Death, Disability and Lawyers

"Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal."


Planning for the worst…

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end…

– Lyrics by Jim Morrison, music and recorded by The Doors.

“Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.”

While some lawyers have a nice long career capped by a comfortable retirement, some of us are not quite so lucky. All too often disease and accidents can bring our practices to an early end, rob us of our faculties or bring our lives to an all-to-early end.

There are several things that all of us can do to at least help minimize the impact of such an event on our clients, partners, spouses, families and not the least of all, ourselves. The first of these is to ensure that you have adequate insurance such as:

Life Insurance

  • This type of insurance principally protects your family and beneficiaries against your premature death and illness.

Disability Insurance

  • This provides compensation if you are unable to work in the event of an injury, disability or accident. It can protect you and your family.

Medical and Health Insurance

  • Provides coverage for costs over and above the government health plan.

Once you have adequate insurance, you need to deal with the issues arising from your practice. You need to ensure that your clients are looked after, your files and trust accounts are properly handled and your law corporation is dealt with after your passing.

You should also ensure that you have a practice and succession plan in place

  • Only a practising lawyer may deal with files and trust accounts. There are further complications if your practice is incorporated.
  • If the worst happens, you can minimize the stress on your family by having done your
    succession plan.
  • You can choose the lawyer and the financial terms governing the dealing with your practice.
  • Planning can allow the net value of your practice to flow back to you or your estate (rather than being eaten by custodian fees and other costs).

If you don’t have a plan

  • The Law Society may have to arrange for practice coverage, possibly seeking court appointment of a custodian
    if necessary.
  • The appointment of a custodian may negatively affect the value of your practice.
  • A custodian must protect the interests of your clients, but cannot continue to represent them; and may protect the value of the practice, but will not maximize it.
  • Custodianship fees and expenses are paid by your practice, yourself or your estate, possibly resulting in additional debt for you or your estate.

It may bring some solace to know that you have taken the time and the steps to protect all of those whom you care for when you are facing the end.

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