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Time-sensitive threats to physicians wealth: Spring 2024

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Don't wait! Make sure your wealth is protected.

money disintegrating | © SERSOLL - stock.adobe.com

© SERSOLL - stock.adobe.com

Recurring, seasonal personal liability issues ranging from engagements and weddings to parental liability and filing a tax return can seriously affect doctors’ wealth. Here are some current risks to be aware of and manage.

Getting married? Valentine’s Day started prenup season

There are traditionally many proposals and engagements around Valentine’s day, which means that formal pre-nuptial agreement planning should start shortly after. While no one plans for their marriage to fail, the fact is that a significant number of them do and failing to have a plan for that possibility can be financially devastating, life changing event. I’ve seen it significantly alter people’s income, lifestyles, and retirement plans. This applies to both young physicians marrying for the first time and who often think they don’t have anything to protect yet, and older physicians who may be re-marrying later in life with more to lose. While I’ve previously covered some of what a well drafted prenup can address in detail, here are some key basics that apply to everyone:

  • Start early and have the prenup formally signed and adopted by both parties well in advance of the wedding; “duress” and late timing is a key defense used to void prenups.
  • Be complete in your disclosures of all assets
  • Each party should be represented by counsel

Vacation season is high risk for parents

We have repeatedly provided warnings about the so-called ‘100 deadliest days of the year’ the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the U.S. consistently experiences the highest number of accidents and fatalities as both minors and adult children who may be home from college are using your homes, cars, boats and etc. with more free time, company and less supervision than usual.

While auto accidents remain high on the list of frequently recurring, obvious serious risks, they are certainly not the only legal and financial risk you and your children face. We have seen claims against parents for the actions of their children for issues including fights, theft, vandalism, bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual-assault, sexting and etc. These exposures can create serious legal consequences, massive legal bills and reputational damage to both the child and their family, potentially up to the level of costing you your practice.I discussed this risk on a recent legal podcast about a case in an affluent Phoenix suburb where many parents wrongly assumed that their income, zip code, church attendance and etc. made their children distinct from those who commit these acts.

Manage these risks by:

  • Setting and enforcing firm rules for the use of your property and vehicles
  • Being highly insured with an umbrella policy of a minimum of two million dollars
  • Paying attention to what your children are doing, who they are associating with, where they are and when they are going

Tax Day means tax scams targeting doctors

We have provided repeated warnings over the last few months about the wide range of tax scams targeting physicians. Some of the scams involve the abusive use of otherwise legitimate tools and programs including conservation easements, opportunity zones, captive insurance companies and ERC credits. Others are fraudulent on their face, like the use of trust structures sold by promoters that promise to avoid or permanently defer income tax or capital gains tax obligations. No matter what form the abuse takes, remember these key points:

  1. You are always civilly and criminally liable for the information on your tax return and the legality of any deductions claimed, no matter who or how much you paid for the advice
  2. Abusive tax planning can not only cost you the deduction itself, the loss is often compounded with legal and accounting fees, fines, penalties and interest that may be a multiple of the amount you were trying to save.

Be sure that you are making these choices with professional help and the use of your trusted advisors. There is nothing proprietary about the U.S. tax code and any reluctance for a qualified subject matter expert like your CPA or a tax lawyer to look over what you are doing because it’s, “proprietary, a trade secret, requires an NDA, etc.” should be treated as significant red flags.

As always, the information we provide here is general in nature, mean to apply to a wide audience and cannot replace the advice of your own tax and legal advisors that are familiar with your specific fact pattern. Use their help!

Attorney Ike Devji has 20 years of legal experience focused exclusively on asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation. He helps protect a national client base with more than $6 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians, a Physicians Practice contributor for over a decade and a frequent national CME presenter. Learn more at www.ProAssetProtection.com.

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