With so many things to take into account, estate planning can seem like an intimidating endeavor. But having your affairs in order and documenting your preferences for how your property and responsibilities will be handled after your passing can give you peace of mind—and spare your loved ones a great deal of stress. Here are some key points to keep in mind for estate planning in Montana.
Why you need a will
Often considered the cornerstone of an estate plan, a will is a legally binding document that outlines your wishes for after you die. It may include details such as:
- How you would like property divided among your heirs
- Provisions for any children or other dependents
- The person you choose to be the executor of your estate
While no one wants to think about “the inevitable,” if you die without a will, the state gets to decide what to do with your estate, disputes may arise among your surviving loved ones, and the resolution can be timely and costly.
The probate process in Montana
Probate is the process by which a person’s estate is settled after he or she dies. It can be lengthy and complex, especially if the person dies intestate, which means he or she did not have a will. Fortunately, there are steps you can take avoid or minimize the probate process in Montana. For example, property that is secured in a trust or jointly owned by someone with survivorship rights is not subject to probate. And there is a smaller, out-of-court affidavit procedure for smaller estates, valued at less than $50,000. An estate planning lawyer can advise on your specific situation.
Power of attorney for finances
Life is unpredictable. You can minimize some of the financial stresses of an unexpected event by designating someone as financial power of attorney. This person can act on your behalf on personal financial matters should you become unable to take action or make decisions yourself. You can decide how much power the person has, as well as when exactly his or her ability to act takes effect.
Health matters and end-of-life support
While you are getting your affairs in order, it is a good time to make decisions about crucial health matters, including end-of-life care. As part of your estate plan, you might consider:
- Drafting a living will, which spells out things such as your preferences with regard to life support
- Designating a power of attorney for health matters—an agent to make choices on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make them yourself
You can also plan ahead and even prepay for funeral arrangements, which can spare your family the burden during a difficult time.
Additional components to consider
No two estate plans are the same. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to also consider:
- A strategy to minimize taxes, court costs and other fees
- Life insurance and supplemental plans, if advisable
- A succession plan for your business or partnership
- A plan for your pets
Estate planning lawyers can help with these issues and more. They may even be able to help you plan a strategy to minimize taxes.
A Montana estate planning lawyer can help
Whether you are just beginning to think about a will, advance directive or other estate planning, or want to update existing estate plans, it can be easy to get bogged down in the legal details. Estate law is affected by both state and federal laws, which change often. Ensure your peace of mind with the guidance of a Montana estate planning lawyer.