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“Defensive Medicine” is often Good Medicine and “Best Practice” for Doctors

PHYSICIAN AND HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE LIABILITYAsset protection for doctors is the main focus of this column (note: this article originally appeared at www.PhysiciansPractice .com, The Nation’s Leading Practice Mgmt. Resource) and we’ve examined it from many angles over the last 100+ articles I’ve shared here. Today, we examine the issue of defensive medicine, much decried by politicians and insurance companies and the role a thorough diagnosis, free of fear of such claims by a third-party payer, plays in good medicine and your own risk management plan.

The inappropriately deemed “common wisdom” regarding medical malpractice lawsuits and the overuse of diagnostics due to so-called defensive medicine is something like this:

1. There is a national medical malpractice lawsuit crisis;

2. Doctors run too many unnecessary tests to avoid being sued;

3. These tests have little medical value and are not necessary or reasonable to providing good care; and

4. It is because of this so-called abuse that healthcare and insurance costs are high, fewer medical procedures including testing can be covered, and your compensation must continually be reduced.

This is an admitted oversimplification of the arguments from both sides, but it seems to me that the loudest opponents of this standard of care regularly fall into two primary categories: marginally informed politicians looking for a hot button issue to trumpet and insurance companies and their lobbyists and publicists. It’s my opinion that neither of these groups have effective diagnosis, treatment. or doctors at heart.

I have worked with a national client base of several thousand doctors for 11 years and have seen every imaginable form of liability you can imagine. If you’re a regular reader of this column you know I take the threat to your wealth posed by litigation very seriously and have repeatedly addressed the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits in particular, so let’s assume that I agree you are at risk; in fact most of you will statistically face such a claim twice in your career.

Now, let’s look at the fact pattern behind a vast number of medical malpractice claims, a majority of which (some 35%) center on either “failure to diagnose” or “misdiagnosis” claims by plaintiff patients or worse, their surviving family members. We don’t need to look far for examples. I get news updates on medical malpractice claims, settlements, and lawsuits several times a week and cases like the recent failure to diagnose a bone infection in Texas  that lead to a suit against an orthopedic surgeon, the death of a six-year-old child in Dallas after his internal injuries were misdiagnosed as constipation and treated with enemas, and the misdiagnosis of lymphoma in Louisiana as an infection that was treated with antibiotics and which led to the patient later needing surgery and radiation are common. In the latter case, the lawsuit included claims for damages including, “medical expense, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, economic loss, diminution of earning capacity, disability, fear of death, scarring, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life”. What else do these three cases have in common? They are all from the headlines of the last one week.

I’m not a doctor and my knowledge of the cases is limited to the reports I’ve shared, so humor me and assume that the facts in these are accurate as reported. I am, however, an attorney and I know many other excellent attorneys, including the ones that sue doctors (and everyone else) for a living, here’s a little of what they’ve shared with me:

• Yes, is there is a pool of crooked attorneys out there churning frivolous cases and looking to scare and extort settlements out of any poor doctor they can get their sights on;

• This group is relatively small and spends most of their time on lower level cases that are typically settled or relatively easier to win, like conventional personal injury, dog bites, car accidents, slip and falls, etc;

• The best (meaning most successful and highest recovering) medical malpractice attorneys play to win and hedge their bets by carefully screening cases. They invest significant amounts of time and actual dollars in fronting costs for many claims and don’t usually take cases they don’t think they can win or which are at least strongly arguable as to causation in their client’s favor; and

• A key element of their claims is often related to the testing that could or should have been done to prevent further distress, or worse, to the patient. This standard of care is easily arguable both ways and poses a significant risk to your career and solvency.

My advice to doctors given these fact patterns is simple: Practice “defensive medicine” that puts the full range of modern diagnostics at your patient’s disposal. Its good medicine, good risk management, and the life you save may also be your own.

