NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Me? Plan My Estate!

Me?  - Plan My Estate!

For most people, the phrase “estate planning” applies to everyone but them.  A common line of thought is that estate planning is for the very wealthy or lottery winners.  In reality, everyone has an estate.  No matter your net worth, it's important to have a basic estate plan in place.

An estate plan ensures that your family and financial goals are met after you die and a good estate plan has several elements.  They include: a will; assignment of power of attorney; and a living will or health-care proxy (medical power of attorney). For some people, a trust may also make sense.

A good place to start is taking inventory of your assets. Your assets include your investments, retirement savings, insurance policies, and real estate or business interests.  Most people are surprised at how many assets they do have when all is accounted for and totaled.

After the inventory, ask yourself three questions: Whom do you want to inherit your assets? Whom do you want handling your financial affairs if you're ever incapacitated? Whom do you want making medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself?

The next step in estate planning can be the most difficult – a conversation with your heirs.  Estates involve money and money involves many emotions.   Discussing your estate plans with your heirs can prevent disputes and confusion.  Unfortunately, estates are most commonly discussed after a death when emotions are already raw.  Arranging a family meeting before a crisis can make a crisis, when it happens, easier for everyone. 

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