Estate planning sounds scary, but we are lucky to have some incredible resources in Montana to help provide reliable information on this important process.

“Estate planning is a topic that is often avoided by individuals because it deals with attitudes and feelings about death, property ownership, business arrangements, marriage and family relationships that they or other family members may not be ready to contemplate. Some individuals have been overheard to say, “Estate planning is only for the old and rich.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In today’s complicated society all families regardless of their resources and ages can benefit from overall financial planning – one aspect of which is estate planning. People who have experienced the death of a family member agree that it is worth investing some time and money to avoid the confusion, delay, expense and quarreling that sometimes occurs in families when an individual dies without an estate plan. Most people, when they stop and think about it, would like to have a say about what happens to property that they have worked hard to accumulate. An estate plan is a tool that provides some aspect of control. If you don’t make a plan, state law will mandate what happens to your real and personal property upon your death.”

—from ‘Estate Planning Montana: Getting Started’ by MSU Extension

What is Estate Planning?

“Estate planning is the process of arranging your affairs to meet your objectives regarding the use, conservation and distribution of your property. Basically, estate planning is a part of your overall financial plan because it involves the coordination of all your properties (stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, business interests, life insurance, retirement benefits and other assets) into a total program. You can’t take these “riches” with you. Since someone is going to inherit your real and personal property, it seems only sensible to have the results of your hard-earned efforts distributed according to your wishes. And by planning, you can conserve as much of your assets as possible from the other costs of estate settlement.”

—from ‘Estate Planning Montana: Getting Started’ by MSU Extension

Steps in Estate Planning Process

There are six basic steps in the estate planning process:

1. Initiate the discussion.

2. Take stock of the present.

3. Develop objectives.

4. Choose professional advisers and discuss objectives.

5. Consider alternatives and implement the plan.

6. Review and modify.


Thank you to Montana State University Extension for publishing the excellent documents below. The most up-to-date version of these documents is available for free through these links to the MSU Extension website:

Estate Planning in Montana: Getting Started

Estate planning is the process of arranging your affairs regarding the use and distribution of your property. This publication covers six steps in the estate planning process as well as twenty common objectives. Black and white, 4 pages.

A Glossary of Estate Planning Terms

This is a glossary of some of the estate planning terms used in MSU Extension Estate Planning MontGuides. Keep this glossary close in case you come across an unfamiliar term when you read the fact sheets. Black and white, 4 pages.

Dying Without a Will in Montana: Who Receives Your Property

This publication includes legal terms and detailed examples of possible scenarios for distribution of your property under Montana law should you pass away before writing a will. Black and white, 8 pages.

Beneficiary Deeds in Montana

Beneficiary deeds allow owners of real property in Montana to transfer at death without probate their property to one or more beneficiaries. Black and white, 8 pages.

Gifting: A Property Transfer Tool of Estate Planning

This MontGuide explains how to use laws that allow gifts of real and personal property to reduce federal income taxes, federal gift taxes and potential federal estate taxes. Included are changes resulting from The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Black and white, 8 pages.