The Healthcare Conversation You Must Have

Only one in three Americans has a healthcare directive. That's bad for their health, their family and their finances.

By Seth Bier
Seth Bier
Seth Bier

As a financial advisor, you play a crucial role in helping your clients plan for their future. While most of your focus may be on financial matters, it’s important to remember that healthcare planning is equally important. Without proper healthcare directives in place, your clients may not receive the care they desire if they become incapacitated.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16th, is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with your clients and encourage them to execute their healthcare directives. By doing so, your clients can choose a trusted agent to make medical decisions on their behalf, specify their end-of-life preferences, and even donate their organs if they wish. You can find your state’s advance planning forms here.

An essential part of financial planning

Creating a healthcare power of attorney or an advance healthcare directive (AHCD) can be an essential part of financial planning. These documents help ensure your client’s healthcare wishes are respected if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Such decisions not only impact their health but can also significantly impact their financial situation.

Having a clear plan in place for your client’s medical treatment can help reduce medical costs. Clients who direct their healthcare agents to make decisions that align with their values and preferences can avoid unnecessary treatments and hospital stays.

In addition, having an AHCD can help avoid family conflicts that may arise when multiple family members have different ideas about what medical treatment should be given. By specifying their wishes in advance, your client can help prevent family feuds, which can end up in costly court battles.

Lastly, without an AHCD, a court may need to appoint a guardian or conservator to make healthcare decisions on your client’s behalf if they become incapacitated. This can be expensive and can tie up their assets in legal proceedings. However, by having an AHCD in place, your clients can avoid this situation and protect their rights and assets.

Only 1 in 3 Americans have an advance directive

Why do we need a National Healthcare Decisions Day? Because less than one third of all Americans over the age of 18 have completed this vital document.

People avoid talking about death and incapacity like the plague. Jerry Seinfeld had a joke about people being more afraid of public speaking than death — so, they’d rather be the person in the casket than the one giving the eulogy. The same is true for planning.

Additional Reading: Pet Trusts Often Overlooked in Planning 

Most people avoid having a few ‘challenging’ conversations about natural parts of our life cycles despite knowing it will create an expensive, chaotic mess for their loved ones. Rationally it is absurd, but we are rarely rational about such emotionally charged topics. That is, until we must face them.

Hospitals may fail to mention healthcare directives

I was recently contacted by a couple because the husband was diagnosed with cancer. They had talked for years about getting a plan in place — “ever since our 14-year-old was born,” they said. But it took this shocking diagnosis to get them to finally act.

In our initial conversation, I learned they did not have AHCDs. (It’s worth noting that I don’t tell everyone I meet that they should have an estate plan, but I do tell just about anyone who will listen that he or she needs to have an AHCD. Even the woman who helped me at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)!

Time was of the essence for this couple, so I offered a link to our website where they could immediately download and complete their directives. We include a few different versions, including the state’s statutory version and a few from local hospitals. I asked if he was being treated at a local hospital because we may offer their version, and indeed he was a patient at one of the country’s premier medical centers. That is, a leading medical center that never mentioned completing an AHCD.

Why are healthcare directives so rare?

This particular medical center even offers its own branded version of an AHCD. Still, no one whom my clients met with — from reception and scheduling staff through nurses and physicians — thought to bring it up. If it doesn’t come up in a situation like this, when will it come up?

We don’t like to talk about or even think about our own mortality. In fact, it’s almost forbidden in our society. So, it stands to reason that the document available to help us plan for end-of-life situations is also taboo.

But are there more personal, intimate decisions you will ever make than your end-of-life decisions? Isn’t this the one time in your life you absolutely want to be heard and have your wishes respected? Medical science has extended life capabilities far beyond what our own bodies can provide, but is that living? That’s up to you. Quality of life is in the eye of the beholder. Can you think of anything that would give you more peace of mind than knowing you will die with dignity?

Empowering our loved ones

Planning for our future healthcare needs not only gives us peace of mind but also empowers our loved ones to make informed decisions on our behalf. By communicating our wishes and designating someone to make medical decisions for us, we give them the tools to advocate for us and ensure that our wishes are respected. And if we have talked to our loved ones and caregivers, we also make sure that everyone is on the same page — our page.

These are emotional times for families. If family members are on a united front, these dark days can bring them closer together rather than trigger life-long feuds.

The Conversation Project

One of the ways to approach these difficult conversations is through The Conversation Project, an initiative that provides resources and tools to help people have important discussions about their healthcare wishes. As proud champions of The Conversation Project, we share their Conversation Starter Guide with all our clients. It is a tool that can help your clients communicate their wishes to loved ones, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

Making Informed Decisions

National Healthcare Decisions Day is a reminder that we all have the right to make informed decisions about our healthcare. By helping your clients create an AHCD, you can ensure that they are prepared for any future medical decisions that must be made. Not only can this provide peace of mind, but it can also have a significant impact on their financial well-being. It’s never too early to start planning for the future. Reaching out to clients with information can help them take that first step toward securing their healthcare-decision rights.

Seth Bier and his wife, Leann, run Bier Law, an estate planning law firm in Los Angeles’ South Bay. Their goal is to educate and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their future, providing them with the peace of mind that comes with being prepared and free to live their lives without worry. Seth can be reached at or (323) 999-1230.


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