment. As best practice, consider naming your executor in your informed consent along with a statement indicating the purpose of having a professional will.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the worst-case scenario can certainly feel unpleasant, but it’s in your and your clients’ best interest to do so. Unexpected crises can be destabilizing, but having a professional will in place offers some structure and peace of mind during an emergency.

The idea of developing a professional will may seem daunting, but it’s a fairly straightforward process. You’ll never regret being well-prepared, so don’t delay, get started with our free professional will template today.

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