How Physicians Can Select a Smart Financial Team

May 19, 2014

Make sure you are selecting the right individuals to help you thrive financially. Here are three tips.

Physicians have a plethora of individuals to choose from when forming their financial team. But while that presents great opportunities, it can also make it difficult to determine which individuals will best fulfill your needs.

Here are some tips to ensure you are selecting the right financial team:

1. Ask for referrals. When I was practicing medicine, I made referrals to other specialists based on their personality, skill, experience, and overall quality. A good financial planner can do the same when you are looking to form the rest of your financial team.

Some of the individuals to consider including on your team are: 
• A general contract and business attorney
• An estate planning attorney
• An accountant/bookkeeper
• A payroll service
• Property and casualty insurance (including malpractice) providers
• Life and disability insurance providers
• Bankers for real estate and business loans
• Real estate brokers/leasing agents

2. Expand your search. Finding good professionals may mean using individuals who are not in your local area. An entire culture of fee-only planners and associated professionals exists nationally and serves clients in every state.  It is not unusual to obtain insurance from a professional far from home or to obtain loans in the same way.

An estate planning attorney may be an exception in that there are many important state-specific laws when considering estate and asset protection law.

3. Choose the right person for the job. Attorneys and accountants are usually fiduciaries.  There are some bad eggs around however (to me a mark of potential conflicts of interest are attorneys or accountants who also sell insurance or other financial products).  Listen to me: Don't buy investments from insurance people.  Don't buy insurance from investment "advisers."  Would you have your coronary bypass done by an OB/GYN?

Get some solid recommendations from your planner regarding both attorneys and accountants.  Your peers may also be a good source of referrals for attorneys and accountants, but your peers may not always understand what is going on "behind the curtain."

An estate planning attorney (either specifically trained in this field or having a practice primarily limited to estate planning) is almost always better to use for estate planning documents than a general attorney. Note that physicians often have complex asset protection issues, and that estate planning attorneys understand this area well. As noted above, it's probably best to stick with an attorney in your particular state.

The reverse recommendation is true for general contracts (real estate leases, employment and partnership agreements, etc.). Try to get referred to a general attorney who works with other physicians on a regular basis, one that has a good understanding of the complexities of healthcare law.

A good accountant is golden.  You will have a wide variety of tax issues connected to both your personal life and your business affairs.  Take the time to get a respected and knowledgeable CPA.  Your planner may know who is good (ask who he would be comfortable using for himself).