 

Arizona is an Income Tax Haven for MLB Players – and makes MORE off them by being one

TAX & LEGAL Planning for Pro athletesThis interesting article caught my eye because I represent some professional athletes including MLB players and because I live in Arizona.  It has a really interesting bit of info at the end.

The conventional wisdom at play in the U.S. is that the best way to raise government  revenues is to tax wealth creators at the very highest rates possible.

Arizona makes a large amount of money by being tax friendly and allowing enterprise to flourish, vs. what the state would have made by taxing MLB players in a more aggressive way.

If you are a ball player that wants to relocate your residence to Arizona please let me know, we have some great professional resources to help you. – Ike

ORIGINAL LINK BELOW:

How Arizona Saves MLB Players Millions in Taxes

 

Estate Planning, Sugar Daddies and Lawsuits, Oh My

Given the current and often predatory nature of modern personal relationships I thought this piece by my friend and colleague Robert Sewell of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner was interesting and timely, to say the least. Bob practices heavily in the area of probate litigation, which is where late or poorly drafted estate plans end-up, usually at the detriment of the estate. – Ike Devji

Sugar-Daddy-1THE POWER OF SEDUCTION AND A DYING MAN’S WILL

Nothing looks more suspicious, though quite common, than the dying man who makes a deathbed will.  It is the stuff of Hollywood.  Picture the elderly man summoning his lawyer to his deathbed.  The lawyer drafts the will as the invalid dictates the contents.  The invalid declares that his entire estate shall pass to his wicked mistress—a young looker and manipulative gold digger.  The scarlet woman places the pen in the man’s hand and firmly demands, “sign it.”  The will is signed.  The priest reads the testator’s last rites as his soul leaves his body.  His faithful children are now destitute.

Of course, a lawsuit will follow.  The faithful children accuse the mistress (or new wife) of unduly influencing their father and demanding, in court, that the judge refuse the will.

After all, why would a loving father not provide for his children at death?  Had the mistress not used her seductive powers and lies to poison the mind of their father, the children would enjoy a profitable future.

 

Unfortunately for the children, a woman’s seduction alone is not enough to invalidate a will.

 

In the case of Parrisella v. Fotopulos, 111 Ariz. 4, 6, 522 P.2d 1081, 1083 (Ariz. 1974), the Arizona Supreme Court defines “undue influence” as follows:

Conduct by which a person unduly influences a testator in executing a will, when that person through his power over the mind of the testator makes the latter’s desires conform to his own, thereby overmastering the volition of the testator.

The court reasoned that a woman’s seductive power does meet this standard:

It is settled law of this state that [an] illicit relationship is not sufficient per se to warrant a conclusion of undue influence.  And no presumption of undue influence arises merely from the fact that a man  . . . makes a will in favor of his mistress.” Id. (citations omitted).

So, unlike in the movies, in real life, the wicked mistress just might win.

ABOUT OUR GUEST AUTHOR:

Robert Sewell Partner at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC

Robert Sewell
Partner at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC

 

 

Robert Sewell is a partner at the law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner in Phoenix, Arizona and practices primarily in the areas of  Commercial Litigation, Probate Litigation and Real Estate Litigation. He has written on a variety or related issues. Mr. Sewell’s litigation experience involves cases in federal, state and administrative settings. He has also resolved disputes through mediation, arbitration, as well as bench and jury trials. Mr. Sewell has also worked as a professor of business law. You can contact him directly for help or through Ike Devji. http://www.davismiles.com/attorney/robert-n-sewell/

 

Attorney Ike Devji Joins Davis Miles Mcguire Gardner to Create Asset Protection & Wealth Preservation Law Group

Press Release 

Asset Protection Attorney Ike Devji joins multi-state law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC – expanding needed legal services to high net worth clients and their advisors.

Asset Protection Lawyer Ike Devji

Phoenix, February 10, 2014:  

Noted Asset Protection Attorney Ike Devji has joined the law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC (DMMG) and its multi-state legal practice in an of-counsel capacity.

