Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Value of Having a ‘Professional Will’ Stephen Ragusea

Professional associations have long encouraged their members to draw up a professional will. But so far, clinicians aren’t paying much attention.

Recently, we spoke with Stephen Ragusea, a clinician in Key West, FL, who has been promoting the idea in seminars. He says a survey of members of the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that only about 1% had a professional will.

He adds that the idea meets resistance among the therapists he works with--even when he offers a free template they can fill in themselves.

Why aren’t clinicians covering their bases? One reason is that like everyone else, therapists prefer not to think about early death or incapacity. They assume they’ll retire before it becomes an issue, giving them the opportunity to wind the practice down in an orderly manner.

"But winding down a practice in a planned manner is different from covering your practice in the event of death or incapacitation," Ragusea says. "It’s irresponsible not to provide for what happens after your death."

Beyond that, your personal estate could be at risk if you have no mechanism for tying up professional loose ends. Even if your practice is incorporated, he says, you may not be completely protected.

It’s not hard to get started, Ragusea adds. He’s provided a basic, three-page outline for a professional will--which you can read and print out at (Click on "Reader Services.")

He notes that it’s written "in plain language, deliberately avoiding the arcane jargon sometimes used in legal documents." But of course, you should run the finished document past your own attorney.

Here are three other ideas Ragusea says you should keep in mind when it comes to a practice will:

Figure out who you’d like to be your executor--then go and ask. It should be someone within your own discipline who’s familiar with your particular code of professional ethics. This is not a job to be offered or accepted casually. "You’re asking someone to do a lot of work for free."
Keep your attorney aware of what you’re doing. "He needs to know about the will, so he can be prepared to defend it."
Tell your accountant, too. "He may have to answer questions about your finances."

You can contact Stephen Ragusea at 1901 Fogarty Ave., Ste. 5, Key West, FL 33040, (305)294-2500,

To download a copy of the living will, click here.

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