As per Code of Conduct Standard 14.6, making provisions for practice records is a requirement of all registrants, regardless of age. When someone is called upon to act as a professional executor, he or she is expected to take over the care and management of files that someone else has created, and to be responsible for their secure storage and accessibility in the same way as they are responsible for files they have created themselves. As more professional executors have found themselves called upon to provide the services to which they have agreed for indisposed or deceased colleagues, it has become apparent that careful thought on the parts of both the designating registrant and the professional executor is required to facilitate a smooth transition of record management for all concerned.
The following questions are offered to assist registrants in thinking about the specific circumstances of the target records and the designated professional executor. It is hoped that all registrants will think carefully about their practice, their records, their circumstances, and their responsibilities and requirements as professional executors when establishing contingency plans and when agreeing to provide those services for another registrant.
- Who will be responsible for contacting your professional executor in the event this becomes necessary? Does this person have clear information regarding how to reach your professional executor and instructions on how quickly this should occur?
- Does your professional executor have written instructions on where to find all of your paper and electronic records and any relevant associated information, such as appointment books, schedules, passwords, security codes, and keys? Can your professional executor access your files without assistance? If not, has a relevant person been appropriately instructed to facilitate that access? Will your professional executor need access to your computer(s), your phone(s), or any other non-file materials in order to perform his or her duties? How will they get this access?
- Does your professional executor have information on how to determine who your active clients (if any) are, how to reach these clients, and appropriate referral resources for any of your clients who may need this? Have you discussed with your professional executor how you would like him or her to notify your clients of your death or incapacity? Do circumstances suggest that preparing a list for your professional executor of relevant potential resources for clients is warranted?
- Is your professional executor geographically distant from your files or other materials that he or she may need? If so, have you made provisions for the secure transfer of your files and materials into his or her possession, or is there another registrant or professional storage service maintaining physical possession while your professional executor will assume responsibility? If your professional executor needs to come and retrieve your files, have you discussed whether and how any associated costs for file transfer are to be handled? If another registrant or professional storage service will be maintaining physical possession, have you ensured that your professional executor will be able to access your files as needed? If a professional storage service is involved, have you made financial provisions for this for as long as will be necessary?
- Have you discussed with your professional executor the amount of time that will be required to take over management of your professional files? Is your professional executor going to incur significant time and/or storage costs as a result of taking over management of your files? Do you need to discuss a compensation agreement with your professional executor? If so, have you made provisions, such as in your personal will, for this compensation?
- Do you have test materials in your possession? If so, have you discussed with your professional executor what you wish done with these? Does your professional executor know your wishes regarding any proceeds from the sale of test materials?
- Do you have equipment requiring you to keep maintenance records? Does your professional executor know where to find these records, and your wishes regarding disposal of the equipment?
- Will it be clearly apparent to your professional executor on what date each of your closed files is to be destroyed?
- Do you need to advise your personal executor, family member(s), or any other persons about your requirement to have a professional executor and what your professional executor will need and will do? If so, have you done this?
- Have you ensured that non-registrants will not have access to confidential practice records if you are incapacitated or deceased? Are your records safeguarded if you are suddenly and unexpectedly incapacitated? If you have confidential records in a home office, in your briefcase, or otherwise located outside of a professional staffed office, how are they safeguarded until your professional executor can take over their control?
- Does your professional executor have information regarding any institutionally held records that were created by you sufficient to allow him or her to recognize when a person requesting records not under his or her control should be directed to the College for information?
- Are you confirming and updating your arrangements with your professional executor on an annual basis?
- Knowing that having a confirmed professional executor is a requirement for registration renewal, are you prepared to name your professional executor as part of the next renewal process?
Careful planning related to practice records prior to one’s death or incapacity will reduce stress and uncertainty at least in this domain for those left to deal with one’s practice. Agreeing to serve as a professional executor is not a trivial undertaking, and careful thought is required on the part of both parties to minimize difficulties. In your roles both as a designating registrant and as a professional executor, you should feel confident that you have clear answers to the above questions, and any other questions specific to your circumstances.
Potentially helpful links:
A link to the Practice Support Checklist regarding appointing or service as a professional executor may be found here.