Lawyer Devji is in his 11th year of focused Asset Protection legal practice and has helped protect over $5 Billion in personal assets for a national client base of several thousand physicians and private business owners, c-level executives and a small but growing group of professional athletes and entertainers for over a decade. Devji formerly acted as the managing attorney of one of the nation’s leading asset protection only law firms and remains of counsel with that firm as well.

“This new relationship does not distract from my practice focus, which remains centered on Asset Protection, Wealth Transfer and Risk Management for successful individuals”, said Devji in a recent interview.

What this new partnership achieves is the creation of a focused asset protection practice group at DMMG and an expansion of the level of service I can bring my clients and the financial advisors, CPAs and medical practice management groups that refer their most cherished clients to me. I now have the additional legal expertise of some 70 odd attorneys with a high degree of skill and experience in 17 additional legal practice areas ranging from real estate to estate planning. This allows me to focus on what I’m best at and help coordinate my clients’ other complex planning and litigation needs in the holistic way they increasingly want and need”.

The timing of this new partnership is key for several reasons, not the least of which is the vulnerable state of the wealth of many of the Southwest’s most successful business people. The last 6 years in particular has shown that there is a substantial disconnect between the needs of many Arizona residents and the relatively low level of asset protection and defensive risk management planning they have in place. “The fact so many people in Arizona and across the U.S. lost a lifetime’s worth of work by relying on insurance and traditional estate planning alone speaks for itself” says Devji. “My new associates and I are going to work hard to increase not only the level of service and protection these folks have in place, but also the level of awareness of the needs of successful entrepreneurs of all types with public at large and legal and advisory communities in particular”.

Devji and his new associates will be hosting a variety of educational events for both the public and advisors which will continue the focus of Devji’s national speaking and educational activities and expend them by adding the expertise of DMMG’s other attorneys in other areas of the law. Devji is a popular and in-demand national speaker and has taught on this issue to literally thousands of advisors and consumers nationally. His scheduled speaking engagements include presentations at the request of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Phoenix, The Arizona State Physicians Association, a private surgery group and private presentation for professional athletes at the request of a boutique wealth management firm in Atlanta. This is in addition to video teaching presentations for NBI and The American Educational Institute (AEI), which will be shown to physicians across the United States over 1000 times in AEI’s classrooms.

Ike Devji’s work as an author has appeared in print and online in countless medical journals including Physicians Practice, Worth Magazine, Advisor Today, Public Accountant, Life Insurance Selling, Financial Consultant, Best Thinking. Expert Beacon and many other sources in additional to his being a contributing author to the book Optimal Financial Health, The Doctor’s Essential Wealth Management and Preservation Handbook. Devji is has been rated “10.0 Superb” by AVVO for the years 2013, 2012 and 2011 in addition to being named a WORTH magazine “Leading Wealth and Legal Advisor” and among North Valley magazine’s “Top Lawyers” in 2013.  He is a 30 year plus Arizona resident and a double ASU Alumni.

###

 

Contact: IKE DEVJIPro Asset ProtectionPhone: (602) 808-5540Fax: (602) 808-5553 3131 E. Camelback   Road, Suite 350Phoenix, AZ 85016www.ProAssetProtection.com

pro asset protection

Common Mistakes Some Smart Women Still Make With Money, Estate and Legal Planning

WOMEN AND WEALTH
I’m fortunate to deal with a number of successful women across the U.S. Whether they are C.E.O.s, doctors, some other kind of professional or business owner or simply the stay at home family C.E.O. that helps manage the family’s wealth and success.

Over the last ten we’ve seen both positive and negative behavior patterns among different demographics, including women, repeated on a consistent basis. While these issues certainly aren’t exclusively things that women do, they seem to be at he forefront of many of the problems that we have to help them through.

