Sam Nelson, J.D., practices estate planning, employment law, and school law. He enjoys working with families to create an estate plan that meets their unique needs. Sam lives in Stillwater with his wife and five kids. He and his family are members at St. Michael’s Church. Below, Sam highlights how individuals and couples can find a unique opportunity in estate planning to show their family members how they love them.


People often think of estate planning as just doling out all their “stuff.” Accounting for your assets and properly distributing them is certainly part of it. But the other part — arguably the most important — is caring for the people and places that you love.

The alternative can take a toll on those we leave behind. A few months ago, a man in his late 50s told me that his parents died last year without an estate plan. When disagreements arose among his siblings about who got what, tempers flared, and their relationships fell apart. He hadn’t heard from them in over six months. He told me, “I didn’t know my siblings only cared about money. I thought we loved each other more than that.”

A good estate plan helps to avoid this situation. Even more, crafting an estate plan is a wonderful opportunity to be intentional about what you give to your family and to charity, provides guidance to those who love you regarding end-of life decisions, and communicates your faith and values.

Choosing what to do with your material belongings is a big decision. It’s a chance to truly consider your family and friends, what needs each person may have, and whether there are items to which they have special attachments.

It’s also an opportunity to provide for the missions, ministries, and causes that mean the most to you. Estate gifts — large and small — majorly impact the abilities of churches, Catholic schools, and other charities to fulfill their missions.

Additionally, giving your family guidance for the decisions they need to make at the end of your life is a huge gift. Your family will be experiencing one of the most painful times of their lives. If you don’t provide a plan (related to health care, last rites, funeral planning, burial planning, etc.), your family will need to make countless decisions without your input. Detailing your wishes ahead of time eases that burden and shares your faith and values by outlining what is most important to you at the end of your life.

You have cared for those you love your entire life: children, family members, and friends. You’ve provided financial resources, taught valuable lessons, given emotional support, and lived your faith in everyday actions. You’re a cornerstone of care and love that can always continue. Your estate plan is a valuable tool to ensure the best possible way for that care and love to take root in the hearts and lives of the people and places that matter to you most.


The information presented above by the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) is general and educational in nature. CCF and its staff do not provide individualized legal or tax advice. We recommend you consult with your attorney or tax professional regarding your unique personal situation.

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