Volume 77: The High Cost of Dying

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I know it is a morbid subject and I have avoided writing about it for many years, however some of this stuff needs to be talked about. As is the case with most of our articles, the subject matter usually arises due to recent transactions or situations that we have been involved with and this issue is no exception.

It is inevitable that we are all going to pass away someday, however it is remarkable how poorly most of us plan for it. When you consider the effort and expense we go to in order to plan for things that may happen, such as “we don’t want to downsize our home, because one of our kids may move back, or we may need the winding staircase for wedding pictures someday”. Or the effort dentist’s go to put their employee’s on contract because they may need to be terminated someday. There are countless examples of this kind of thing throughout our everyday lives, yet we don’t do a good job of planning for something we know will happen; our own death. Fear is a great motivator so I hope to instill a little fear in you in the hope that it will cause you to take steps to plan for this eventuality.

You, as a dental practice owner have a unique set of circumstances related to your own death that many people in society don’t have to worry about.

  • You are self-employed
  • You don’t have a pension
  • You are usually the primary bread-winner of the family
  • There is a miniscule percentage of the population to replace you
  • You book your life in 10-15 minute blocks up to six months into the future 

So what happens when someone with those characteristics dies suddenly (or becomes critically ill or disabled) without any forward planning? At the risk of being insensitive, I am going to limit the content of this article to factors related to dentistry, though I am acutely aware that there are other, often more important things people must deal with during these times.

First, the team at your practice have no idea where to start. There is not a go-to person who has all the answers, they feel empty and alone and don’t know what to tell the patients. The goodwill value of your practice, which regular readers will know, accounts for about 80 per cent of your practice’s value, starts to erode with that first cancelled appointment. Who will take control of things? Your spouse? Your family and friends? Not likely. In the early days they are too distraught to even worry about the practice. In one of the situations that caused me to write this article, a dentist’s wife contacted a cottage neighbour for help. He was a retired accountant whom she knew had other dentists as clients. He was someone she trusted who would guide her properly. The trouble is that initial contact was made three months after her husband had passed away. She knew very little about her husband’s practice and just assumed someone was taking care of things in the interim. The accountant put her in touch with us but the damage was done. We were able to move the balance of the practice to a neighbouring dentist but a large percentage of the patients had already moved on - therefore the value was severely impacted.

Time is the enemy in these situations. Your patients are loyal to you and they like going to your practice, but when you’re gone there has to be a plan. The first thing to do is to write down clear instructions for people to follow in the event of your demise. It should be specific and contain contact names for people you trust to put an action plan into place immediately. Discuss your instructions with your spouse and possibly, your lawyer, accountant and practice broker. They all bring unique skills in dealing with these unfortunate situations, and importantly are one level removed from the emotion of the situation so can act appropriately for the benefit of your heirs, staff and patients. A locum dentist will need to be retained immediately to maintain as much normalcy in the practice as possible. Your practice Valuation will need to be updated (not started) immediately and a plan put in place to transfer the ownership to another dentist. Have a team prepared and knowledgeable and let your family and friends know that you have done so and where to find your instructions. If you don’t have the support you think you’ll need, start setting yourself up. There are many professionals that dedicate their lives to working with dentists. They are most competent to take care of things for you when you can’t.

Plan. Provide information. Sleep comfortably.

David Lind is a Principal and Broker of Record in Professional Practice Sales Ltd. (, which specializes in the valuation and sale of dental practices.  He can be reached at (905) 472-6000 or 1-888-777-8825 or e-mail at:

The Professional Advisory

  1. One Year Later

  2. Dealing with Unsolicited Offers

  3. Covid-19 Practice Sales Update

  4. When is the Right Time to Sell Your Practice and Why?

  5. Partnership Pitfalls

  6. The Real Cost of a Dental Practice Set-up

  7. Smaller Practice Realities

  8. Dental Market Update - 2019

  9. Creating Your Own Most Valuable Practice (MVP)

  10. Small Practice Economics

  11. The Market is Very Efficient

  12. How Can Dental Practice Values be Rising and Declining?

  13. Hygiene as a Value Driver

  14. The Value of a Good Team

  15. Is it Time to Move?

  16. Staging A Dental Practice

  17. The High Cost of Dying

  18. Deal-Busters

  19. Patients - Attract and Retain

  20. Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  21. Is There a Buyer for Every Practice?

  22. Good, Better, Best - The Market has Spoken

  23. Smooth-Sale-ing

  24. Buying Time

  25. Patients, Patience, Patients

  26. A Real Patient

  27. Why Do a Practice Valuation? I'm not Selling

  28. Irrational Exuberance or The New Normal?

  29. Do dental equipment and dental technology affect a practice value?

  30. Finding and Being a Mentor

  31. Bigger is Better

  32. Dave's Top Ten List for Buyers (Vendors should read this too!)

  33. How Well Do You Know Your Practice?

  34. Dave's Top Ten List for Vendors

  35. What will happen to dental practice Values in the next 10 years?

  36. Your Premises Lease is an Important Asset

  37. What are Associates Thinking?

  38. There is Life Outside the GTA

  39. When Is the Right Time to Sell My Dental Practice?

  40. Mergers are a Viable Option

  41. Is Your Associate an Asset or a Liability?

  42. Has your Practice Facility Kept Up With Your Billings?

  43. The 100 per cent of Gross Myth

  44. The Past, The Present and The Future

  45. Caveat Emptor

  46. Overpaid Long Term Staff

  47. Selling your Practice in Stages

  48. A Potential Pitfall of Selling Shares

  49. Value in Your Practice Through Balance

  50. Only Trusted Staff Can Defraud You

  51. To Own or Not to Own Practice Real Estate? That is the Question.

  52. Coping With A Large Patient Base

  53. Successful Dental Practice Transitions

  54. Taking Care of Business

  55. The Investing Dentist Phenomenon

  56. Two areas to focus upon that could negatively impact the value of your practice

  57. Organize your Debt in Order to Sell your Practice

  58. Having a Better Team

  59. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale

  60. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 3

  61. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 2

  62. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 1

  63. Advice to My Son or Daughter Graduating from Dental School

  64. Transition - What to Expect

  65. Discussion on Digital X-Rays

  66. Partnerships and Shotguns

  67. Strategic Planning - How to Get Started

  68. Calling All Vendors - Practices have Gone Up in Value

  69. Purchasers: Expect to Pay More for a Practice because of Lower Professional Corporation Tax Rates

  70. Matrimonial Practice Valuations

  71. Purchaser's Guide to Affording a Practice

  72. Location Improvements Throughout Your Career

  73. Small Practice Valuations

  74. Partnerships – The Best and The Worst

  75. Changing Location When the Opportunity Comes Along

  76. Visual Presentation of Your Practice

  77. Presentation of Charts

  78. Your Premises Lease Can Be Your Worst Enemy

  79. How to Select an Appraiser for Your Practice

  80. How Are Your Billing Ratios?

  81. It Pays to Invest in Your Tangible Assets

  82. The Importance of Separate Financial Statements

  83. Five Time Frame Levels to Sell a Practice

  84. 12 Suggestions to Safeguard Computer Data

  85. How to Buy a Visible Practice

  86. Why is there a shortage of good practices today?

  87. The Importance of Equipment in the Purchase of a Practice

  88. The Balanced Practice

  89. Will My Practice Be Saleable in The Future?

  90. Buyer Be Aware

  91. Excess Profit - The Second Key

  92. Patients and Profits are the Keys

  93. Plan Ahead