Securing Your Child’s Financial Future

According to a recent survey, many parents with special needs children have not secured their child’s financial future. Statistically, 66% of parents do not expect their child with special needs to be financially independent, and 68% of parents with special needs children do not have a will.  Estate planning is essential for parents with special needs children. Outlined below are five simple steps that will help you plan for your child’s future:

  1. Children with special needs should not be a “direct beneficiary” of a will or trust [they may be disqualified from receiving federal and state aid].
  2. A special needs trust should be established in order to make sure that certain designated money or property will be used for your child’s best interest. 
  3. In many cases, a legal guardian should be appointed for any special needs child that turns 18 years old. Once a child turns 18 years old, they are considered an adult.
  4. A special needs trust should be established in order to protect your child’s eligibility for state and federal aid. 
  5. With proper planning, a life insurance policy can ensure your child will be financially secure. A gift of money or property to a child with special needs should go directly to that child’s special needs trust. If a child with special needs is the direct beneficiary of any type of money or property, they may become ineligible for state or federal benefits.

With proper estate planning, you can secure your child’s future. For more information on special needs trusts, please contact us.

Success in Buying or Selling Your Practice

The purchase and sale of a veterinary practice are two extremely significant events in a veterinarian’s career.  Finding the perfect practice to purchase or the perfect buyer is very important.  However, the failure to properly draft a purchase and sale agreement has detrimental consequences.

Letter of intent

In general, just about every practice transaction [with or without a broker] should start with a signed letter of intent. The letter of intent memorializes the agreement between the parties regarding the purchase price, date of the proposed sale of the practice, accounts receivables, as well as lease issues.  The letter of intent should also be non-binding.

The seller and buyer of a veterinary practice should keep the letter of intent confidential, regardless of the outcome whether or not the sale of the practice takes place. The seller of a practice should also have a potential buyer sign a non-disclosure agreement, which will keep the seller’s financial and practice information confidential. 

Allocation of purchase price

As a general rule, most practice transactions involve the sale of practice assets (equipment, supplies, etc.) It is extremely important that the seller and buyer establish a purchase price allocation for: (1) equipment that is being sold; (2) account receivables that are being purchased; (3) goodwill of the practice; and (4) non-compete stipulations.  From a tax standpoint, expensing, depreciating, or amortizing the assets are important to the seller and buyer.  Certain tax rules apply regarding what can and can not be depreciated over time.

Contingencies

For the protection of the seller and buyer, a contract for the purchase of a practice should have an outline of events that must occur before the sale takes place.  For example, the buyer must agree to the terms of the seller’s lease agreement [which the buyer will probably be assuming], or the buyer’s accountant should approve the seller’s financial records, and the sale should be contingent of the buyer’s approval of the loan amount.   The buyer should also make sure that any liens [i.e. UCC-1] that are attached to the seller’s assets will be paid at closing.

Non-compete clause

Just about every practice sale agreement should have a non-compete clause that applies to the seller.  The non-compete clause restricts the seller from practicing for a reasonable period of time and within a reasonable geographic radius of the practice.

Careful consideration should be taken when including a non-compete clause.  The non-compete clause should take in to account that the seller may become a part-time associate, partner, shareholder, director, officer, consultant, employee or independent contractor of another practice.

If the practice sale contemplates that the seller will work part time for the buyer, the buyer should require that the seller enter in to some type of Host-Provider Agreement [i.e. independent contractor agreement], which should become effective from the date the practice is sold.

The sale of a veterinary practice can be extremely rewarding for the seller and buyer.  However, if the terms and conditions of the practice sale are not clearly outlined, then it can be a very frustrating transaction for all parties involved.  Before entering in to a contract for the sale of a practice, the seller and buyer should seek the assistance of professionals who are experienced in the area of veterinary transactions.

The ADA Practical Guide to Creating an Employee Office Manual

In the last few weeks, we have received more and more questions as to what additional provisions should be included in an Employee Manual, over and above the “standard” provisions.  As a result, outlined below are certain provisions which should be included in every Employee Manual.

Employee Recruitment:  This provision should include where to advertise for employees, how to write job advertisements, how to prepare effective job descriptions, proper interview techniques, as well as sample interview questions.

Office Policies:  This provision should focus on establishing office policies and procedures in order to introduce new staff to your practice, as well as provide ground-rules and practice philosophy.

