What New York’s Grieving Families Act means for physician asset protection
By Ekta Patel CFP®, MBA, Director, Advisor, Altfest Personal Wealth Management
If you’re a practicing medical professional in the state of New York, you may have heard about a piece of legislation possibly nearing enactment that could have very serious implications for your personal financial asset protection.
The “Grieving Families Act,” or New York Senate Bill S74A, is set to vastly expand compensation in wrongful death suits in the state. Currently, compensable damages in these types of actions are limited to awards such as pre-death medical expenses, funeral expenses and loss of financial support.
Under the bill, which has passed both parts of the New York State Legislature and been sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul to review for possible enactment by the end of this year, the definition of who constitutes a family member will be broadened to include “close family members,” including spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, stepparents and siblings.
The bill also creates a new category for grief and anguish suffered by survivors that can be litigated and awarded monetary damages. The act extends the statute of limitations on such suits, nearly doubling the two-year period after a death that’s allowed now to a proposed three and a half years.
Finally, malpractice litigation experts expect higher targets for damages and jury verdicts in these types of court actions if the Grieving Families Act becomes law.
What can you do?
With all these provisions potentially coming into place, law firms are estimating that New York state medical malpractice premiums could go up as much as 40%, clearly a substantial increase. Needless to say, the legal defense costs for physicians are likely to go up as well. It seems that private medical practice owners are likely to be the most affected.
So what can you do as a physician in New York state?
The very first step you should take is to engage in risk management strategies to minimize your medical liability. Identify what your existing risks are, review what your financial exposure is and see where you can close those gaps. Also look at some of the emerging risks to your practice.
Prepare strategies that can enhance patient outcomes. One recommendation our firm, Altfest Personal Wealth Management, is hearing is for physician clients to seek out and take risk management courses. Some insurance companies offer these, and upon successful completion, you can qualify for certain discounts on your malpractice insurance. It’s very similar to defensive-driving courses that can reduce your auto insurance costs after taking them.
My firm and I work with many New York-based health-care professionals to ensure their assets are protected in a variety of ways against legal actions. From teaming with insurance experts to gauge whether these physician clients – who face more-extreme exposure to lawsuits than many other professions – have sufficient life and excess-liability insurance in place to steering them to attorneys who can shape strategies such as entity formation and asset titling, we stress the importance of proactive shielding of assets from creditors.
Find out more
Learn more about how financial advisors at Altfest could help you think in a more sophisticated way about shielding your assets from creditors and legal actions if the Grieving Families Act becomes law in the near future. Please book some time to discuss your personal financial situation and concerns in a complimentary consultation.