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Divorce and Estate Planning for Medical Professionals

Leslie Barrows
 | Published: 
September 22, 2022
 | Category: 
Estate Planning

Divorce and Estate Planning for Doctors and Dentists in Private Practice

Medical professionals benefit from unique opportunities to earn significant income and grow wealth. Not only by practicing medicine but also by investing in small clinics and medical practice arrangements, doctors and dentists can build complex financial structures and generate income streams. Divorce in Texas is more complicated when community property issues are substantial. Consider, for example, a scenario in which a spouse worked for the other who may be a doctor or dentist in private practice. The supporting spouse may have contributed to building the practice and may seek a greater share in the divorce. And meanwhile, the medical professional spouse may have inherited money and invested in another practice and have issues and claims associated there with. At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, our Texas divorce attorneys work with high-net-worth divorce and estate planning issues when medical professionals get divorced and work to protect their wealth for the future support of their families and themselves.

Leslie Barrows is an aggressive Texas divorce and child custody attorney, well-experienced in high-stakes divorce and custody suits. With her team of attorneys and paralegals at the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Leslie creates and manages litigation strategies clients need to protect themselves and their families.

Texas is a Community Property State

Community property laws apply in Texas, and they are structured to usually provide an equal division of the marital property accumulated during the marriage. There are property issues that arise in divorce about property claims when one spouse wants the property to be considered separate property not subject to division. Separate property could be a business one had before the marriage, and the issue becomes whether once married, the business or income was kept separate or comingled into the marital income and became community property.

Doctors and dentists are rightfully concerned about going through a divorce and fear what could happen to their medical practice. Seeking to protect their practice, it is important to seek legal advice and representation from sophisticated divorce attorneys whose practices customarily serve high-net-worth clients with high-stakes business and property issues in divorce. Texas community property laws may entitle your spouse to reimbursement out of the business, which can become complex, and must be done correctly to best protect rights and interests moving forward.

Can Your Spouse Seek a Buyout of Your Medical Practice?

The issue in divorce with a doctor, dentist, and similar medical professional becomes value and reimbursement for what is due to the spouse to receive in a divorce settlement or post-trial judgment. Business valuation experts are used to determine the proper value of the medical practice. Values may be determined by looking back in time and projecting forward into the future. There are all kinds of complex business interests through which a spouse can claim a share in the divorce.

Liquidity of assets and cash to reimburse another can impede settlement in a divorce. But what if there are future interests and business interest deals that can be made with a spouse who may be happy to be divorced and later receive more money in total by accepting future income as part of the distribution in the divorce? Truly there are no limits to the creative ways that financial transactions can arise and be of great future benefit to everyone involved.

Resource Article: The Four Methods of Medical Practice Valuation, Explained

Premarital Agreements for Medical Professionals Protecting Physicians and Dentists

The benefits of premarital agreements to physicians and dental professionals are significant. Humans are emotional beings, and we dislike uncertainty. Not being able to know or predict future outcomes makes people insecure, which can lead to devastating results. Setting psychology aside, let’s consider a new marriage where the couple addressed potential future problems ahead of time by entering into a premarital agreement. The benefit of the premarital agreement, in this case, is the couple both know where they stand if the marriage ends. One may be negotiated to receive a certain fair settlement but not otherwise disrupt or threaten the value or ongoing daily operations of the professional practice, its accounts, or anything that could be disruptive.

Other medical professionals with whom practices and investments are furthered, may have legal rights and duties that affect one another. When a partner in a medical practice gets married, there could be concerns among others regarding exposure to divorce litigation that could affect the others in the practice. This scenario alone is a common reason doctors and dentists use premarital agreements to protect themselves in their medical practices.

Practice Article: Aligning Careers with Your Physician Spouse

Estate Planning for Texas Doctors and Dentists

The rights and obligations of medical professionals can vary in degree and complexity. When it comes to estate planning for doctors and dentists, many issues need to be reviewed to ensure that a plan is made for contingencies and situations that can arise.

In our recent article, see Technology Troubles in Texas Divorce, Family Law, and Estate Planning, we reviewed issues involving digital assets and accounts. These issues become more complex with medical professionals subject to professional regulations and rules of practice determined by state boards and rules.

Interesting Stories: Family Feud! 6 Stores of Problematic Estate Planning

Keeping Assets Safe and Private with Powers of Attorney

Spouses are usually named as the primary agent for power of attorney purposes, and a second agent may be named to handle specific directives connected to the medical professional’s practice if certain conditions occur. It is a good idea to make sure that everyone involved, knows their roles, rights, and duties in the event the power of attorney document becomes operational, even if for only a brief period.

In the event of divorce, it is important to update estate planning documents such as the power of attorney agreements. The failure to do so could create a challenging position for others and family members.

Wills and Trusts for Medical Professionals in Texas

Dying without a will leaves your property open to state-determined laws of intestate succession, to spouses and family members. Probate of an estate can be costly and encumber assets and income when the individual dies. A trust can be established to avoid probate, and so that the children and others named as beneficiaries under a trust, are provided for properly without interruption. Trusts can be set up where the recipients have limited or full access to money and payment for expenses. A well-prepared trust adapts to the intentions and needs of the maker of the trust so that the best opportunities are available to grow and preserve trust wealth and to provide for the reasonable needs of beneficiaries. Selecting the right trustees to make the best decisions is important.

The more planning and goals that we make today, the better we can realize success in the future, despite bumps along the way. We must provide for our family and others with whom we have obligations. At the Barrows Firm, we represent clients with substantial wealth and financial interests.

The Barrows Firm Protects Medical Professionals in Texas Divorce and Estate Planning (817) 481-1583