NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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When Planning Your Estate

When Planning Your Estate


          The need for estate planning is not measured by the size of the estate, but rather by your goals for it. With your planning efforts you ultimately want to be assured that your assets go where you want them to when you pass on, and that your minor children, spouse, and dependents face minimum estate taxation and are provided for. Estate planning is perhaps the most caring task you can undertake for your survivors.

          A number of documents may be used to implement and communicate your goals.  A key piece when estate planning is your will.

          A will is a written legal document that describes to the probate court how its maker wants to distribute and manage his or her property after death. Common goals accomplished with a will are to

          • Ensure that assets are transferred to the intended beneficiaries,

          • Protect beneficiaries from mismanagement and from the claims of creditors and ex-spouses,

          • Provide for dependents,         

          The basic components in the will document generally include:

          • Your name and place of residence,

          • A brief description of your assets,

          • Names of spouse, children, and other beneficiaries, such as charities or friends, or alternate beneficiaries, in the event a beneficiary dies before you do

          • Designation of who gets your property, as well as when and how

          • Establishment of trusts, if desired

          • Cancellation of debts owed to you, if desired,

          • Name of an executor to manage your estate (pay debts and distribute property),

          • Name a guardian for your minor children (

          • Your signature, and

          • Witnesses’ signatures.


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