Step 5: Consider Alternatives

There might be several ways to accomplish your objectives. Explanations of some of the alternatives are given below.

  • Ask your professional advisors to explain the alternatives that would work for you.
  • Think about the consequences of each one.
  • You will probably want to talk them over with your spouse, family members, or other advisors before making your decisions.

Some issues that you might want to discuss with your advisor include the following:

  • How your estate plan affects the estate of your surviving spouse and the amount of estate taxes that he or she will owe upon death.
  • How your estate plan will be affected if a named beneficiary dies before you do.

You need to check the laws of the state in which you live. Each state makes its own laws in regard to estate planning.

Before you meet with an advisor, you might want to develop a list of questions to ask about the alternatives that seem to fit your estate planning needs.

This page has information on:

Make a list of your alternatives (Word: 108 KB) with the date reviewed, whether you need more information, whether you need to talk to someone, and if the topic does not apply.

 

Property Ownership

How your property is titled is important because it affects how a person's property is distributed at death.

Resources

Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate: this resource will help you make decisions about distributing your personal property.

For information on the main forms of property ownership and examples of estate settlement for each, see Estate Planning: Property Ownership (Montana State University Extension, PDF: 256 KB).

For more information about how to communicate when there are sensitive issues relating to property transfer, visit the Who Will Get Grandpa's Farm? website.

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Preparing a will

A will is a legal declaration of how a person wants to have his or her property distributed at death.

Resources

A resource to help you understand wills is Estate Planning: Wills (Montana State University Extension, PDF: 245 KB)

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Using a trust

A trust is a legal arrangement where a person (grantor) transfers legal ownership of property to a trustee to hold and manage for the benefit of named beneficiaries.

We suggest that you discuss trusts with your attorney.

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Your gross estate

Resources

A net worth calculator is available at the Smart Money website. Read the article Will you Own Estate Taxes? Also use the Net Worth Calculator and the Estate Tax Exposure Meter under the link Will You Owe Estate Taxes. [Note: the website has changed - new text needs to be written.]

Another resource is information on Estate Planning - Gift, Estate and Inheritance Taxes (PDF: 173 KB) from University of Maryland Extension.

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Insurance

Resources

This resource from the Financial Planning Association talks about What Everyone Needs to Know About Estate Planning (PDF: 280 KB) .

For information to help you understand when insurance fits into your estate plan, see Life Insurance: An Estate Planning Tool (Montana State University Extension, PDF: 270 KB).

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A living will

This is a declaration that you prefer to die a natural death instead of using extraordinary medical treatment to keep you alive.

Resources

The Finance Planning Toolkit website has forms for living wills that are designed for particular states.

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Durable power of attorney

Resources

The Finance Planning Toolkit website has forms for living wills that are designed for particular states.

More information is available on the document about Power of Attorney (PDF: 276 KB) from Montana State University Extension.

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Health care power of attorney

Resources

The Finance Planning Toolkit website has forms for living wills that are designed for particular states.

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Resources