The information is often in the form of MontGuides, which are short fact sheets put out by Montana State University Extension. Goetting is Extension's family economics specialist. Her guides can be found in banks and credit unions, as well as attorney and accountant offices around the state.
"MontGuides are perfect for many of those topics," says Karen Smith, director of outreach services for Montana Credit Unions for Community Development.
There are over 65 publications on family finance and estate issues that Goetting updates regularly. Among those are over 30 titles relating to estate planning.
"Estate planning can seem threatening personally and confusing legally," Goetting said. "I write the MontGuides to provide a simple entry point for people trying to understand Montana law and how various choices can affect their family. Then, when they go to an accountant or attorney, they have an understanding of some questions to ask."
Bev Wallace, a retired Gallatin County Extension agent, used Goetting's expertise years ago, and said she is glad she did.
"We needed the guidance she provided," Wallace said. "We had the desire and the follow through, but we needed the guidance."
Generally, MSU Extension makes the MontGuide fact sheets available for free on the Web or when picked up at County offices. Some people opt to get all of the estate planning materials rather than one or two, and there is a $ 10 fee for the entire series. However, with the series, people also are sent updates when the laws change on the topic.
Lilly Kretchmer in Havre is one such person. After she received the updated material, she wrote Goetting asking for additional copies.
"Thank you for your letter. I did not know about the changes," Kretchmer wrote. "I am requesting so many of these as some are for other members of my family who need this information."
Smith said her use of the estate planning MontGuides is not limited to the professional realm.
"I find them personally useful," said Smith. "There are a lot of topics. There is one pamphlet that is awesome on caring for family members. I definitely look at all of them. They are very useful tools."
Smith said any time a new estate planning or financial management MontGuide becomes available, Montana Credit Unions for Community Development sends out an e-mail notice of it to members of their organization.
"I look for available consumer resources, preferably those that are free, and a lot of those are the MontGuides," Smith said. "They go beyond how to set up a spending plan. When a member comes in and talks to a teller and says, 'I have an elderly family member,' we want to be able to point them in the right direction."
The most requested MontGuide over the past year was "Beneficiary Deeds in Montana," which explains a new law that allows Montanans to use a beneficiary deed to arrange for transfer of real property after a death without the cost of probate. The second most requested publication was "Gifting: A Property Transfer Tool of Estate Planning," closely followed by the "Federal Estate Tax." Other popular titles include "Transferring Your Farm and Ranch to the Next Generation through a QTIP Trust," "Probate" and "Life Estates: A Useful Estate Planning Tool."
Estate planning MontGuides are available free from local Montana State University Extension offices or may be downloaded from the Web at http://www.montana.edu/estateplanning . Single printed copies are also free from MSU Extension Publications, PO Box 172040, Bozeman, MT 59717, email email@example.com.
Contact: Marsha Goetting (406) 994-5695 or firstname.lastname@example.org