Patients' Rights Dictate that Psychotherapists and Counselors must have a Professional Will
A psychotherapist is under a duty to create a professional will, because most if not all ethical codes as well as various laws require the clinician to provide for undisrupted care of patients in the event of an untimely death or incapacity. Most, if not all, psychotherapists and counselors know that they must leave a backup therapist available when your regular therapist is unavailable (due to illness or vacation, for example). The same concept holds true, if not more so, in the event a therapist meets an untimely demise or somehow loses the capacity to treat patients. Therefore, a professional will must act as the backup in such situations.
In addition to the care of patients, a psychotherapist must make sure clinical files are available to the patient or for the patient's benefit. This is a patient's right. This again evinces the need of a professional will.
As the term professional will suggests, the document acts very much in the same manner as what we traditionally think of as a will. Instructions are left to be followed by designated responsible people. And because the professional will is more like a will than any other traditional legal document, there are many advantages to involving a trusts and estates attorney to create a professional will.
The best option for a psychotherapist would be to incorporate a professional will into their living trust. This is because a professional will, in itself, is not a legally recognized document like a will or living trust would be. Therefore, it is unknown whether or not a professional would be legally enforceable. This could matter if, fore example, a clinical executor needs access to files in a private office and a building owner refuses to allow the clinical executor to enter the office. However, many professional psychotherapists may not be willing or able to create a living trust for these purposes, so the next best option is a service called Therapist Will.
Therapist-Will.com was founded by Gadi Zohar, a trusts and estates attorney and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Our documents are vetted by licensed trusts and estates attorneys in every state we serve. And the process of creating a Therapist Will professional will makes it possible for therapists to complete a personalized professional will in 20-30 minutes. And the cost is so reasonable that there is simply no legitimate excuse for a licensed private practice clinician to fail to create a professional will.
California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Code of Ethics Rule 1.3; National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics Rule 1.15; American Psychological Association Code of Conduct Rules 3.12 and 10.09; American Counseling Association Code of Ethics Rule C.2.h.; California Business and Professions Code §2919.