Action Items for the Estate When a Solo Physician or Dental Practitioner Passes Away
When a solo doctor or dentist dies, the doctor’s estate must figure out what to do with the practice. Because the doctor practiced solo, there are no partners who will continue the practice. The estate can not operate the practice due to the fact that it’s not licensed to practice medication or dentistry. Usually the estate has two choices, either offer the practice or wind it down.
Preliminary Actions. Prior to doing anything else, take these initial steps.
– Action # 1: Alert the CA Medical or Dental Board of the medical professional’s death.
– Action # 2: Inform the federal Drug Enforcement Administration of the doctor’s death. When you alert the DEA, you must get instructions on how to dispose of the remaining drugs and controlled substances.
– Action # 3: Talk with the workplace manager of the practice to determine the manager’s accessibility to assist unwind the practice, and to develop a plan of action.
– Action # 4: Discover a business broker who concentrates on the sale of medical or oral practices.
What to Do with the Practice Throughout the Interim Phase.
During the interim period while the estate is offering the practice or winding it down, you will require a physician to operate the practice.
– For dentists, the law is clear. At the death of a dental expert, the administrator of the estate may use certified dental professionals and dental assistants and charge for their services for as much as 12 months after death. Preferably, the temporary dental professional keeps the practice running so that you can offer it as a going concern within the 12 months.
– For doctors, the law is not so clear. By the letter of the law, the estate might not itself operate, and might not hire a doctor to operate the practice during the interim duration when the estate is trying to offer the practice or wind it down. Keep in mind that the estate is unlicensed. This implies that, according to the law as written, the estate must either offer or close down the practice instantly upon the death of the doctor. In the past, the CA Medical Board has actually allowed the estate to bring in a doctor to cover the practice for the interim period while the practice is being offered. The CA Medical Board did so on an informal basis, however, and I can’t tell you that it has a policy of offering this benefit. My guidance is for the estate representative to call the CA Medical Board and discuss the situation, and hope to receive informal consent to generate such a coverage doctor on a short-lived basis. If given consent to do so, the estate needs to move fast in getting rid of the medical practice. I have actually seen estates that operated a practice as much as one year after the doctor’s death. This is certainly an abuse of the leeway provided by the CA Medical Board, and most likely constitutes the unlicensed practice of medicine by the estate, which is illegal.
If you offer the practice, the workers ideally can continue with the purchasing doctor. If you can’t sell the practice, then think about having the office supervisor handle the winding down of the practice, including termination of work, payment of quantities owed at termination, COBRA notices, and so on. The workplace manager can supervise most other actions required for the winding down also, for example, the providing of patient notifications, payment of practice commitments, and the collection of receivables. You might have to pay the office manager a little additional to stay around for this work.
Patient records resemble hazardous waste: no one desires them and nobody knows for how long to store them. Your best option is to discover a medical professional to take the patients and the client records. If a patient requests his or her patient records, thank the client, and provide the records to the client immediately.
If you can’t find a doctor to take the client records, then how long should the estate shop the records? I have no easy response. There is no basic law needing a medical professional to keep medical records for a particular time period. Various laws have various requirements, for instance, 3 or 5 or 7 years. The majority of litigators recommend that you hold patient records for 10 years, on the theory that many claims have actually disappeared after ten years.
If absolutely nothing else, the estate must contact the medical professional’s insurance provider to identify its requirements for record retention. You do not want to breach the agreement for malpractice insurance. Numerous providers offer a reduced duration for retaining records after a medical professional’s death. The estate should hold the records for a minimum of the time period needed by the insurer.
Keep the physician’s malpractice policy in place up until it expires. For high-risk practices, consider purchasing a tail policy. Likewise, keep copies of the physician’s previous policies till you feel safe from malpractice claims versus the deceased medical professional.
One Year Statute of Limitations.
Lastly, talk with the estate’s attorney about the statute of limitations for estate and probate matters. There is a 1 year statute of limitations for bringing a claim against an estate which begins to range from the date of the death of the physician, regardless of whether the claimant learns about it. The 1 year statute of limitations may cut off a great deal of possible claims against the estate.
Depending on the nature of the doctor’s practice, you might feel comfortable counting on this brief 1 year period for defense from patient, financial institution and other third-party claims against the deceased physician. This is a tough choice, however it’s a crucial choice, so be sure to discuss it with your lawyer.