Employment Policies:  With this provision, you should establish guidelines for personal appearance, sexual harassment, and substance abuse.  In addition, an employee manual should also outline the use of cell phones and social media within the practice and outside of the practice.

Employee Training:  Your office manual should establish employee training techniques from OSHA and HIPAA, where mandatory.

Employee Benefits:  Every employee manual should address vacation, sick time, other leave policies, health insurance coverage, and retirement plans.

Employee Management:  This provision should set forth employee management guidelines in order to promote positive office morale, employee appreciation and incentive programs, bonuses, performance-based raises, and performance evaluations.

Employee Termination:  This provision should focus on the delicate but important issue of employee termination procedures.  Failure to address employee termination in the proper manner could open a practice owner up to certain violations of state and federal law.

Patient Management:  This provision should set forth guidelines for employees to promote positive relations with special needs, pediatric, geriatric, and difficult patients through confident communication skills.

Workplace Safety and Security:  Your office manual should examine safety and security in the workplace, including complying with OSHA standards, as well as handling emergencies and natural disasters.

By evaluating your Employee Manual and implementing a few additional provisions, a practice owner may avoid a wide range of employment law problems.

OSHA-RESPONDING TO OSHA REQUESTS

Responding to OSHA Requests

Initial informal phone calls are becoming more and more frequent from OSHA. First and foremost, you must have a plan in place, if you ever receive such a call from OSHA.

Letters from OSHA

Typically, when OSHA receives a non-formal complaint, its first investigative step is usually to send a letter to the owner of a practice.

Telephone Calls From OSHA

When investigating a non-formal complaint, OSHA may also call a practice owner, in addition to sending an investigatory letter. Responding to a OSHA telephone inquiry poses several unique risks for practice owners.

Developing an Office Protocol

To avoid potential and unintended problems, practice owners should create a risk management plan for responding to telephone calls from OSHA inspectors. Once formulated, the office protocol should be clearly explained to and followed by all office staff.

By formulating an office protocol in order to handle OSHA investigations, practice owners can take steps to adequately protect themselves during the investigation process. It is crucial that practice owners plan for OSHA investigation inquiries. In addition, it is also critical that all employees are aware of office protocol regarding OSHA inquiries, in order to avoid unintended consequences.

Employee Embezzlement – Don’t Let it Happen to You

The day to day pressure in running a veterinary practice is enormous, especially in today’s economy when every dollar counts. Unfortunately, veterinarians spend most of their day practicing medicine, instead of supervising their staff members who manage their veterinary practice. In this type of atmosphere, embezzlement can thrive. 

According to statistics, approximately thirty-three percent (33%) of veterinary offices have been or will become the victim of employee embezzlement. Recent studies indicate that employee embezzlement in a veterinary office has become rampant.  Every year, veterinarians suffer losses to their practices which total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Listed below are signs employee embezzlement may be taking place:

-You fail to receive financial information in a timely manner

-Employees are resistant to any type of change in the present accounting system

-You have large numbers of unexplained accounting adjustments

-Your collections have slowed

-Your cash deposits have declined

-An employee refuses to take a vacation

-A staff member resents your income or lifestyle

-An employee always works late and/or takes work home                      .

-You have employees who always seem to have cash on hand, and/or appear to live above their means

-An employee treats office procedures as an annoyance                                        .        

Perform an Embezzlement Audit of your Practice

If you suspect that an employee is embezzling funds, there are three ways to initiate a practice audit, and they are: (1) request that your accountant perform a practice audit,  or hire a forensic accountant that specializes in employee embezzlement; (2) ask your accountant to design a brief self-audit process for you to follow; or (3) perform an immediate, cursory, on-the-spot random audit by pulling approximately 15 to 20 charts. 

If you Suspect Embezzlement in your Practice

Anytime you suspect that you are the victim of embezzlement, you should seek legal advice immediately. Your attorney should prepare an investigation strategy, which should include working closely with your practice CPA, or an outside forensic accountant. 

When the owner of a veterinary practice is first confronted with the prospect of employee embezzlement, there are four primary objectives, which are: (1) to determine whether employee embezzlement has actually taken place; (2) to determine the total amount and method(s) of the theft; (3) to remove the dishonest employee from the workplace [and take remedial actions to prevent employee embezzlement in the future]; and (4) to recover the money or property lost.

