Asset protection, insurance, and seasonal summer risks

Memorial Day begins the “100 Deadliest Days”.

Memorial Day weekend starts the “100 Deadliest Days” of summer when personal liability risks for physicians and their families spike. Here are some basic risks and risk management issues to be aware of to make sure this vacation season doesn’t cost you your wealth.

After a year of lockdown conditions America is getting vaccinated and ready to travel and enjoy some vacation time starting with the Memorial Day holiday. Unfortunately, this happy time is also known as the “100 Deadliest Days” because of the annual spike in accidents, injuries, and fatalities that occurs every year during the traditionally summer vacation season in the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day,.

The glaring, number one mistake

I am routinely contacted for hep by physicians I have to turn away from helping because they are looking for help after something bad has happened, when the law prohibits most asset protection measures that could have been legally and predictably implemented in advance. What will surprise most physician readers is the fact that in the last 18 months, the number one reason I have been contacted late by physicians and their spouses in a panic over losing everything wasn’t because of a medical malpractice claim, rather it was because they were underinsured on their automobile insurance and failed to have a seven-figure umbrella policy in place. Then, they or family member got into an accident with significant injuries or fatalities and were informed their liability would exceed their policy limits.

I advise my clients, friends, and family members that an umbrella policy of at least $2MM in place is the single most vital and cost-effective asset protection tool for every physician. If your net worth is higher, consider matching it. Given the low cost of this coverage and the ease with which you can have your agent add it with a single phone call, there is no reasonable excuse to expose yourself one day longer if you don’t already have one in place.

Know the risks; why is summer more dangerous?

As with many risks, management and leadership go a long way, including in family settings. Make sure you have clearly established and enforced guidelines about the appropriate use of your homes, vehicles, and other property by your family and all guests, including your own—it’s not always the kids that burn the house down.

A combination of factors leads to increased risks:

  • More children, including adult college-aged children, are out of school and have more unsupervised free time.
  • Children are spending more time driving for leisure purposes, often unsupervised and with friends, which leads to distracted driving accidents.
  • Adults, including yourself, are often spending more time driving, traveling, and entertaining third parties.
  • Summer often sees the greatest use of vacation homes, boats, jet-skis, recreational vehicles, and other “weekend warrior” hazards that may have individuals engaging in activities beyond their ability or while impaired.

Get your ducks in a row

Lawyers know when someone is going on a vacation because we get calls like, “Can you do an estate plan in two days?” If you don’t have one in place, consider doing it before the paragliding trip to Costa Rica, or even something less adventurous, and give yourself time to work with a professional and make good choices. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to start, so don’t be intimidated into doing nothing instead of at least having something basic and functional that can be amended or expanded later.

If you can answer these simple questions, you have most of the basics an estate planner will need:

  • Who should be my trustee?
  • Who are my beneficiaries?
  • Who should have guardianship of my minor children?
  • What are my most important assets?
  • Who should have healthcare power of attorney for me if I’m incapacitated?
  • Who should have financial and legal power of attorney for me if I’m incapacitated?

A word on cannabis and travel

A number of popular vacation destinations including California, Arizona, and Colorado have fully legalized recreational cannabis sales. Whether this is a conversation you need to have with your children or one that hits closer to home, please avoid needing a “vacation lawyer” by remembering:

  • It’s usually not legal to consume in public
  • It’s not legal to drive or sail impaired
  • Don’t bring it home
  • Know your limits, it’s all medical grade

About the Author
Ike Devji, JD, has practiced law exclusively in the areas of asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation for the last 16 years. He helps protect a national client base with more than $5 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians and a frequent medical conference speaker and CME presenter. Learn more at www.ProAssetProtection.com.