Yep, You Need a Professional Will

The Low Down on Professional Wills

Here at HIPAA for Therapists, we give a lot of advice and guidance on planning and organizing your practice.  We know (personally and professionally!) that therapists are no exception when it comes to feeling discomfort and anxiety when thinking about our own death or sudden incapacitation.  Avoiding this unpleasantness–it’s understandable.  And popular! A Gallup poll conducted in May 2016 reported that only 44% of Americans have a will – which indicates that the majority of Americans are putting off this planning.  But, therapists have ethical and legal requirements related to this, so today, HIPAA for Therapists wants to encourage you to tackle your professional will.

What is a professional will?  A professional will, unlike a personal last will and testament, is not a legally binding document.  A professional will acts as a set of detailed instructions to be followed if you are suddenly unable to continue practicing for any reason.  A professional will covers the technical details of your practice, such as your license number, location of records, and passwords to log in to necessary sites.  However, a good professional will will also address important ethical and clinical considerations, like how to contact each client, what you want communicated, and to whom you wish to refer them.        

Why do you need a professional will? HIPAA requires that you identify & mitigate the risks that an incapacitated provider/manager of records (you) would create with regard to medical record accessibility and security.  However, while record accessibility and compliance are important, most therapists often identify an even more important priority– client care.  A professional will ensures that your clients are well taken care of, and that their care (as well as their PHI) is handled as well as can be done, even if you are not capable of practicing for any given amount of time.

What do I include in my professional will?  More than we can cover in a short article, key items include a list of physical locations for important documents and keys.  A professional will should officially name your professional executor, a backup professional executor, and possibly co-executors.  For all of these individuals, you should list their contact information as well as their license numbers. You want to ensure that your executor can quickly find your where your appointments are documented – whether it is in a calendar app, or in a physical appointment book – so that clients can be notified as soon as possible.  Additionally, your will should include communication instructions for your clients, how to contact them (mail or phone), and samples of what you might want shared with clients in various situations.

Just do it for me!  If after reading this you were left feeling overwhelmed, or if you are still not sure where to start, check out my “Just Do It For Me” Professional Will Workshop Friday after next.  Completion of the “Just Do it For Me” Professional Will Workshop will leave you with a rough draft of your full professional will.  We will look further into what a professional will can and cannot do for your practice.  You will also gain an increased understanding of the risks related to provider emergencies, and the ethical implications.  This workshop is very hands on and catered to your practice.  I keep it tiny so that you get plenty of time & attention so you can get things done!  The only pre-requisite is the completion of the Ducks in a Row: HIPAA & TMPA for Therapists workshop (either in person or online).  Click here to register now for the “Just Do It For Me” Professional Will Workshop!