Conducting the Investigation

It is extremely rare that an employee is actually caught embezzling funds by direct observation.  Most embezzlement cases are detected based upon initial circumstantial evidence, such as an inconsistent practice financial report or through a random audit.

If you suspect that the loss is potentially large, or the theft appears to be complex, you should always seek the advice of legal counsel, a CPA, a computer data retrieval specialist, and other required experts to assist in the investigation.

At the early stages of an employee embezzlement claim, and depending on the extent of the theft, you may wish to contact their insurance agent in order to determine whether you have employee dishonesty coverage. Most insurance policies have strict time requirements for reporting an employee dishonesty claim.

Appropriate Disciplinary Action

Once the investigation has been thoroughly completed, and if you have determined that employee embezzlement has actually occurred, you must decide what action you should take, including termination of the suspected employee.

 In certain ways, investigating suspected embezzlement is similar to investigating other employee misconduct. The scope and manner of the investigation will depend in part on the size and complexity of the theft. Of course, as with any investigation, the employer’s rights and abilities to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are intertwined with the myriad of rights and protections conferred upon employees by federal and state law.

Recovering the Losses

Depending on whether the loss is covered by your insurance policy, and if so, the amount of the deductible, the owner of a veterinary practice may wish to file a civil action against the dishonest employee in order to recover any type of loss. It is important to note that civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution are matters of public record, and as a result, you must weigh the consequences of any adverse publicity

Summary

In today’s market place, employee embezzlement is rampant. However, with a little precaution, the financial hardship of employee embezzlement can be avoided. Also, with proper employee screening, proper control and oversight, as well as prudent financial control, a devastating financial loss can be avoided.

Tips for Successful Collections of HOA Dues

One of the “many” functions of a Board of Directors for a homeowners association is to make sure each homeowner pays their dues. In a good economy, collecting homeowner dues can be difficult, and in today’s economy, collecting dues can be downright challenging.

We are often asked about what can be done to minimize the rise in delinquent homeowner dues. In the context of an historic decline in the economy, collecting associations’ dues can present challenges. However, having an effective collection plan in place can help associations deal with those challenges. A plan can be the difference between success and failure.  Listed below are some tips for successful collection of homeowner’s dues.

1. Have a Plan

The Board should have written guidelines for collection practices and the homeowners should be aware of the policy.

2. Quick Action is a Must

The Board should take prompt action against delinquent homeowners.  The longer the board delays taking action, the harder it is to collect delinquent dues.

3. Be Flexible

In today’s economy, many homeowners may be struggling financially. In some cases, if a homeowner is cooperative, the Board may wish to work out a payment plan for the repayment of outstanding dues. However, if a homeowner is not cooperative, legal action may be required.

4. Present the Board’s Position

It must be clear to homeowners that the Board is required to act for the benefit of the association as a whole, which includes the collection of homeowner dues.

The Board has the option to file a lien, file a lawsuit or both in order to collect outstanding homeowner dues.

5. Review all Legal Options

The Board should be very familiar with homeowner covenants and restrictions before the Board takes action to collect delinquent homeowners dues.

6. Be Understanding

It is important to know that the Board has the right to make certain decisions regarding homeowners that are facing hardships. The Board should understand the difference between an owner who is facing financial difficulty and the homeowner who simply refuses to pay their homeowner association dues.

7. Seek Legal Counsel

If the Board has questions regarding collections, covenants or other areas that effect the association, the Board should seek advice from an attorney who understands homeowner associations.

HIPAA – Delayed Rule

In late March, the federal government announced it would delay enforcement of HIPAA 5010 transactions to June 30, 2012. It is the second three-month delay on enforcement made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of E-Health Standards and Services (OESS). While progress is being made, there are still some issues to work out. According to OESS: 

-The Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) program is currently reporting successful receipt and processing of over 70 percent of all Part A claims and over 90 percent of all Part B claims in the Version 5010 format.

-Commercial plans are reporting similar numbers.

-State Medicaid agencies are showing progress as well, and some have made a full transition to Version 5010.

“At the same time, OESS is aware that there are still a number of outstanding issues and challenges impeding full implementation,” an OESS statement continued. “OESS believes that these remaining issues warrant an extension of enforcement discretion to ensure that all entities can complete the transition. OESS expects the transition statistics will reach 98 percent industry wide by the end of the enforcement discretion period.”

