Updated: May 13, 2019
One of the biggest questions I get asked is "how do I pick someone to administer my professional will? Are there guidelines?" Let's look at a few considerations.
What the Executor does...
Is really up to the professional will and the tasks that you delegate. Typically the Executor will be expected to (1) access client information; (2) contact clients; (3) transfer-of-care services for your clients; (4) assume custody of your client files; and (5) close out administrative aspects of the practice.
I find that most people's main concerns are transfer-of-care services for their current clients. The idea of a client being suddenly left without anyone to help carry on their treatment is a very scary and unsettling thought. To that end, an Executor must be qualified and authorized to offer mental health services (pre-termination counseling and referrals etc.)
Knowing and Practicing the Rules.
It's extremely important that you feel confident in your Executor's ability to successfully (and ethically) assume custodianship of your client's records. If a mental health provider doesn't keep up with their own record retention schedule, then its safe to assume they will transfer poor and unethical habits to your files.
Consider the schedules of your potential candidates. At the end of the day, you're asking someone to take valuable time from their own clients; so be considerate of their schedule limitations. If your number one candidate is consistently at maximum-capacity; then ask yourself "would they be able to address the needs of my clients with fidelity?"
Recruiting from Down the Hall.
Some solo-practitioners find it easier to appoint Executors from their shared office and(or) building. This is especially true for those who have suite-mates who are already familiar with their record-keeping practices; have their own access into the office/building etc; and naturally spend time in (and around) their practice.
Compatible Communication Skills.
The person you appoint should be able to communicate with clients in a manner that they are accustomed. People are more receptive to bad news when its comforted by familiarity. If you're a telephone-person; then consider if appointing an email-person is really the best choice for your clients.
This refers to the ability of your Executor to meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of your clients. This would be especially important if your clients typically come from disenfranchised, under-served, or underrepresented backgrounds.
Your Executor doesn't need to be multilingual, but they should at least be comfortable (and) patient with individuals that do not speak English as their first language.
Extremely Detail Oriented.
This one seems obvious but it is often an undervalued personality trait (when considering an Executor). Aside from client-related tasks; your Executor will most likely have to do some administrative stuff like: contact colleagues, close out email/professional/social media accounts, stop paid-membership services, assess any outstanding balances, and troubleshoot any issues you didn't forecast etc.
All of that may sound easy but failing to follow your directions with specificity could effect the liability of your business or (even) your personal estate. A detailed approach will ensure that nothing is forgotten or lost in the shuffle.
State and Federal Law.
Always consult a qualified attorney in your state to determine if there are additional legal requirements for an Executor. In addition, always contact your licensing board to make sure there are no ethical or statutory limitations or guidelines for both your professional will and its Executor.
Rule of Three.
Like a traditional will; always appoint three Executors- one primary and two alternates. Apply your criteria to all three candidates because it is not unrealistic to assume that your primary choice may not be able to accept the position when the time comes. I can already hear people saying "its hard enough to think of one person, do I really need three?!" My answer is always the same "consider the scenario where your clients are calling and calling and calling but nobody is answering the phone and nobody has told them what has happened to you. What kind of stress would you be in if you were in their position?"
In the end, these are only a handful of considerations and I am sure there are a million more. Remember that you are the best authority to determine what kind of person is needed to fulfill your wishes.
Still, if you are a mental health professional in Texas and aren't sure about an Executor, feel free to give me a call or visit me at The Law Office of John Garland to set up a Free Consult to talk through your specific situation.
I'm happy to help in anyway that I can.
The information above is not legal advice. You should always consult with a qualified attorney in your State before drafting legal documents and (or) making any legal decisions. I have supplied this information ONLY as an educational and conversational guide.