Professional Will – Update

The social work profession is noble and founded on service, integrity, and clinical expertise. It can be a stressful and dangerous occupation. The nation is grateful for what you do, AND SO ARE WE! Thank you!

Recently, there have been frequent questions from policyholders on the Preferra Insurance Company Help Line regarding the Professional Will subject. A 2-part Tip-of-the Month series on the Professional Will was published in October and November 2016, providing substantial detail and an example of a Professional Will. The example is included in this article as well.

Initially, think about the differences in a “Will.” There is a Last Will and Testament for your property and beneficiaries of your wealth and property. There is also a Professional Will that is subservient. Its purpose is to administer the professional’s practice until the practice is sold or wound down in liquidation as tangible or intangible property subject to the Last Will and Testament. There is a helpful article to read about the Professional Will, with some of the content included in this article; see “What’s a Professional Will and Do You Need One?”; By Barbara Weltman; Big Ideas for Small Business.com, 2019.

The word “Will” means a document used to distribute property contained in the Estate when a person dies. Included in the Estate is the Testator, who owns the property. The Testator names an Executor in the Last Will and Testament to manage the property for final distribution. If no valid Last Will and Testament exist upon death, this is called dying intestate.

People with practices, such as social workers, psychologists, doctors, and attorneys, commonly use professional wills – containing directives and instructions regarding their practice in the event of death or incapacity.

The critical point to initially recognize is that in the Professional Will, the property does not change ownership. The Professional Will is for administrative purposes only and contains defined tasks performed in exchange for a stated compensation fee (specified in the Professional Will).

The Professional Will is a legal document that names a person or an entity to control the professional’s practice in the event of death or incapacity. The Professional Will gives specific stated and defined authority to a designated person or entity, the Professional Executor, to make certain decisions and actions regarding the professional’s practice. The Professional Will does not supersede the professional’s Last Will and Testament nor replaces the professional’s durable power of Attorney for administration during the professional’s life.

Generally, the powers conferred to the Professional Executor are the ability to make decisions and take actions regarding client and office records, along with storage and disposal under the law and professional requirements. Also conferred is the authority to delegate to others to administer the Professional Will.

Here are some examples of what a Professional Will Executor should manage:

  • Appointment book and calendar
  • Client/patient list
  • Contact list or names, telephone numbers, addresses, and email addresses
  • Insurance policies
  • Office keys, storage lockers, offsite physical storage, and access to digital storage
  • User IDs, passwords, and voicemail access and codes
  • Bank and credit card information, but the authority to spend money can only be done according to a durable power of Attorney or by a court-appointed executor, administrator, or designated personal representative.

In summary, A Professional Will assigns authority and directions to the Professional Executor, probably a practitioner or a colleague. While developing a Professional Will, the practitioner must consult an attorney knowledgeable about the profession and the law of Wills and Estates. These laws vary among states and change over time.

Preferra Insurance Company RRG will continue to ensure its policyholders are in the employee wellness category for Professional Liability, General Liability, and Cyber Liability insurance risks and perils. You can count on us to protect you!

Download a PDF of an Example of a Professional Will