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North Dakota Estate Planning Basics

If you have been thinking about taking on the task of estate planning, you probably have questions and concerns. Making plans for what will happen to your property and with your responsibilities after your passing, or during a time when you may be incapacitated, can seem overwhelming. Estate planning is governed by complex federal and state laws. Some basic guidelines, such as these for estate planning in North Dakota, can help get you started.

What to Include in Your Will

A will is an essential component of an estate plan. This legally-binding document outlines your wishes for what should become of your estate after your death. It may include:

  • Provisions for your children
  • Your choice for executor of your estate
  • Details about how you want your property divided and to whom you choose to transfer any assets
  • Donations or charitable contributions you would like to make from your estate

After you have made a will, it is crucial to review and update it periodically, especially as you acquire new assets or experience shifts in your family dynamic, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child.

The Probate Process in North Dakota

When planning their estates, many people want to know if there is a way to get around probate, the often lengthy, costly, and confusing legal process of settling an estate. Fortunately for North Dakota residents, there are ways of getting around probate:

  • You can secure almost any asset in a living trust.
  • Ensure that any property that is jointly owned includes “right of survivorship.”
  • When applicable, make sure deeds, titles, and accounts include payable-on-death or transfer-on-death designations.

North Dakota also offers a simplified probate process for smaller estates.

Financial Power of Attorney

Estate planning is not just about preparing for what happens after your death. Circumstances could arise during your lifetime that render you incapable of making financial decisions or transactions for yourself. A financial power of attorney is a tool that allows you to appoint someone as an agent to act on your behalf in financial matters, if necessary.

Health Care and End-of-Life Decisions

End-of-life care is a sensitive matter. Many people have strong feelings about what level of life support they would want and under what circumstances. It is wise to document such preferences in a living will or an advance medical directive. You can also appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make them yourself. This is called a medical power of attorney.

Other Considerations

Your estate plan might also include:

  • A comprehensive life insurance plan
  • Pre-arrangements or preferences for your funeral or burial
  • Plans for what will happen to any pets you leave behind
  • A business secession plan, if applicable

You may even be able to plan to minimize estate taxes as you pass down property, which can help protect the value of your estate.

Why Work With a North Dakota Estate Planning Lawyer?

No two estate plans are exactly alike. Do not trust your family’s future to do-it-yourself software or templates. Get help from a North Dakota estate planning lawyer who can ensure that your documents meet state and federal requirements, as well as your personal, business and family needs.

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