(800) 229-8183   available 24/7

Parallels in Planning: The Striking Similarities Between Estate and Care Planning

by T. Christian Rollins, MBA, CFRE
Chief Development Officer
Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice

Death and Taxes

The saying goes that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.  And on that crass yet clarifying tenet begins the many parallels between end-of-life care planning and estate planning.

As Americans, we tend not do either very well, if at all; and rarely in a timely fashion.  While we are legally obligated to file our taxes – and not one among us will escape mortality – very few have planned accordingly.

Only 40% of Americans have a will, and only 34% of Americans have documented advance directives for healthcare.

You Can’t Take It With You When You Go

There will not be a u-haul trailer behind your hearse.  So the perfect plan is to run out of money on the day you pass away.  Since such clairvoyant market timing is improbable, the second best goal is to save enough to get there.  But then what?

A solid estate plan rests on the cornerstone of a last will and testament

A solid estate plan rests on the cornerstone of a last will and testament, and – depending on the estate – may employ various vehicles to avoid taxes, transfer assets, support a favorite charity, and leave a lasting legacy.  In addition to those important financial documents, healthcare simply must be a part of the equation.

Part of the Plan

An estate plan, without a contingency for unexpected healthcare expenses – as well as clearly-articulated wishes for end-of-life care – is, at best, an incomplete plan; and, at worst, a recipe for family dysfunction and financial ruin.

While passing suddenly on the day your money runs out might be ideal, many Americans will wrestle with gradual decline, acute disease, and often-expensive healthcare interventions.  Surgery, medications, hospitalizations, chemotherapy, assisted living or nursing homes, and long-term care can have significant financial impact.  We all know at least one family reeling from unexpected medical expenses.

A comprehensive plan should also encompass essential health-related documents, including a living will and advance directives, a durable power of attorney for healthcare, and a Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form.

How much – and what kinds of healthcare – do you and your loved ones want?  What are you willing to sacrifice?  What scares you?  Under what conditions do you want heroic or life-sustaining measures conducted, or discontinued?  How important is quality, versus quantity of life?

The Intersection

Could philanthropy be the intersection of estate and care planning?

Astute financial advisors have learned to make philanthropy part of their discovery process; engaging clients and heirs in conversations about legacy, values, and charities that have touched their lives.  This deeper level of engagement adds value to their practices, and results in stronger client relationships, which are more likely to stand the test of time, bridge generations, and survive the looming inter-generational transfer of wealth.

Extending the necessary financial considerations toward a more comprehensive plan, which encompasses their healthcare, as well as their philanthropic legacy, has the power to transform an otherwise transactional conversation into a genuine, deeper, more meaningful, and longer lasting relationship.

Let Us Help

Samaritan invites you explore our resources.  Access and share “Five Wishes,” America’s most popular living will, intended to change the way people talk about, and plan for, care at the end of life.  Please feel free to share this document, and our other resources and conversation starters, with colleagues and clients.

Then, visit Ways to Give where – under “Giving Through Your Will or Estate Plan,” you will find a wealth of additional charitable estate planning resources, including our interactive, client and donor-centered worksheet, “An Estate Plan to Match Your Goals.”  I encourage you to reach out to me directly with any questions or requests.