Asset protection is a necessity for any physician, regardless of variables like specialty or work setting. According to Ben Utley of Oregon-based Physician Family Financial Advisors, if a physician hasn’t been sued, they likely will be sued at some future point in their career. Whether a physician is writing prescriptions or diagnosing patients, Utley notes that a statistically predictable number of poor outcomes will occur, leading to a malpractice suit. This is simply due to of the nature of the beast that is medicine. As such, physicians should consider asset protection strategies before they face any malpractice suits.

Physicians who engage in financial wellbeing due diligence typically invest their money in protected accounts like 401(k) retirement accounts or in primary residence equity. In addition, such doctors will invest in quality malpractice insurance, which will protect them for up to specified amount of damages.

Many Physicians Get into Trouble With Non-Medical Occurrences

According to Utley, physician assets are in jeopardy when the following occurs: Upon having a poor outcome, the patient sues. The physician then loses the case in court, and the judge’s verdict extends beyond the physician’s malpractice coverage boundary. From that point, the direction in which things move depends on how much effort patients are willing to put into the process of coming after a physician’s protected assets, as well as the harshness or leniency of the relevant state’s laws.

Many physicians, Utney notes, get into trouble when non-medical occurrences take them by surprise, like their pet biting a stranger or their spouse slamming into another car on the highway. Such situations make physicians vulnerable to having their assets exposed and under attack. In an effort to circumvent these issues, Utley suggests that all physicians have a personal umbrella insurance policy, which will protect them from financial consequences associated with non-medical accidents. He also adds that such policies are inexpensive and well worth it. Additionally, Utley urges physicians to obtain quality disability insurance, which protects their ability to practice medicine—their largest asset. It would also behoove physicians to invest in auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance, in an effort to maximize asset protection.

Lastly, Utley suggests that physicians select an attorney from a multi-specialty firm when seeking legal counsel, ideally one whose specialty is business law or estate planning. However, Utley warns physicians to avoid so-called asset-protection attorneys, proposing that they are merely out to sell expensive life insurance.

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Physician’s Weekly | March 6, 2023

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