Over the past few years I've received the same email from different colleagues, all expressing the same story; "a counselor friend of theirs has died and left their spouse with the task of cleaning up what's left of their practice. What should they do?" That's usually followed by the same list of 101 questions about records and legal access, etc.
The answer to that query is a 2-part response and I'm sharing it with you now so you can put this at the top of your to-do list.
What's a Closer?
A closer is a person, typically an attorney, that you select to come in after your death and close up your business. If you've never closed a business before please know that it's far more complicated than just turning the lights out and locking the door. I could make a list of those closing tasks for you but it would easily triple the length of this post and that's not my objective here today.
Best Time to Plant a Tree?
Back to those emails I mentioned. What they should have done is designate a business closer way back when they set up their business entity (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc). Your corporate attorney should have this on his checklist of things to talk with you about when you set it up but if he didn't, call him up and ask him why he didn't, then get'r done.
Sometimes when you put your HIPAA compliance program in place your provider will ask you to designate a closer. The better compliance services will do this so that's one thing to look for when you're shopping for a compliance partner.
Another chance you have to get this done is when you select an EHR provider. The forward-thinking ones will ask you to designate a closer. If they don't, then know that you still need to designate a closer. The best time to plant this tree was 20 years ago.
2nd Best Time to Plant That Tree?
If you've done it through either your HIPAA Compliance partner or your EHR platform provider, congratulations. Note.....don't make the mistake of assuming that if these partners didn't ask you about it that you must not need a closer. You do, and if you haven't appointed one yet then the next best time to get one (to plant that tree) is right now.
The partner platforms that do ask are simply ahead of the curve and, make no mistake about it, they're doing it to cover their backsides first and foremost. If something happens to you, they want a real, flesh and blood contact to talk to that knows what they're doing so they can wrap things up on their end. The last person they want to talk to is a grieving spouse who has no idea where you hid the keys to your filing cabinets, what your passwords are, or the hundred other things they won't want to be dealing with.
Who's Paying For This?
Well, you are. Or your estate will so you want to make sure that you plan ahead to properly compensate whomever you select as your closer because....wait for it.....they're not going to do this for you for free. Find out what their fee will be and make sure your estate can cover that sum or this will fall right back into the hands of your grieving relatives.
That Won't Happen to Me
Yeah, it will. 101 billion people have lived on this earth prior to your arrival and every single one of them has met the same fate. You just don't know how or when, but one thing is for sure....if you don't plan ahead for that eventuality and get a closer, the people you care about most are going to have to clean up the mess you leave behind.
It's not fun to think about but neither is the alternative. Designate your closer, put it all in writing in a proper will, show it to someone you trust, then store it in a very safe place, off-premises. Then you can get back to thinking about more pleasant things. You got this!
Plan Smart. Be Safe. Serve Others.
Kathleen Mills, LPC-S, CEAP
Got An Opinion?
These posts are my beliefs based on my a) 32 years of practice as a mental health provider and b) my own research. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to leave your civil, constructive comments below. I try very hard to back up my liberty-based statements with my own experience and/or verifiable facts and I would ask you to do the same. You do not need to be logged in to leave a comment.
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