Skip to main content

Take time to talk with family about estate planning and inheritance wishes

Media Contact: Lacey Nygard, University of Minnesota, 612-625-0552 (office),; Marlene Stum, Extension family resource management specialist, 612-625-4270,

ST PAUL, Minn. (5/3/2016) — Prince’s death and apparent lack of a will underscores why estate planning is so important.
“Our research has found that most adults are simply unaware of what happens if they die without a will,” says Marlene Stum, University of Minnesota Extension family resource management specialist and professor of family social science. “Dying without up-to-date estate planning in place is much too common. When that occurs, state law determines what happens to an estate and that may—or may not—reflect a person’s wishes about assets and who should inherit them.”
Three adults in discussion

Though it’s a sensitive task, completing a will, trust or other estate plan helps ensure clarity for families who’ve lost a loved one, Stum says. “Current events like this sad loss can present opportunities to talk about important family issues, including our plans and wishes.”

Stum’s research has long focused on family economics, including issues that arise later in life. Everyone has some type of assets and can benefit from estate planning. Planning can help make sure that what happens with your money, personal possessions and health care reflects your wishes. She offers these reminders:
  • Estate planning can encompass several legal documents including a will, trust, powers of attorney for finances, beneficiary forms, funeral plans and a health care directive. An estate planning attorney familiar with laws in your state can offer essential advice. 
  • In preparation for times of grief, make it easy on family members by ensuring they know what plans are in place, how to access them and anyone who should be contacted. 
  • Be sure to remember that decisions about personal possessions are important. In fact, they’re more often a source of conflict among family members rather than the money. 
  • Don’t assume that those you care about have plans in place. Ask your adult family members if they have up-to-date plans in place for their death, or if they were to lack the ability to make their own financial or health care decisions.
“Being as transparent as possible about your wishes and intentions with family members can help avoid future misunderstandings and conflict,” Stum says.

Many resources are available to help families, including:

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Print Friendly and PDF