I consistently advise physicians that as significant a risk as professional liability is, doctors must think beyond litigation risk broadly about all the risks they face. While some of your risk management will involve the use of specialized advisors and complex legal tools, there are also some important issues you should address yourself, today.
CHECK YOUR CREDIT
Most people overlook that we should all be doing this (at least) annually to identify any fraud or errors and to be sure that no unauthorized credit or accounts have been obtained using your identity. This fraud is most common at the end of every year, during the holidays, when new accounts are commonly opened, and consumers make more purchases than usual. This transaction volume provides good camouflage for scammers who can slip charges in among your legitimate purchases and take advantage of delayed billing and other new account promotions.
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
Store them securely, and set up two-factor authentication on all your online accounts.
Don’t use the same password at more than one website
Don’t store passwords on your desktop in a document marked “passwords”
Use a secure password storage service
Don’t use passwords with your own name or that end in “21” or “22”
INSURE YOURSELF HEAVILY
Including an umbrella policy and risk specific coverage, with the best carriers, at the right (high) dollar amounts. This is the most predictable and cost-effective asset protection available. In addition to own occupation disability insurance and life insurance adequate to replace your income, I advise that personal liability umbrella coverage of two million dollars minimum should be carried by every successful person, as well as loss coverage adequate to cover the true value of your property given increased materials and labor costs. I routinely get panicked calls from people I must turn away because they are looking for help after something bad has happened and they find out that they are either un-uninsured or under-insured for a particular risk, when it is legally too late to implement asset protection measures, including insurance.
BUY AND REGULARLY USE A HOME SHREDDER
A lot of ID theft still happens the old-fashioned way, when mail or trash is stolen and information including account numbers and other personal identifying information on yourself or of 3rd parties you have a legal duty to protect, falls into the wrong hands. The FTC has a simple guide to help identify what you need to keep and what you should securely shred. For other tips on preventing identity theft, visit: https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/.
UPDATE BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS
If there have been significant changes in your life including marriage, divorce, or changes in your assets or family structure, it’s important that you review and update both your estate plan itself and the current beneficiary designations on bank accounts, retirement plans, insurance policies and other financial accounts to avoid unnecessary expense, delay and mistakes in to whom your assets (or assets you yourself should be receiving) from a spouse or other family member, are directed.
SECURE PERSONAL ELECTRONICS
Like laptops, smartphones, and iPads. Millions of Americans got new devices over the holidays due to significant upgrades in technology and financial incentives. Both personal and business usage of these devices has greatly increased due to remote working scenarios and the fact that trade-in programs are more common than ever, especially for Apple users. Given the crossover in use of these devices and the amount of sensitive personal and financial data they contain, it’s important you and all your family members (are you sharing any accounts?) think and act carefully about security and properly deleting your information before trading them in, gifting them or otherwise disposing of them.
REASSESS YOUR HOME EQUITY EXPOSURE
Property values have soared over the last three years, and even doubled, in some high-end Phoenix area zip codes. You have more exposed home equity than ever before, and Arizona’s recently increased homestead exemption is only $250K. It may be time to act and use tools like trusts for personal residences and LLCs for your income producing investment properties to provide protection that traditional estate planning alone does not provide.