Some Common Errors:

  1. Letting their husband/significant other mange the finances in a vacuum, this can be financially fatal in the event of a death, divorce or illegal act by the husband (think Mrs. Madoff);

  2. Being underinsured on their own life, disability and long term care insurance. I often see couples with millions in life insurance on the husband and only a courtesy $250K on the wife;

  3. Not protecting wealth and being proactive about risk. Many women are great earners and great spenders but overlook the exposures that could put everything they own at risk – they need to understand Asset Protection planning, at least at a basic level;

  4. Working on trust instead of with formal legal agreements like contracts;

  5. Being “too nice for their own good”  and not ending relationships that are negative and toxic, both personally and professionally with employees and partners.

  6. Paying themselves LAST. Many successful business women put the business, employees and family before themselves and their own savings and solvency, you can’t be generous if you’re broke, protect the source;

  7. Not getting a prenuptial agreement;

  8. Not getting what is owed to them out of pride, aversion to conflict or frustration, the old, “They owed me more but I was just mentally done with it and wanted to move on”. Great, move on with your money.

  9. Not knowing where key documents are and who the players in their financial and legal world are. you should be able to tell me the name of your lawyer and financial advisor without having to look it up.

I realize this may sound chauvinistic, it’s not. Take it as  the observation of someone who has dealt with these issues for a very diverse national client base for a decade. A list of issues and bad behavior specific to men would be even longer.

LIfe Insurance for Doctors and Business Owners – Key Due Dilligence Questions for Buyers

LIFE INSURANCE STRATEGIESThe last two weeks of the year is high selling season for life insurance polices as doctors rush to fund various retirement plans and as advisers take advantage of year-end wealth-transfer opportunities and favorable deals sometimes available from insurance companies. Knowing the right questions to ask about an insurance policy is a key issue for physicians, especially considering the significant investment often involved and the exit costs involved in buying a lemon.

Covering all the options and nuances available in the life insurance marketplace in anything less than book form is nearly impossible. The following are core concepts to be aware of that are the most basic and generally applicable.

What is my annual premium and can it change?

This is the amount the insurance will cost you every year. In some case this number is fixed and in other cases it can change based on variety of factors such as the performance of the stock market and other indices. Make sure you understand your obligations and what you will lose or be left with if you don’t make what the policy expected and what was actually illustrated.

Show me the policy illustration.

I see lots of bold promises and spit-ball estimations of future performance made by advisers. The policy illustration is all that matters, so any conversation about what could happen if the policy exceeds the expectation that the illustration creates is moot; don’t engage in it and instead ask about the “minimum guarantees” if one exists at all. That’s the minimum you’ll earn in the policy if the worst happens. Remember, the column on the far right in most illustrations is the “perfect world” scenario, so look at and have the others explained as well.

Does this policy have a cash value?

The cash value is the amount of premium that builds up inside the policy and that may be available to the policy owner in the future. Some policies, like term insurance, have no cash value, while others have it immediately and some build it up over time. Be clear if yours does and exactly when it will be available if you need it and under what terms.

Is my policy protected from creditors?

We’ve covered the tactical use of high-cash-value insurance with this feature before. Know what the laws in your state of residence are and if your policy and both the cash value and “death benefit” (dollar amount paid upon your death) is protected by law or not. Asset protection of liquid assets is always a key focus of my concern. If the law is not in your favor, some simple trust planning can often protect your policy from both estate taxes and more active threats.

How long will my policies last?

Again, this goes back to the illustration and specifies how long the coverage will be in place at a specific cost and what the death benefit will be through the term of the illustration. In some cases, keeping the policy alive may have significant increased costs while in others you may be able to reduce the death benefit to keep the premiums level or to stretch the policy for a longer period of years. Find out how flexible your policy will be in the future and weigh that as part of your risk-and-liquidity analysis.

What’s my exit strategy?

