As a high-earning surgeon, you need sophisticated estate planning strategies to assist in protecting your wealth and legacy. Estate planning for surgeons isn’t exciting or sexy, but it can ensure your hard-earned assets go to the people and cause you to care about the most when you and your spouse are no longer here.
In this article, our team of professionals at Surgeons Capital Management will share a few estate planning tips specifically for surgeons that focus on wealth accumulation and preservation and sophisticated estate planning techniques tailored to your unique needs.
Whether you’re a seasoned surgeon or an up-and-coming star, these estate planning tips are designed to offer substantial value. They can help solidify your financial legacy, leaving an indelible mark that extends far beyond the operating room.
It’s Never Too Soon to Start Planning
Given the unique considerations of your profession, for example, the risk of malpractice lawsuits, you should have a comprehensive estate plan in place. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Choosing Between a Will and a Trust: What You Need to Know
One consideration you need to think about is deciding how to safeguard your assets for future generations. There are two primary options: creating a will or establishing a trust. This choice fundamentally shapes how your assets are managed and distributed after the passing of both spouses.
Last Will and Testament
A will is a straightforward way to communicate your intentions regarding your estate. It specifies who should inherit what and whether or not there are any conditions.
It’s important to note that a will becomes part of the public record during the probate process. This means anyone can access the details of your assets and beneficiaries.
Upon passing, your will must go through probate, a court-supervised process to validate the document and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. This process can be time-consuming and may involve significant legal fees based on the complexity of your estate.
Unlike wills, living trusts are private documents. This means that the details of your assets and beneficiaries remain confidential.
Assets held in a trust typically avoid the probate process, which can save time and expense. This is especially advantageous for individuals seeking efficient wealth transfer.
Trusts offer greater flexibility in asset management. You can name a trustee to oversee your assets during your lifetime and provide instructions for how the assets should be distributed upon death.
Tip: The decision between a will and a trust should align with your circumstances and goals. Many surgeons often lean toward trusts due to their privacy and potential for smoother transfers of assets. However, the choice is yours and should be made with the guidance of legal, tax, and financial professionals.
Planning for Business Continuity in Medical Practices
When crafting your estate planning for the unexpected, you should also account for succession planning for your practice. You should identify who will be responsible for your financial and medical decisions if you cannot work due to illness, injury, or premature death.
Another component of your estate plan should focus on any state-specific regulations concerning the business aspects of your medical practice. For example, New York does not allow a medical practice to operate unless a physician owns it.
If you are a solo practitioner, you must have a business succession plan. You might consider appointing another doctor to help manage and oversee the day-to-day operations of your practice, especially if circumstances require the sale of your practice if you are incapacitated or pass away. You don’t want to leave your patients without the necessary services.
If you are part of a group practice, you can create a plan that addresses what happens to your patients if you can no longer practice. This plan should include how a colleague, spouse, or third party can buy out your share of the practice.
It’s also important to have a documented process for the sensitive transfer of patient data that follows Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.
Another component of continuity planning is having comprehensive disability insurance that provides benefits if you cannot work. Life insurance policies can also be structured to facilitate the buyout of a deceased physician’s share while providing financial support to the surviving family members.
Tips: Succession and business planning is considered a key component of a surgeon’s estate planning process. Taking these steps can not only secure the practice but also ensure continuity of care for patients, safeguarding both the business and its most valuable asset: the trust of those it serves.
The Importance of Asset Location
Asset location should be a part of your estate planning strategy.
Asset location is similar to the surgical suite setup in your operating room. Just as you would organize the operating room with precision—ensuring that each instrument and piece of equipment is strategically placed for optimal utility and efficiency—the same care should be taken to thoughtfully allocate your wealth across various accounts for optimal financial health.
Some instruments are more frequently used in the operating room and must be within arm’s reach, while others are important but used less often. Similarly, in asset location, tax-efficient investments like municipal bonds may be better suited in taxable accounts, while assets that generate higher taxable returns should be placed in tax-advantaged accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs.
Just as the layout of your operating room can significantly impact your efficiency and the patient’s results, asset location can markedly impact your investment portfolio’s long-term returns. Both require a well-thought-out strategy and specialized considerations for optimal results.
Tip: Working with financial advisors for surgeons specialized in working with surgeons’ asset location strategies can help you make well-informed decisions for your long-term financial well-being.
Get to Know Surgeons Capital Management
As hard as you’ve worked to achieve your success, you deserve a financial firm specializing in working with surgeons to help you grow, preserve, and distribute your assets during your career, transition to retirement, and, ultimately, your legacy.
As financial advisors who work exclusively with surgeons, we always seek your best financial interests.
Our six core values for client services include:
- Always doing what is best for your financial interests. Period.
- We get to know your current circumstances, concerns, tolerance for risk, and financial goals. We also want to know more about your surgical practice, any concerns you may have, and what you see happening in the future.
- We are committed to staying current on financial issues that impact you and your industry. That’s why we attend 15+ surgical and professional association meetings each year. It is our opportunity to interact with you and other surgical professionals.
- Our vision is to become the nation’s leading financial strategies and services provider to successful surgeons, their families, and their practices. Our mission is to exceed your expectations for service, professionalism, and concern about your financial well-being.
- We always try to remember what you expect and deserve from us – always act with utmost integrity, professionalism, and respect for others.
- We work collaboratively with you and accept accountability for addressing your most complex financial concerns and challenges.
Connect with us to learn about our comprehensive estate planning services for surgeons.
This article is being provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute a solicitation or offer of any particular product or service and is not intended, and should not be relied upon, as insurance, investment, financial, tax or legal advice.
Duly registered and duly licensed financial professionals with Surgeons Capital Management offer securities through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN); offer investment advisory products and services through Equitable Advisors, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor; and offer annuity and insurance products through Equitable Network, LLC (Equitable Network Insurance Agency of California, LLC; Equitable Network Insurance Agency of Utah, LLC; Equitable Network of Puerto Rico, Inc.). Equitable Advisors and Equitable Network are affiliates and do not provide tax or legal advice or services. Surgeons Capital Management is not owned or operated by Equitable Advisors or Equitable Network.
PPG-6085811.1 (11/23) (Exp. 3/27)