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Getting started on your estate plan

For the many Minnesotans who have not yet started the estate planning process, the prospect of doing so can be intimidating. Not only does one have to take stock of all of their assets and organize their finances to a certain extent, but estate planning also involves having some uncomfortable conversations about scenarios that most of us would rather avoid. However, this is a necessary process and without any sort of estate plan family members are left to figure things out on their own while dealing with state probate processes that may be confusing.

There are a few items that Minnesotans can take care of that fall just short of creating a will but that are helpful supplemental measures, such as naming beneficiaries on life insurance policies. Naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or adding a “payable on death” beneficiary to a bank account will be legally effective in passing along assets to whoever the named person is, but will also supersede whatever is in the will regarding that asset so it must be kept up-to-date.

Another thing that one can accomplish with or without a will is a health care directive. This is arguably one of the most important elements of an estate plan, since it tells loved ones and medical professionals how to make decisions in an emergency or at the end of one’s life. These are hard decisions to make and many would agree that it is easier on family members if they have a set of guidelines to use rather than having to try to predict what the person would have wanted.

Source: Star Tribune, “Resolve to get your affairs in order,” Tim Engle, Feb. 19, 2014.