I recalled an article posted on this site a few years back and believe that it is still on point. A portion of it follows below. For years we have had a Memo of Direction available on our website for those that need a little assistance in getting started with some practice continuation planning. We made it a WORD document so that it can be changed to suit your needs. I will not even be offended if you take our name out and put in another’s. I would prefer someone else be designated rather than no one.
Hopefully, your death will be long after your dental career has ended and you have had many, many blissful years enjoying your grandchildren and hobbies. But what about the possibility that life doesn’t work out that way? What position would you, your practice and family be in if you were to receive a terminal medical diagnosis today? While we would all hope and pray for a full recovery, immediate steps need to be taken to get the practice on the market. The sooner the practice can be sold, the better it will retain its value and more importantly, the less of a burden it will be to you and your family.
And what about the tragedy of sudden death? In our office, we have witnessed families struggling with disposing of practices after doctors have died from strokes, heart attacks, choking, motorcycle and auto accidents. You owe it to your family, staff and patients to prepare for this very real possibility. The list below, while probably not complete or all-inclusive, should give you a starting point for action.
- Have a current will, estate plan and appropriate Power of Attorney and Medical Directives.
- Obtain a quality disability insurance policy for your “own occupation” payable to at least age 65.
- Obtain adequate life insurance that at the very least will cover any practice related debt, including real estate and operating expenses.
- Tell someone where all of your documents are kept.
- Meet with a dental practice broker. I know this sounds self-serving, but in spite of the fact that we all have attorneys, accountants and estate executors, I feel no one is better able to quickly get your practice valued and sold. A broker familiar with your practice and market will be in the best position to find a buyer and can even be helpful in finding temporary coverage while the sale is pending. Yes, you will have to pay a commission but perhaps we can save your practice.
- Consider organizing or participating in a dental mutual aid society. John Cahill of Western Practice Sales has written extensively on the subject and has organized groups of doctors who will come to the immediate aid of a fallen comrade. A formal agreement between 6-10 doctors can provide peace of mind in knowing that your practice will immediately be covered in the event of your unexpected loss.
- Have a Memo of Direction on file with your estate attorney and the transition specialist/broker to facilitate a quick sale of your practice.
- On at least an annual basis, organize important information about your practice as if you were preparing for a sale. Financial statements for the last three years along with a current Profit and Loss statement, current lease, any contracts you are party to and a current list of major equipment would be a good starting point. The broker you meet with will be happy to provide a complete list for you.
- Tell someone where your documents are kept. (This is not a typo – it is often the biggest reason for a delay in moving forward as no one knows where anything is kept.)
The brutal reality of sudden death or a medical crisis is something that none of us want to face but it seems to me that as many as half of all doctors or their families may at some point have some hard decisions to make. A little planning now will go a long way in insuring the continuation of your legacy.
Steve Wolff, DDS
UMKC Class of 1977