Estate Planning: Let’s Not Make This Difficult

March 1, 2021

By Stephen Mason
Vice President, St. Peter's Health Foundation

Stephen Mason
Stephen Mason

Many times in our personal and professional lives we become overwhelmed with our responsibilities and the list of “to dos” that we build up in our minds or add to with pen to paper. Fix the roof, clear the snow, start or finish that work project, make that career move, plan the wedding. Many of us are great at making to do lists and then becoming intimidated by the weight of working through the list. All of a sudden we have created our own mental mountains out of molehills. One such “mountain” for many is the idea of making a will or trust through an estate plan. The estate planning acronyms we see, CRUT, CRAT, CLT, CGA, DAF and on and on, may add to the angst. Not only does this kind of task take thought and time, it also involves thinking of our own inevitable mortality.

A baseball coach once yelled at me, “Mason, quit making it look so hard!” That one very loud, demonstrative statement planted a seed in my being and has allowed me to move through the most difficult situations in my life. Simply put, if I don’t know, I ask. And, if I can’t do, I find someone who can.

Because creating an estate plan is not a common task for the majority of us, we become intimidated with what we don’t know - including even where to start.

Luckily, in Helena we have more than a few skilled estate planning attorneys who work with clients daily to remove the cloud of mystery and angst around this thing called estate planning.

Recently, Dianne Armstrong a dedicated nurse who has worked at St. Peter’s Health for a total of 48 years, enjoyed working with her local attorney Tom Harlen to develop her estate plan. 

Dianne Armstrong 2
Dianne Armstrong 

“The idea of preparing my estate plan was daunting but once I sat down with Tom he instantly put me at ease,” Armstrong said. “He walked me through the process asking questions about what I wanted to accomplish with the assets I have accumulated working many hours serving my patients and the medical teams.

Before I knew it, Tom had prepared a draft plan for my review. From the moment we signed the documents that Tom had prepared, my husband Ron and I have enjoyed peace of mind knowing our hard-earned assets will be disbursed in the exact manner we want so the fruits of our hard work have a lasting impact on others for decades beyond our lives.”

Harlen said that working with clients like Dianne brings him great joy and a sense of fulfillment.  

“Dianne is a wonderful person and client who wants to do good for the benefit of others,” he said. “Her estate plan will ensure her dreams are realized. She started estate planning at a young age. So, as life events happen over the years, it will be very easy for her to adjust her estate plan for her benefit and for the benefit of those she wishes to help after her time here on this earth is over.”

Kelby Fischer, another estate planning attorney based in Helena added, “A common misconception about estate planning is that it is only for the wealthy, the elderly, or those who have fallen gravely ill. Estate planning helps those who own property, have a family, own a business or want to help take care of loved ones if you become incapacitated.” 

If you’re interested in creating a will or a trust, reach out to one of the many trusted professionals in Helena. They’ll help make sure this molehill doesn’t turn into a mountain. In the words of that beloved Coach Win Smith, let’s all “Quit making it look so hard!”

Stephen Mason is the Vice President of the St. Peter’s Health Foundation. He received National Planned Giving Institute Certification from College of William and Mary. Learn more at

St. Peter's Health Foundation 

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