Succession Planning 101

Choose the Ending You Want for Your Story

Incapacitation happens indiscriminately to professionals of all ages across the country, every single day.

There are only two types of outcomes – one for those with a plan in place, the other for those without.

Imagine two lawyers, Roger and Joanne, both living and working in the same city. Roger has a succession plan in place. Joanne does not.

Tuesday morning Roger wakes up and suffers a major heart attack on his morning run. He’s hospitalized for a month, barely able to feed himself let alone deal with the 6 active cases he had on the go at the time.

But his plan kicked into place before noon the day of the heart attack. His wife was the gatekeeper of the succession plan agreements. She contacted his successor designate and provided him with the forms and information he needed to step in that very day to keep Roger’s clients informed and well cared for.

Six weeks later Roger was back at his desk, his clients and practice solid and in good health.

That same Tuesday Joanne had a serious ski accident, and while lucky to be alive, was in a coma for two weeks before regaining consciousness.

Bleary and confused, the first thing she could think of was, “has anyone told my clients what happened?”

After days of no contact they eventually tried to reach her. She missed 2 court appearances, and her husband was swamped with inquiries and frustrated clients trying to get updates on their files. Not being a lawyer, he was lost, and had to hire a lawyer he didn’t know to try and help him save the business. This on top of his own job and caring for the kids while his wife was unconscious in the hospital.

Joanne ended up breaking contractual and professional obligations to four of her clients. Two of them sued her and her practice for malpractice in light of the situation she left them in. Her legal regulator cited her with professional neglect, and were threatening to suspend her license due to the seriousness of the consequences to her clients.

She lost thousands of dollars, might still lose her practice, and put her family through hell.

Getting Started

What’s so hard about a succession plan? Nothing really.

Except that they’re a headache to create, and can cost you thousands in lost billable hours researching and filling out forms and agreements.

That’s why you haven’t done yours yet, right?

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just sat down in your office, asked you a few questions, and handed you a plan and all the required agreements in less than an hour? For say, less than $200?

We thought so too.

We’d like you to meet Vyva – succession plans delivered to your inbox in under an hour – for $199.

What's in the box

The Practice Coverage Agreement (PCA) is the foundational document of your succession plan. It outlines the critical background information, relationships, and agreement terms under which your plan is executed.

The PCA provides authorization and terms for your “Coverage Attorney,” who is the lawyer you have made arrangements with to step in and run, or wind up, your practice, should the need arise.

The agreement provides the authorizations required for your Coverage Attorney to continue providing services to your clients on your behalf, and also allows them to complete tasks such as transferring client files, signing checks on your general account, and closing your practice in the event of your death or permanent incapacitation.

The PCA also describes arrangements to compensate the Coverage Attorney for services rendered, the procedure for termination of the Coverage Attorney’s services, and provides the Coverage Attorney with the option to purchase the law practice should they be interested and able to negotiate agreeable terms with you or your Executor.

The Coverage Attorney has two potential roles described in the document:
Surrogate Attorney – If you are temporarily incapacitated, you want your Coverage Attorney to assume a Surrogate Role to service your clients and run your practice in the event of short-term or unexpected absence, such as being out of the country or on temporary leave due to illness.
Transfer Attorney – If you are permanently incapacitated, your practice should be wound up. In this case, your Coverage Attorney assumes a Transfer Role. In this case they are responsible for winding up your practice and transferring your clients and files smoothly to their own practice or to other lawyers.

Finally, the PCA identifies and describes the role of your Gatekeeper. This person is responsible for holding pre-signed documents authorizing your Coverage Attorney to assume control of your practice. They have the responsibility of deciding when to hand them to your Coverage Attorney and triggering your succession plan.

The PCA references three important supporting agreements:
— Schedule A – The Law Practice Power of Attorney
— Schedule B – The Gatekeeper Agreement
— Schedule C – Will Clause Excepts

These agreements are described in further detail below.

The Law Practice Power of Attorney is the document that provides authorization to your Coverage Attorney to exercise the Practice Agreement. When it is activated by the Gatekeeper, the Coverage Attorney uses this document along with the Practice Coverage Agreement to complete their duties.

In the event of your death, the Law Practice Power of Attorney is no longer valid. Instead, your will will set out how your Practice Coverage Agreement will be implemented and how your practice will wind up.

These will clauses are provided for your review and you should have the appropriate clauses in place to make sure that your Practice Coverage Agreement is honoured.

The Gatekeeper Agreement describes and authorizes another important role in your plan. Your Gatekeeper is the person who holds all of your succession plan agreements, and has the responsibility of deciding when to trigger the plan by providing the agreements to your Coverage Attorney.

The purpose of the Gatekeeper Agreement is to separate the management of your practice by your Coverage Attorney, as authorized by your Law Practice Power of Attorney, from the decision to trigger that management by a trusted third party like a spouse of Personal Power of Attorney.

In this document, the evidence needed for incapacity is kept deliberately broad, assuming that you will be in no position to disagree, and all family and relevant parties will be in agreement as to incapacity.

Lets begin your plan

Building your plan documents requires two roles:

  1. A Coverage Attorney –  the lawyer who steps in to help run your practice in the event of an emergency.
  2. Gatekeeper – the person responsible for holding the pre-signed documents granting authorizations to your Coverage Attorney to take over your practice and accounts.
    They also have the responsibility of deciding when to trigger your plan and get the required documents to your Coverage Attorney. Often this person is a spouse, close friend, or a Personal Power of Attorney should you have one.

How It Works

Your Coverage Attorney and Gatekeeper roles can be filled by the same person, if the relationship supports it.

Click the button below to start building your agreements. It’ll only take about 10 minutes, and all you need is basic contact details for your Coverage Attorney and your Gatekeeper.