Who is Glenn Kaplan to Betty White? Advance directives explained

Bruno Cooke January 11, 2022
Who is Glenn Kaplan to Betty White? Advance directives explained
Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

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The Associated Press revealed today that Betty White died as the result of a stroke she had six days before her death, on 31 December, at the age of 99 – also that the man in charge of her advanced health care directive is Glenn Kaplan. What do we know about Betty White’s advance directive and the man in charge of it?

What is an advanced health care directive?

An advanced health care directive, or AHCD, is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made in the event you are unable to make them yourself.

Some sites, such as Neptune Society, refer to it simply as an advance directive.

It can serve one or two functions: as power of attorney for healthcare (as in, to appoint an agent); or instructions for health care (to indicate your wishes in the event decisions need to be made).

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An AHCD can specify one or more people to take the reins when the time comes. It can also specify someone, or some people, who you don’t want to make decisions for you.

Specific instructions an advanced health care directive may contain include: whether you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops; whether you wish to be an organ donor; and whether you wish to be tube fed if unable to feed yourself.

What is Glenn Kaplan’s connection to Betty White?

The AP report doesn’t include any information about Glenn Kaplan beyond his name.

For example, it isn’t clear whether he is a medical professional or simply a friend.

However, Mayo Clinic makes several recommendations regarding who to choose to manage one’s advance directives.

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For example, it should be someone who is not part of a patient’s medical care team, who is willing and able to discuss medical care and end-of-life issues with the patient, and who can be trusted to advocate for the patient if there are disagreements about care.

Betty White’s long-time friend and agent, Jeff Witjas, apparently said the former Golden Girl had been staying close to her Los Angeles home during the pandemic. It therefore seems likely Glenn Kaplan is a close friend of Betty White’s and lives in the same area. 

What do we know about Betty White’s advanced health care directive?

We know Glenn Kaplan is the man in charge of Betty White’s AHCD – he is named on her death certificate, shared by TMZ, although it doesn’t contain any more information about him.

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It may or may not contain instructions vis-a-vis cremation: desires for burial and funeral arrangements are often recorded in estate planning documents, rather than advance directives.

Betty White’s death certificate refers to her by her legal name, Betty Marion Ludden. While she was known professionally as Betty White, the actress took the last name of her husband Allen Ludden. They married in 1963 and remained together until he died in 1981.

Her cause of death, it has been confirmed, was a cerebrovascular accident, or stroke, which she suffered on Christmas Day 2021. Betty White died in her home six days later, on 31 December, just shy of her 100th birthday. The much-loved actress would have become a centenarian on 17 January 2022. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.