BOZEMAN — During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people might be giving serious thought to estate planning affairs should they fall sick. According to Montana State University Extension educators, the process is not difficult and professionals such as attorneys, accountants and life insurance agents can help.

Wendy Wedum, MSU Extension Pondera County Agent (Photo: MSU-Kelly Gorman)

“We tend to think estate planning has become so technical and complex that we often become frustrated and throw our hands in the air before we start,” said Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension agent. “Most of us do not have the time to learn what we need to make an estate plan for ourselves, nor can we expect to keep up with changes in Montana and federal laws.”

Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist, added that having the necessary information and documents in hand when first visiting an attorney or estate planning professional can save time and money.

That should include personal information; real estate and personal property paperwork; checking and savings account information; stocks, bonds and securities; life insurance; trusts; mortgages and other accounts receivable; real estate debts; liens against personal property; liabilities; retirement benefits; taxable gifts; and locations of important documents.

Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Finance Specialist (Photo: MSU)

A properly designed plan has many benefits, said Goetting and Wedum. It may help save money in income taxes and estate settlement costs both before and after death, as well as protect a family from disagreements by providing for contingencies and preventing the forced sale of a farm, ranch or family business.

“A good estate plan can help provide financial security for you and your family, now and in the future,” Goetting said.

Although there is no requirement to plan an estate, Goetting and Wedum warned that if a person has no plan, law allows the state of Montana to make decisions on their behalf.

For more information, request the MSU Extension MontGuide “Estate Planning in Montana: Getting Started” at http://store.msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/MT199508HR.pdf. For those who do not have computer access, copies are available from county Extension or reservation offices. For those who do not have computer access, copies are available from county Extension or reservation offices.

-MSU News Service-