OESS urged those covered by the rule to collaborate more closely on appropriate strategies to resolve remaining problems. The statement said the agency would step up its existing outreach to include more technical assistance for covered entities. OESS urged those covered by the rule to collaborate more closely on appropriate strategies to resolve remaining problems. The statement said the agency would step up its existing outreach to include more technical assistance for covered entities. OESS is also partnering with several industry groups as well as Medicare FFS and Medicaid to expand technical assistance opportunities and eliminate remaining barriers.

FDA Warns Dentists on Sale of Certain Dental X-Ray Device

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning dentists about purchasing or using handheld dental X-ray units manufactured outside of the U.S. that do not bear the proper FDA labeling. The FDA statement says the agency is “concerned that these devices may not be safe or effective and could expose the user and the patient to unnecessary and potentially harmful X-rays. The units, sold online by manufacturers outside the United States and directly shipped to U.S. customers, have not been reviewed by the FDA and do not meet FDA radiation safety requirements.”

 To date, no adverse events have been reported through use of these units, according to the FDA.

All FDA-approved handheld X-ray units bear a permanent certification label/tag, a warning label, and an identification label / tag on the unit. To ensure that a device has been cleared by the FDA, users are advised to:

• Verify the presence of required labels on the device,
• Ask vendors whether the device has been reviewed and cleared by the FDA,
• Access the FDA Medical Device Approvals and Clearances database to verify that the X-ray unit has been cleared by the FDA, and
• Contact a regulatory agency if they become aware of an unsafe device or one that does not meet FDA requirements.

Top 10 Most Frequently Reported Poison Dangers for Dogs in 2011

Below is the “Top 10″ List”  of potential poisons that were found in and around homes and yards of pet owners. The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline have compiled a “Top Ten List” most commonly reported during 2011.

1. Foods – specifically chocolate, xylitol, and grapes/raisins

2. Insecticides- including sprays, bait stations, and spot on flea/tick treatments

3. Mouse and rat poison – rodenticides

4. NSAIDS human drugs – such as ibuprofen, naproxen

5. Household cleaners – sprays, detergents, polishes

6. Antidepressant human drugs – such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and Effexor

7. Fertilizers – including bone meal, blood meal and iron-based products

8. Acetaminophen human drugs – such as Tylenol and cough/cold medications

9. Amphetamine human drugs – ADD/ADHD medications like Adderall and Concerta.

10. Veterinary pain relievers – specifically COX-2 inhibitors like Rimadyl, Dermaxx and Previcox.

Key Elements of a Harassment-Free Workplace Policy

In order to avoid potential legal liability, the owner of a dental practice should establish workplace policies in order to properly handle allegations of harassment.  A practice owner should have a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment of any kind.  The harassment of any individual because of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or parental status, disability or other status protected under state and federal law should be strictly prohibited.  The owner of a dental practice has a legal responsibility to address complaints of harassment or discrimination, both in the workplace and between staff members, and also by outside parties doing business with your practice.  Below, are a number of policy measures that practice owners should put in place to protect their practice from liability.

  • Strictly forbid sexual harassment of any individual.  Any unwelcome verbal or written comments of a sexual nature, physical conduct, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature should be considered sexual harassment and should subject the offender to appropriate disciplinary action when:
    • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment;
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a factor in any decision affecting the individual’s employment, including performance reviews, compensation, scheduling, etc.; or
    • Such conduct interferes with an individual’s employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment.
  • Strictly forbid other forms of harassment.  Any unwelcome verbal or written comments or physical conduct of a hostile or offensive nature based on a person’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or parental status, disability, or other federally protected status should subject the offender to appropriate disciplinary action.
  • Designate a staff member to receive harassment complaints.  This staff member should conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any harassment complaint.  All complaints should be treated as confidential, to the extent consistent with the corrective action and investigation.
  • Implement appropriate disciplinary action.  Any individual found to have engaged in any form of harassment or discrimination should be disciplined appropriately, up to and including termination.  If an investigation shows that an employee was the victim of harassment by a third party employed by a company with which the practice owner conducts business, management should take appropriate action in dealing with the management of the accused offender.
  • Adequately inform your staff of the policy.  Each employee of the dental practice should receive a copy of the practice’s policy regarding sexual harassment.

With the proper guidelines in place, a practice owner should create a harassment-free workplace.

For questions or comments regarding this article please call (770) 554-1400.

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