Naming – and Long Term Care Planning

Conventional wisdom says that many people avoid executing a will because doing so is an admission that they are going to die. The same thinking is said to make some people reluctant to purchase life insurance.

That may be true. People may put off taking the action, because it’s difficult for them to imagine a world that doesn’t include them!

However, I think there’s something else going on. It may be even harder for people to grapple with than writing a will or buying an insurance policy.

I’m going to call it ‘the problem with naming.’

Here’s what I mean. A will isn’t just a legal document about the disposition of assets – it requires that the person actually think about and NAME who will get things.

A life insurance policy isn’t just a way to create a lump sum of money upon death – in most cases; the person purchasing the policy has to NAME the beneficiary.

So, we could say that – behind these sterile legal and financial instruments are living, breathing people. They are NAMED in them, and will benefit from them.

I think coming to terms with exactly who we are willing to name – or not willing to name – can be very difficult. In some cases, even more difficult than acknowledging the fact that we are, indeed, mortal.

Have you ever completed a health care proxy or a living will? As you know, these legal documents ask you to NAME someone your health care decision maker. They will speak for you if you cannot. Unlike a typical will or a life insurance beneficiary designation, being NAMED someone’s health care proxy doesn’t carry any apparent upside or benefits. Instead, the proxy may be called upon to make health care decisions that could prolong or shorten the person’s life, and impact the quality of their life. It’s serious stuff, which is why people don’t make the decision lightly.

All of the documents mentioned above aim to ease the burdens that come from death or a decline in health. By NAMING who will make decisions, and who will inherit assets, people who plan ahead in this way can lessen the burden on those they love.

Isn’t it interesting that there is no such corollary document for long term care planning? Imagine that, instead of a health care proxy, we each needed to complete a form called a ‘long term care planning document’? It would ask us to complete how we were planning on paying for care, where we planned to live when we needed care, and, should inadequate funding be in place, to NAME who would be our full-time caregiver. Of course, we would also need to NAME an alternate full-time caregiver should the first one be incapacitated or unwilling to serve.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Those people who choose not to do long term care planning by purchasing a long term care insurance policy or other funding instrument DO, in fact, have a long term care plan. Unfunded care plans, upon examination, usually involves unpaid care by a relative.

By asking people to articulate their plan, specifically NAMING who they are planning will be their primary caregiver; we may be doing both the non-planner and the now-named relative a big favor. By finally putting words and NAMES to the unfunded plan, the person may look more realistically at the topic in advance of their care need, while they are still able to pre-plan.