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What are the general death and disability benefits available for a full time physician through his employment in the US?

Boston, MA |

I am a college student and my husband is a full time employed physician. We have two very young children. He is an extremely easy going person and never pays attention to the legal aspects of his employment. After the firefighters incident in Arizona ( and the news that their wives were denied some benefits due to the type of their contracts). I'd like to educate myself. My husband is the only source of income. After our children were born we both got life insurance. We dont have much saving but he got a 401k and some kind of life insurance at work. What are the general benefits he would be likely entitle to should anything " God forbids" happen to him ( death or disability). What are the kind of things we should be looking to get or be covered,through his new employer. TNX

Attorney Answers 2


There may be Social Security survivor's benefits available to the surviving spouse if she is caring for the decedent's children who are younger than 16 years. The decedent's children may be entitled to survivor's benefits if they are under 18 (or under 19 and in school full-time, or over 18 if they became permanently and totally disabled prior to age 18). Check with the employer to see what life and disability benefits it may provide.

You should also both consult with an estate planning attorney and certified financial planner for a comprehensive review of your situation to make sure you have in place the documents and financial products you need to look out for your family.

E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.

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It's not possible to generalize about this. The only uniform death and disability benefits are those available from the Social Security system, as attorney Golden has described. (Public employees such as firefighters sometimes don't participate in Social Security but have state pension benefits that in principle furnish similar benefits.) In addition, good jobs such as your husband's often include fringe benefits such as a 401(k) tax-sheltered retirement plan, group term life insurance, and sometimes disability insurance. It's a good idea to contribute as much as you can afford to your retirement plan but at least to put in the maximum that will be matched by the employer, because that's free money.

Beyond that, Americans are on our own in terms of planning for retirement, disability, children's education, and so forth, with some tax benefits available to make it more attractive to put money aside for such purposes. Good for you for starting early to think about financial planning. You might benefit from a consultation with a financial planner (preferably whom you pay for his or her time rather than one who makes commissions from the products s/he gets you to buy).

One issue to consider is disability insurance. Social Security will pay benefits only if a person becomes "permanently and totally" disabled; that is, unable to just about any work. If your husband should experience a disability that keeps him from working as a doctor, he would probably experience a very severe decline in income that Social Security would not necessarily address. This is a gap that can be filled by purchasing private disability insurance.

Disclaimer: This site exists to provide information only. It is not legal advice. Answering your question does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am a Massachusetts lawyer. Any information provided on this site does not, except as explicitly stated, imply familiarity with laws or procedures peculiar to your state which may differ from those where I practice.

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