Find out what happens if you can’t or don’t want to continue to make premium payments. With term insurance you usually lose what you paid; that’s OK, think of it the way you might car insurance. Other policies that were structured to have a future cash value or that have a current cash value early on however may have significant “surrender penalties.” Know what happens if you walk away and what options the policy may provide, including the specific surrender penalties that may be imposed in the policy. The carrier could, for instance, keep all the cash value you built up if you don’t keep it for a minimum number of years.

 

This list just scratches the surface and is deceptively simple. Our goal here was to introduce some of the key concepts and questions you must be familiar with, so you can do your own due diligence on when buying life insurance, whether a simple term policy or a complex premium-financed strategy with a triple-reverse galactic split dollar that includes a trip to the Bahamas to read the policy.

My thanks to Jeff Christenson, president of Christenson Wealth Management in Phoenix, Ariz., for his significant contribution to my education on these issues.

Asset Protection with Offshore Trusts – The Cook Islands

OFFSHORE TRUSTSThis article is somewhat sensational (like most lay-articles on the subject of Asset Protection)  in that it focuses on the “bad users” but the science is still sound.

There are likely more people abusing tax deductions and self-directed IRAs than the kind of well timed and tax neutral offshore trust planning which we’ve helped 1000′s put in place legally.

I’m still a big believer in the Offshore Asset Protection Trust when done right. This means:

1.  Fully disclosed and with no abusive tax plan involved;

2.  Done by a professional; and

3. Done with no pending creditor issues.

SEE THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE HERE:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/COOKTRUST

 

See the

Key Legal Documents Everyone Facing a Divorce Must Update

DIVORCE

A common error after the expense and trauma of a divorce is not updating a variety of key legal and financial documents. You would not believe the number of estate plans and insurance policies that name an ex-spouse as the beneficiary of everything a client owns.

Jeff Landers of Bedrock Divorce advisors provides a great summary in the article linked below from FORBES.

SEE THE WHOLE STORY HERE:

http://tinyurl.com/DIVORCEUPDATES

 

 

 

 

Holiday Shopping, Cyber Crime and Personal Secuirty – Asset Protection

Holiday ScamsWhether you are a Black Friday, Cyber Monday or everything in-between shopper, the number of threats to your wealth and assets both in person and online at a  high at this time of year. Here are some issues to look out for to protect yourself, your family and the joy of the Holidays.

Yes, this is different from what you usually see from me, but Asset Protection is first and foremost about managing RISK, not just lawsuits. Below are two of my most recent columns for Physicians Practice that apply to everyone and center on financial scams and crimes of opportunity that are even more prevalent during the  holidays.

 

Financial Safety Tips to Protect Yourself from 5 Holiday Cyber-Scams

The holidays provide extra opportunity for a variety of theft and financial-fraud scams, many targeting affluent victims like physicians. This week take a first look at some common scams and safety precautions every family should be aware of.

1.      Charitable Donation Scams. This form of fraud has many incarnations but among the most common ones is mimicking a known charity with a look-alike name and presentation. Be sure the organization you are donating to is legitimate and the one you actually intended and avoid giving checks to unknown people or entities; once they have a check from you they can easily use the routing numbers to generate checks and other payments to themselves or to buy merchandise online.

2.      Credit Card Scams. Check your credit card statements carefully. Thieves take advantage of higher than average bills and unusual charges that appear on the statements of many American families at this time of year. This “smoke screen” provides good cover for charges that may be incurred by someone who has obtained your credit card number. Don’t just look at big charges, they’ve figured out you are likely to spot those and often use a series of small charges to avoid detection.

3.      New Account Scams. Consider checking your credit report for new accounts at year-end or early in January at the latest. At this time of year most major retailers are in a rush to open new credit accounts to get us to buy and often use huge extra savings and promotions as enticement, like an extra 20 percent off the day you open the account. Harassed retail staff may not be as vigilant about checking IDs, and opening such accounts at this time of year would not be unusual activity with retailers, your bank, etc.

