When a therapist dies, the ripple effects are going to be felt strongly by her patients. Therapists understand very well that abandonment is one of the most hurtful experiences a patient can experience. They plan to have a backup therapist available when they go on vacation. But despite the fact that they are generally required to have one, most therapists do not have a professional will for referring their patients out and handling clinical files properly if the therapist dies or becomes incapacitated. Many therapists do not even know that they are required to have such a document, which is similar to a will (hence the term, “professional will”).
What’s more, many inexpensive professional will options available to therapists are created by other therapists, not estate planning lawyers. You wouldn’t want a lawyer for grief counseling. Why would you want a therapist creating a professional will? It is simply unreasonable to expect a therapist to think like an estate planning lawyer.
Finally, therapists are not lawyers. So they might not consider the fact that such a document should be vetted by an estate planning lawyer. The best solution is to get a lawyer involved. It doesn’t have to be a $3,000 estate plan. They can create their own professional will and have an estate planning lawyer give an opinion/recommendations. Or they can try therapist-will.com, which offers a relatively inexpensive online option. But therapist-will.com is only available to California therapists at this time.