“The Doctor is Out”: Medical Practices & Unexpected Death

Modern day medical doctors face a myriad of challenges: Lawsuits, hardships with creating referrals and collecting payments from third-parties (insurance companies and Medicare), onerous requirements of the Affordable Care Act and patient records, and the like. So just when we think the logical conclusion of these hardships would occur (death) we find out just how hard it truly is to be a doctor.

A doctor has a requirement to maintain patient records for several years. This requirement does not end at the time of their passing. While today’s insurance environment and staff requirements have effectively made solo practitioners a dying bread, even a small group of doctors may not be prepared to process all of the records of their departed colleague. These requirements often get passed onto an Executor with no experience in the medical field.

Next, unlike a financial firm with assets under management or a store such as a hardware shop that has physical inventory, valuing a medical practice can be extremely tricky. If no Buy-Sell Agreement was established prior to the doctor’s passing his estate will surely receive a greatly reduced price for his past toils in building the practice.

Some specialists may have substantial amounts of specialized medical equipment that has a nominal resale value (if any). In addition, the impression that health insurance companies make you wait forever and two days before paying for services rendered is an understatement, not to mention denying payment for the most trivial clerical error. Lastly, the threat of being sued for medical malpractice always lingers on well-past the doctor’s passing due to the long statute of limitations periods for initiating these law suits. These responsibilities ultimately fall on the Executor as well.

To their credit, many doctors (1) are aware of their limited knowledge outside of their professions, (2) are not hesitant to pay for advice, and (3) tend to implement good advice. As such, they make good clients and, provided they are not stubborn individuals, are able to avoid some of these pitfalls.

Often the issue is just making sure to get in front of them.

Q for You: Can you think of any tasks related to your profession that you know your Executor would have extreme difficulty in handling?

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