4.      Smartphone scams. Be suspicious of your smartphone. E-commerce has forced retailers into a steady migration toward more mobile shopping and banking and the scammers came with them. Top scams-technology watchdogs are warning consumers about text messages with links to bogus sites that may steal your identity or credit card information or even infect your phone with a virus. Similarly, be careful of the apps you use and download, especially if you are buying from small, third-party resources instead of “factory” stores like Apple’s iTunes Store and the Android App store. These smaller sites can’t vet and test the apps as carefully and are often used by people whose phones have been unlocked or “jail broken” to allow features and software the manufacturers didn’t want on your phone. Watch your kids and how they’ve altered their phones, especially teenagers who may be shopping online with your card.

5.      Debit-fraud scams. Use credit cards instead of debit cards or checks as much as possible. A variety of debit-fraud schemes have been exposed lately and I’ve just never believed that using a payment function directly linked to your bank account balance was a good idea. Using credit cards, even if you pay them off in full at the end of the month, reduces your exposure significantly and provides an opportunity to dispute charges that are not yours, get purchase protection for loss, theft, or damage with some cards and even have recourse against dishonest retailers with shoddy or undelivered products.

This list just scratches the surface; we’ll provide a few more tips next week including some personal safety issues and social media related exposures you can avoid with a little information and a word of caution.

More Holiday Scam Advice and Safety Tips – PERSONAL SECURITY

Last week we introduced a variety of holiday banking and credit-related scams that target your family and finances and are more prevalent than ever in the age of digital currency.

We take a look at some other common exposures in this week of Black Friday, including some personal safety issues and tips to help you avoid being an easy target. Many of these issues arise in your daily routine and even at your home itself, while others occur when so many of us travel away from our homes for extended periods of time.

Packages and deliveries. The bad guys know that you are shopping online, and if they’re not trying to hack you they are happy to make a buck the old fashioned way; by actually stealing goods from you. They are aware that packages will be delivered and left outside the homes of millions of Americans and the narrow window between the time it was dropped off and the time someone gets home and picks it up is increasingly enough time to follow the familiar UPS and FedEx trucks as they drop off a variety of holiday surprises including all those things you carefully picked out from your favorite catalogs and websites.

Some basics:

Require a signature for important deliveries. A dreaded trip to the post office to pick it up is guaranteed to be less of a hassle than three trips to file police reports and make insurance claims.

Always have your packages shipped insured and with a tracking number at this time of year. The extra shipping expense is typically a fraction of what will be lost if the package is lost, stolen, or damaged at this high-volume time of year.

Avoid letting packages sit outside, as it attracts unwanted attention from the wrong people and is a good sign that no one is home, which may lead to further exploration for other goodies actually inside your home.

Be very careful about always locking your vehicle, and never leave packages and shopping bags in any plain view; use the locked trunk of your car if possible. I am continually surprised to see computers, tablets, briefcases, phones, and even expensive headphones sitting on car seats in shopping malls and other public parking lots. These are all hot targets that are easily sold and often hard to trace. Of course, always take a glance at the backseat to make sure the car is actually empty before you get in.

Be vigilant and watch your back, literally. Petty crimes like purse snatching, pickpocketing, and the like are easier for criminals when they know you are distracted by a long shopping list, an armful of packages, and often a family entourage. Theft of your bags and packages inside the mall or store itself is increasingly common as well so count your bags and watch them at all times or you may end up getting home and discovering a couple of items you paid for are missing. This recently happened to a friend of mine who put his exceptionally expensive designer sunglasses in a leather case down on a table less than a foot from himself for a moment in an Apple store (in a very upscale suburban shopping center) while paying for a product. When he turned around they were gone; the whole thing took about a minute.

Give the smart way. Panhandling is also big business at this time of year, playing in part upon your holiday spirit and partly on your guilt of walking out of a store with arm loads of frivolous purchases while someone forlorn looking asks for help, most typically for bus money to “get home” or to get something to eat. Be aware of the exceptionally vulnerable and tempting position you put yourself in when you pull your wallet out in front of a stranger, typically in parking lot or other public place where they feel no one is watching.

