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Help your loved ones: Get ahead on estate planning

Believe it or not, you have an estate. In fact, nearly everyone does. Your estate is comprised of everything you own— your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, and personal possessions.

No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate. We all have something else in common — you can’t take it with you when you die. When that happens—and it is a “when” and not an “if” — you probably want to control how those things are given to the people or organizations you care most about.

To ensure your wishes are carried out, you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. You will, of course, want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

This is estate planning — making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die.

Many Americans are not aware that the lack of proper planning often results in chaos for those left behind – especially if a family business is involved.

Discussing your estate plans with your heirs may hopefully prevent disputes or confusion.

Inheritance can be a loaded issue. By being clear about your intentions, you help dispel potential conflicts after you’re gone.

The best time to plan your estate is now. None of us really likes to think about our own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for ourselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death does strike.

Don’t wait. You can put something in place now and change it later…which is exactly the way estate planning should be done.

Given the choice — and you do have the choice — wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your family, not by the courts?

Wouldn’t you prefer to keep control of who receives what and when?

How can you start a conversation about this stressful topic? Sometimes it is best to have a series of talks, rather than covering everything at once. The best benefit is peace of mind. Knowing you have a plan in place — one that contains your instructions and will protect your family — will give you and your family peace of mind.

This is one of the most thoughtful and considerate things you can do for yourself and for those you love.

This article is made possible with Older Americans Act dollars from the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging. Call the Senior LinkAge Line at 800-333-2433 to speak with a specialist, or check out our website at is an online directory of services designed to help people in Minnesota find services close to them that meet their needs.