Looking for another niche market to target? Here’s one to consider: people who view non-nuclear family members as their “next of kin.”
In a recent study of veterans, about 7% chose their “next of kin” from outside their nuclear family. The figure was closer to 10% for younger vets. These alternative next of kin were most likely to be close friends or non-married partners.
At the risk of stating the obvious, people preferring “non-traditional” next of kin need you. And the message to these prospective clients virtually writes itself: By not writing your wishes, you are writing your “chosen family” out of the picture.
For people preferring less traditional next of kin, failing to do estate planning creates – as you well know — plenty of hurdles when they die or become incapacitated. It also creates a unique set of problems when it comes to their health care surrogates.
The default surrogate laws adopted in many states are the problem here. To address the issue of assigning proxies for people who don’t name one themselves, these laws contain a list of family relationships, in priority order, to whom medical decision-making will default. (Most often, the statutory order for the first four default surrogates is: spouse, adult child, parent, and adult sibling. If you’d like list of default health care surrogates for all 50 states, email me.)
These default laws may (or may not) work reasonably well for most people, but they clearly don’t work for our niche group. As the study’s authors themselves explain: “Even though an increasing number of adults are unmarried and live alone, state default surrogate consent statutes vary in their recognition of important relationships beyond the nuclear family, such as friends, more distant relatives, and intimate relationships outside marriage.”
A Psychology Today article about this study elaborates further: “What we once defined as the family unit – husband, wife, and child – is changing and, as such, may become challenging for medical decision makers and patients.” And to be clear, this isn’t just about folks without a nuclear family. Some may have plenty of nuclear family — they just may be estranged, or simply not be near the top of their proxy list.
For a variety of reasons, an increasing number of people are exercising the non-nuclear option for their preferred next of kin. And with this as their strategy, they really need you for their estate planning in general and their advance care planning in particular.
Has this post caused you to consider marketing to this niche? Please let me know and I’ll send you any additional material I come up with, including any extensions of my defense policy pun;).
Randi J. Siegel, MBA, is the President of DocuBank (docubank.com), which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000+ enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is active in health education and public engagement related to advance care planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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Phone: (800) 846-1555
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