The purpose of this column is not to scare you out of enjoying the holidays; quite the contrary. It’s intended to give you an introduction to some exposures to be aware of and to proactively identify and avoid so your holidays are happy and free of (additional) stress. Be safe and Happy Holidays.

Essential Legal and Financial Documents, an Emergency Checklist

VITAL LEGAL DOCUMENTSFinding key documents can be trying and laborious under the best circumstances, even with plenty of notice, like at tax time every year. Finding them under stress or worse, having to have someone else sort through the entirety of the paperwork you have hoarded after an emergency, death or other crisis is often impossible. This is the list of the most essential legal and financial paperwork that you should be able to lay hands on or instruct others to easily find.

The bare-bare bones documents everyone should have available

  1. Passports. Make sure they are current and useable. If your kid is off on a summer abroad and gets hurt, it will certainly be the wrong time to discover that your passport is expired (true story) and that you have to wait for the government to reopen and for your passport to be processed.

  2. Copies of other identification. Driver’s license, social security card or other legal forms of ID including a birth certificate that is often required to obtain other documents.

  3. Insurance policies. Life, Property, Liability, and Health are four most basic key areas, we’ve covered many more in previous articles .  I’d hate to go on what Allstate (or any carrier) felt like paying me on my homeowner’s policy on good faith alone if my home was damaged or lost in a flood or hurricane. Having a copy of these actual policies is key in demanding service, coverage and in enforcing the actual contract if required. Similarly, health insurance cards are often kept in places that can be lost or stolen, like wallets and purses – if you’ve ever sat in an emergency room and seen who gets treated first and how well, you’ll get this.

  4. Essential Corporate and Business Document Including Bank Statements. If you have corporate documents that control chain of command, ownership, title, account balances and succession, you better

    know where they are. I am continually amazed that how many doctors don’t have copies of their corporate documents, adding stress delay and expense when they are needed, as in a lawsuit between partners in a medical practice. In that case, you may be stuck with copies that may or may not be accurate.

  5. Mortgages and deeds. These are perhaps the most overlooked, lost and disrespected documents we come across. Odd since it is the single largest asset of many doctors.

  6. Medical records and prescriptions. This is the most subjective, but if you or a family member have a complex medical history or require prescription drugs to function at a basic level, having copies of the prescriptions at issue is essential, especially during emergencies.

  7. Estate Plan. We assume you have one, whether a basic will or a more sophisticated series of trust of various types and that you’ve updated it  and that you have avoided common mistakes. It does no good if we can’t find it and don’t know who’s in charge.

How and Where should they be stored?

The conventional wisdom, and likely they safest bet, is the bank in a safety deposit box. That said, it may be impractical or subject you to delays based on their hours and a variety of other conditions including the substantial limits on access by third party agents you may want to have possession. Would the person you send be able to get into the box, including your own children?

Home and office Storage. Invest in a safe that is both waterproof and fire rated to withstand most common house fires. “Too big” or “too expensive” is not a valid excuse for almost anyone reading this. Costco, as one example, has large fire-rated safes that will hold guns, laptops, jewelry and documents for as little as six hundred dollars, entry level small safes are a fraction of that cost.

Consider which documents are sufficient if you have a copy, like an insurance policy and which require originals, like a passport. Consider keeping the original paperwork for which copies are an acceptable substitute in the bank and the reproduced copies at home. The most prepared also have copies of documents they actually keep on hand at home (like passports) saved somewhere else as most of us don’t have those details recorded or memorized. Do you know your passport number by heart?

All my personal clients from this month forward will receive electronic copies of their documents, instructions, filings and signature pages on an encrypted “key drive” to help in this process. That drive also allows other documents to be added to it and is encrypted to a high security level.  Don’t make electronic copies the primary source; it limits you to times when you have power and computer/internet access, a significant variable for folks in a natural disaster, as one example.