MLR exists because conservation-minded families and individuals have taken the time to plan for the future of their greatest assets. Planning for the future of private land, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. In Montana, up to 70 percent of adults die without a will, leaving it up to the state legislature to distribute their property—in a manner that they may or may not agree with. All adults need to take the time to set up an estate plan that meets their overall financial, retirement, and estate planning needs.
Think of estate planning as a gift to your loved ones. No matter your age or wealth, your estate plan should reflect how you want to take care of the most important people in your life and the type of legacy you want to leave. With a few simple steps, you can be sure your family will be secure and that your property will be distributed as you intend, minimizing taxes, expenses, and difficulty for the loved ones you leave behind. No one can know the future, but you can have security and peace of mind by making a plan. If a new child or grandchild has become a member of your family, if you have gotten married or divorced, if you have recently received an inheritance, if you have moved to a new state, or if your circumstances have changed in some important way, it is never a bad time to create or update your estate plan.
A simple will, living trust, or beneficiary designation will ensure that your assets go to the people and causes you love in as seamless a manner possible, eliminating the unnecessary risk of costly and complicated legal proceedings. It will also help you avoid a scenario where your assets are transferred in a way you did not foresee or desire, or where your financial affairs or medical care becomes a source of difficulty and disagreement if you become incapacitated.
Leaving a Conservation Legacy
One of the easiest and most flexible ways you can leave a conservation legacy is to include MLR in your estate plans. Planning to leave a charitable bequest is a great way to ensure you retain control over your assets while you may need them, and to ensure you have the flexibility to adjust to changed circumstances or desires down the road. Bequests often allow individuals to make larger, more impactful gifts than they are able to during life. You can specify a percentage of your estate, gift a certain asset such as a conservation easement or other real estate interest, or can leave a certain dollar amount. Charitable giving during life and through your estate can and should also intersect with overall tax and retirement planning. Our gift planning staff welcomes the opportunity to provide more information on the many ways to integrate charitable giving with your estate plans, so you can benefit charity while saving on taxes, planning for retirement, and taking care of those you love.
Getting started is as easy as collecting relevant documents and information, making an inventory of your assets and debts, and writing down your basic goals for your plan.
These goals might include:
- providing for a spouse, children, or other loved ones
- ensuring adequate income in retirement
- benefiting charitable causes you care about
- minimizing taxes for you, your estate, and your loved ones
- ensuring that end-of-life issues are dealt with in a certain way
- ensuring a smooth transition of financial and healthcare decisions should you become unable to act for yourself
- ensuring that those you leave behind have adequate resources and legal authority to act on your estate’s behalf to make financial decisions and distribution of property once you have passed.
Once you have a sense of the basics regarding your assets and your overall estate and financial planning goals, you will want to reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney, and depending on your situation, potentially other advisors like a financial planner, insurance agent, or trustee.